The Middle Class White Boy's Burden

chiclanda's picture
Rank: Baboon | 136

I should note that I hate these type of posts. Still, I'm just going to address the problem of being a middle class White/Asian kid in 2015. This can probably be most easily examined in the context of college admissions.

I'll break down the advantages and disadvantages of being in different class positions for college admissions.

Lower Class Cons: Your parents do not understand the importance of your success in high school and college. You need to be more concerned with working in high school and earning money to pay for food, clothing whatever else you need. Time that you would spend volunteering in Africa is instead spent helping your little brother and helping your parents with whatever they need. You do not have the benefit of standardized test tutors and college advisors. You are going against the grain to succeed and have a great job.

Lower Class Pros: Institutions want to help you. Scholarships are out there specifically for you and colleges want to hear you talk about the challenges you overcame. You may not have the trips to Africa, but you at least have an excuse, and since you're probably a first generation college applicant, you already have a hook. From this point, all you need to do is land those test scores and class rank, and if you're lucky you get into a top school.

Middle Class Cons: Your parents probably went to a mediocre school and know a little something about college admissions and understand that doing good in school is important. They will never help you through college admissions, but at least you don't have to worry about money all the time. There probably aren't scholarships out there for you, you probably can't afford effective standardized test tutors, and you'll probably have to work a little bit throughout high school and occasionally help your family. Institutions do not have empathy for you because your life has been okay, and they also do not necessarily want you to come to their school because you can't pay $60,000 tuition and you won't make the campus more diverse.

Middle Class Pros: The pros are simply that your life is easier than the lower class life. You have some advantages and you don't have to worry about money, but you're pretty much on your own as far as success in school goes.

Upper Class Cons: Your parents are probably not available all the time. There are high expectations in place for you because you come from money. You may have to go on a "mission trip" to Peru... big deal.

Upper Class Pros: Colleges want you because you're loaded. Your parents have probably put you in a position to succeed. The only thing you need to do is put in the work and you're set.

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The point of this post is that, amid these pros and cons for different classes, I think its hardest to be in the middle. Universities are interested in the extremes (diverse backgrounds and overcoming challenges, or rich kids who can pay 60,000 while contributing to the university). Middle class kids from suburbia are not unique in any aspect, and for them, getting placed in a top university is a challenge. These kids are fill up the middle tier universities.

I would assume the situation would still be similar in grad school or any other field. Middle class kids don't receive advantages of diversity or advantages from their elite status.

Of course, everything I'm saying could be horse shit, but it at least rang true with my experience. What do you think?

Comments (25)

Apr 2, 2015

I definitely agree based on my experience.

Although I would like to point out another upper class con brought to my attention by the infamous Robert Durst: that no matter what you achieve, it will always be assumed you got there because of your family's wealth. Nothing you do will ever be seen as the result of your efforts alone.

To that point I think the lower and certainly the middle (institutions aren't even helping you) classes have the advantage of personal satisfaction if they are able to break into top universities. Does this also breed more respect from classmates since they know you really earned your spot? I couldn't tell you, I went to a non-target.

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Apr 2, 2015

I would agree that people won't attribute personal success to rich people. With that said, I think that if I were rich and got to hang out at the country club and exotic resorts, I wouldn't really care what those below me said.

From the perspective of middle/lower class students, I think there is, like you mention, a lot of value that comes with succeeding against the odds. With that said, I don't think classmates from higher social statuses will respect you any more. More than likely, they will have a blue blood attitude and look down upon you. However, your peers from the same background will acknowledge your struggles, and that is worth something.

Apr 2, 2015

Dude no way is it hardest to be in the middle. You point out the availability of scholarships for the lower class, but the # of those relative to the total size of the lower class invalidates that supposed "pro" to being lower class. Also, it is much harder to get the high test scores when your family likely does not place any emphasis on this, and may be wracked with any number of social ills.

I think this industry takes the cake for attribution bias.

