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Marisa Ruiz

Sociology 251

19 December 2008

Question 7: How does the Economy Affect Family Life?

Ongoing changes and shifts in the economy have shown to have vast and detrimental

effects on working class families. Across the board, families of all ethnicities appear to share

similar problems and affects, however due to their various cultural beliefs, there seems to be

animosity directed towards each other in general. Without the government’s attention and

intervention with this dilemma, this cycle of adversity will see no end in sight.

According to Lillian Rubin, “downsizing, restructuring and reengineering” in the

American workplace has had the most impacts on the working class and their families (Skolnick

360). Over the past few decades, there has been a vital shift in the way workers are valued.

Competitive corporate America, has found ways to cut cornersin order to keep the operational

costs to a minimum. There once was a time when skilled workers were considered the backbone

of companies but now have become the victim to these trends. In America, the workers on the

lower end of the totem have become dispensable, easily replaced by contingent workers

(Skolnick 365). Sadly enough, the government who once place emphasis on the working class

population has now forgotten about them.

Although today’s society prides itself on its freedom and equal opportunity for all, many

minorities within this class who have become a victim to these changes have a different opinion.

These problems that plague the working class community along with their deep rooted

experiences and beliefs have redirected people’s anger and blame along racial lines. The

implications are full of contradiction and ambiguity (Skolnick 374).


In her article, Families on the Fault Line, Rubin interviewed four ethnic families from the

working class community. Over the course of a few years, she brings to light their present

situation and the resulting adverse effects these changes have had on each of them. In her study,

much of Rubin’s evidence points out there is a “fundamental line between the public and private

arenas of modern life” (Skolnick 364). She also points out that no matter how strong a family

may be, these families in the working class are vulnerable to the effects of socioeconomic

changes. The consequence of these effects make “family life difficult today and after destroys it”

(Skolnick 371).

The following working class families all share similar feelings of shame, disparity, and

animosity. In three of her featured families (who are minorities), they tend to blame white

Americans for their oppression and the “inequality of condition”.

The first example, tells the story of how a white family fell apart when the husband lost

his job. In his attempt to come to terms with his self blame, he left his wife and children.

Although he returned with a renewed sense of self, his wife was apprehensive of reuniting the

marriage. This is a clear picture of how this problem can destroy a family.

The second example, a black family are forced to live in the projects since the husband

can’t find work. The once happy and hopeful man has become an angry individual. His anger is

especially evident in his attack towards Rubin while she was interviewing him for this study.

The third example is about a Latino family. No matter how strong and close-knit this

family was they were still are affected with the adverse changes in the economy. They had to

come to terms that they were a minority among the white majority. (This fact is definitely

changing.) Although their oldest son was extremely angry, he had chose to positively redirect his

anger toward achieving something better for himself as a Latino.


The last example tells how an Asian American family has felt the effects on their small

family business. As a result, this has trickled down to their employees and their families. They

seem to feel discriminated by all other ethnicities. Known for being the “over-achievers”, their

rise in colleges has forced admissions to put a quota on the quantity of Asian kids entering school

in fear that they will take opportunities away from white students. This shows that there is a

population of Americans who feel threatened by the rise of minorities, thus oppressing them

from having equal opportunities promised to ALL Americans.

To a certain extent there is some evidence of oppression felt in pursuing the American

Dream. Speaking from personal experience, I, as minority, have had to work a little harder in a

few situations compared to my white counterparts. As mixed Hawaiian kids, my brother and I

came upon a few challenges being the only mixed Hawaiian kids in a prestigious private school.

But 28 years after, I feel that we do have the same opportunities as white people. Speaking for

myself, I believe that we as individuals have the choice to get ahead economically. In today’s

society, there are much more resources available to minorities that weren’t in our parents day.

After all, oppression today can’t be that bad, after all we have and Afro American man running

on the democratic ticket for president, right?

Evidently, changes in the American workplace have a socioeconomic impact on the

working class population that infiltrates into the livelihood of their families. Although these

families are from various ethnicities, they all are a part of the same group that share similar

concerns and problems. There are strong implications that racial ideologies play a very big part

of how each family deals with and makes sense of their circumstances. In this present state of

affairs, one can’t ignore that there is an epidemic growing within the working class communities

all across America. When the government chooses not to address this vital issue, they ignore the

growing animosity, anger, and regression breeding within the working class population.