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Apr 2, 2015

You sound like one of those people that probably has the mindset of "I'd be a shoe-in for GS if I were black..", extremely ignorant.

Apr 2, 2015

hahaha no I don't think along those lines. I actually acknowledge that minorities have harder lives as a whole, but I do think that being in the middle class is harder now that it has been before. At least this sort of thing might contribute to why it is shrinking...

Apr 2, 2015

Hm... I don't know why you group Asian kids along with Caucasian kids... ever heard of the Asian dad meme? I live that meme everyday. Asian parents (especially 1st generation immigrants) will put insane pressure on their kids to do well in school. Getting into a prestigious university, getting a prestigious job or title to ensure the success of your family - this is how I was brought up, and I can say from my experience NONE of my white friends went through anything like that. There's a reason why Korea and Japan have one of the highest suicide rates in the world...
Basically what I'm saying is that most lower/middle class Asian families will bust their kids' balls to do well in school and do everything they can (SAT tutoring etc) to help them get there.

Apr 2, 2015

You're right in that the two are different culturally. I grouped them because colleges view them approximately the same. Colleges don't want more middle class Asian students with high scores, good grades and stereotypical extracurriculars. The same is true for how elite schools perceive middle class whites.

Best Response
Apr 2, 2015

Millions in lower class struggle to pay for food, clothes, even basic housing and utilities, while weighed down by financial and social poverty that send them into a spiral of deeper and deeper impoverishment and you're saying middle class has it the toughest because of college admissions and because you don't have the "hook?"

Their cons are based on survival and making rent and keeping the lights on with jobs using limited education. Your con is because you had to go to NYU rather than Columbia because you're not smart or hard working enough yet blame it on your parents that "didn't help you enough" . How can you even list those cons in the same thread?

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Apr 2, 2015

Too rich to be poor, and too poor to be rich... Welcome to America!

Greed is Good!

Apr 2, 2015

Jesus christ, I grew up poor, you guys are all self-absorbed idiots. Do you guys have any idea how hard it is to grow up poor? How many people at elite schools are from the bottom 50%....It's less than 5%. I would've killed to not have gone to a high school with gang violence. I have persistent health problems from needing to work ~25 hours week during high school to support myself, while needing to be in the top 1% of my class to get out of that hell hole (less than 5 hours a night of sleep during adolescence is bad). I'm so sorry that you guys needed to take on a little debt. Sounds rough (I had to take on debt, anyways).

I'd actually be shocked if there was even another "poor" voice on here...despite it being such an "advantage" as you say, almost none of the people make it to prestige careers. It could've been worse too, I was just working class, blue collar parents - some people come from one parent families and welfare, they deserve all the help they can get.

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Apr 2, 2015

First, white privilege is real. I'm white and have had plenty of second chances in life. Second, third and fourth chances are hard to come by for AA and other diverse candidates trying to stand out from the pool.

Second, coming from a lower middle class background, it did take me well into my 20's to understand 'how things work'. I never focused for my SAT's, wasn't concerned about which undergrad I went to, etc. Yet now I have the benefit of knowing that all my successes to date and going forward are due to my own hard work. I don't doubt my station and take pride in where I am, yet don't have family pressure to focus on prestige and social status. I think this is a big pro!

Apr 2, 2015
BreakingOutOfPWM:

First, white privilege is real. I'm white and have had plenty of second chances in life. Second, third and fourth chances are hard to come by for AA and other diverse candidates trying to stand out from the pool.

Sounds like you suffer from white guilt. You mention chances that were afforded to you, but provide very little in the way of examples. Not all chances can be characterized in the same manner. Just BC you had plenty of second chances and you're white doesn't imply that other whites were given the same chances. Moreover, the second statement is completely vapid. What does that even mean?

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Apr 4, 2015
devoutCapitalist:

BreakingOutOfPWM wrote:

First, white privilege is real. I'm white and have had plenty of second chances in life. Second, third and fourth chances are hard to come by for AA and other diverse candidates trying to stand out from the pool.

Sounds like you suffer from white guilt. You mention chances that were afforded to you, but provide very little in the way of examples. Not all chances can be characterized in the same manner. Just BC you had plenty of second chances and you're white doesn't imply that other whites were given the same chances. Moreover, the second statement is completely vapid. What does that even mean?

How many African Americans do you know that failed out of their first undergrad, went back to finish at a low ranked (we're talking sub 300) state school and then landed a job at a well-lauded financial firm because, even though they don't have the same credentials as other candidates, they were "strong interpersonally"? There's my specific example. As a diverse candidate, outside of college applications, you simply are held to a somewhat higher standard - people are less likely to take a 'chance' once they see a hole on your resume or an issue in a background check. Of course there are examples to the opposite but on a large scale, that's life in modern day America.

I had a longer reply to this email written out, but try not to respond to trolling. Anybody who doesn't see an inherent race advantage in either the job market or education need only open their eyes. No, I don't have "white guilt" - frankly I've only ever heard that term to describe white rastafarians (whom I think it unlikely you'd find on WSO) and white supremacists who use it to insult. I worry about building my career and being fair to others.

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Apr 2, 2015

This is so idiotic it almost defies logic, and very, very easy to refute. Next time, before you write a post like this, look at the socioeconomic backgrounds of students at the top universities (lots of data on this available online). You'll quickly find that lower class students are at a massive disadvantage and that wealth correlates very strongly with elite college admissions.

Apr 4, 2015

Me: AA male with one parent who dropped out of HS as a sophomore, raised him on food stamps in the projects, was constantly teased and bullied for "talking/acting white" because I cared about grades, took a job at 15 and worked through both HS AND college

To OP: Cool story bro

*Edited after posting for clarity

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Apr 3, 2015

Clint Eastwood was right, you guys are pussies.

Apr 4, 2015

Maybe you should spend some more time working on your resume / interview questions / stock pitches and less bitching about bullshit that is getting you nowhere fast.

Apr 4, 2015

I knew this thread was going to precipitate some confusion because it was so generalized. I'll address the most common point:

"People of the lower class make up a smaller portion of elite schools." - @Masterz57 This is obviously true as it can be demonstrated statistically. With that said, the implications you guys have made as to the difficulty of college admissions from this background is wrong. The mere fact that lower class people make up a smaller portion does not mean that being lower class is a disadvantage when applying to these schools. The vast majority of students in low income neighborhoods and schools are more interested in becoming professional athletes than trading stocks on Wall Street. In other words, they don't try to get into these schools in the first place. The disadvantage of being in this situation is what @John-Doe8 mentioned, having people try and tell you that you're being white or doing things wrong. Like I said, you have to go against the grain when you're from this background.

With all of this said, the life of someone who is living on food stamps with a single parent is obviously more challenging than the life of an ordinary middle class kid from suburbia, and with that getting to an elite college is harder in the first place. I'm not disputing this. I do think that this story of difficulty is overplayed, and I am pretty certain that there are a lot of kids with a "lower class" background who have not lived a life any different than mine.

I think that there are plenty of middle class white kids who are not in that much better of a position than those in the lower class dependent on food stamps. One of my good friends is white, raised by a single mom (no child support from dad) and has three other siblings. His mom is college educated and works as a lawyer just barely pulling in six figures. With two kids in college, another in high school and another in lower school, six figures does not stretch that far. He hasn't been afforded nice things, he doesn't always know if there will be food, and he hasn't received any guidance from his college educated single mom. Still, when colleges review him holistically, they'll check the boxes, "parent went to college," "makes six figures," "white" and move on with his application without considering the difficulty of his life. Even with special circumstances essays, colleges will overlook his application because he can't pay or diversify the school. My buddy is just caught in a shitty situation.

Kids like that aren't receiving any sympathy, and they're not going to ever have the benefits of elite connections. For this generation of middle class white kids, there are no breaks in life, and they'll never have the experience on the golf course or vacation destination that their supposed to have to be skilled interpersonally with high rollers.

So sure, life is harder when you're on food stamps, but I'm not sure that meeting those middle class check boxes on your application means that your life was any easier than that of the lower class kids, but I do know that you won't be receiving any sympathy throughout your college/career experience.

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Apr 6, 2015
chiclanda:

I knew this thread was going to precipitate some confusion because it was so generalized. I'll address the most common point:

"People of the lower class make up a smaller portion of elite schools." - @Masterz57 This is obviously true as it can be demonstrated statistically. With that said, the implications you guys have made as to the difficulty of college admissions from this background is wrong. The mere fact that lower class people make up a smaller portion does not mean that being lower class is a disadvantage when applying to these schools. The vast majority of students in low income neighborhoods and schools are more interested in becoming professional athletes than trading stocks on Wall Street. In other words, they don't try to get into these schools in the first place. The disadvantage of being in this situation is what @John-Doe8 mentioned, having people try and tell you that you're being white or doing things wrong. Like I said, you have to go against the grain when you're from this background.

With all of this said, the life of someone who is living on food stamps with a single parent is obviously more challenging than the life of an ordinary middle class kid from suburbia, and with that getting to an elite college is harder in the first place. I'm not disputing this. I do think that this story of difficulty is overplayed, and I am pretty certain that there are a lot of kids with a "lower class" background who have not lived a life any different than mine.

I think that there are plenty of middle class white kids who are not in that much better of a position than those in the lower class dependent on food stamps. One of my good friends is white, raised by a single mom (no child support from dad) and has three other siblings. His mom is college educated and works as a lawyer just barely pulling in six figures. With two kids in college, another in high school and another in lower school, six figures does not stretch that far. He hasn't been afforded nice things, he doesn't always know if there will be food, and he hasn't received any guidance from his college educated single mom. Still, when colleges review him holistically, they'll check the boxes, "parent went to college," "makes six figures," "white" and move on with his application without considering the difficulty of his life. Even with special circumstances essays, colleges will overlook his application because he can't pay or diversify the school. My buddy is just caught in a shitty situation.

Kids like that aren't receiving any sympathy, and they're not going to ever have the benefits of elite connections. For this generation of middle class white kids, there are no breaks in life, and they'll never have the experience on the golf course or vacation destination that their supposed to have to be skilled interpersonally with high rollers.

So sure, life is harder when you're on food stamps, but I'm not sure that meeting those middle class check boxes on your application means that your life was any easier than that of the lower class kids, but I do know that you won't be receiving any sympathy throughout your college/career experience.

This is ridiculously ignorant. Lower class people have to deal with the fact they get beat up and robbed if they do well in school, and rampant anti-intellectualism from his or her parents and community (who are there role models). This is absurdly more difficult to overcome than your example, and I'm absolutely flabbergasted you don't understand this. It's laughable that you think a lawyer making 6 figures - even if she is busy - doesn't confer EXTREME advantages over someone barely over the poverty line and barely educated parents.

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Apr 6, 2015

double post

Apr 6, 2015
chiclanda:

The vast majority of students in low income neighborhoods and schools are more interested in becoming professional athletes than trading stocks on Wall Street. In other words, they don't try to get into these schools in the first place.

Can you be more ignorant? Not everyone from a low income neighborhood wants to be an NBA player or a rapper; where are you from?

Apr 6, 2015

I'm a minority, both of my parents went to uni. Grew up middle-class, went to private school and didn't get scholarships like most "underprivileged" kids. Too add I got expelled from 3 private schools and still got in into Ivy League schools. Compare me to poor kids and even some rich white kids, I still made it. I don't think race plays a huge factor for some people. I just won the sperm lottery. I can't tell ya how many times I've gotten out of trouble because of my family. Oh and I've never been pulled over just because of my race either.

Greed is Good!

Apr 6, 2015
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