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ECONOMIC PRIVILEGEHaving social or cultural advantages due to one’s economic statues that expands past the direct scope of one’s wealth.


What You Need To Know To Understand Economic Privilege:


PRIVILEGE Encumbrances by Doug Borwick:

Socio-Economic Privilege/Encumbrance

At extreme upper end, economic privilege is more apparent than other types of privilege simply because people understand that many aspects of life are easier if you have money than if you do not. However, even the very well off have to be reminded of this unless they come from families where noblesse oblige has been deeply ingrained. (At this point noblesse oblige may need to be explained. Over the last generation, the idea that with wealth and power come responsibility to use them for good, a notion once quite widely accepted by patrician families, has become far less prevalent than was the case before the 1980’s.)

At the risk of stating the obvious, the more access to money one has the easier the basics of life are. As examples:

  • In housing,

    • A wedding present of a home or the gift of a down payment are unthinkable possibilities for most.

    • Sufficient income to save for a down payment on a house is beyond hope for others.

    • The deposit for an apartment is equally unattainable for many, meaning they are limited to SRO’s (single room/residence occupancy housing) where available or shelters (at best) where they are not.

  • In food,

    • Where better prices can be found through bulk purchases, individuals with limited incomes cannot take advantage of them.

    • Access to grocery stores is frequently dependent upon the area in which one lives. “Food deserts” are a natural part of high poverty neighborhoods.

    • Protein is more expensive than carbohydrates, leading to obesity and/or poor nutrition in lower income families.

Social privilege, another relatively visible privilege, has to do with access, via family or career connections, to “how things are done,” to decision-makers, and to gatekeepers who can help resolve problems.

  • First generation college students are at a profound disadvantage from the beginning. Contrasted with those for whom the expectation of a Bachelor’s degree is a foregone conclusion, the very idea of attending a college can be foreign. Setting foot on a campus can be intimidating for them; family reactions to mid-term grades can be over- or underplayed; knowing when (and with whom) to discuss changing circumstances as they apply to financial aid is unknown territory. This severely limits their capacity for success.

  • For entrepreneurs starting a business, introductions to bankers, lawyers, or zoning officials can be invaluable. Such entré is denied those without family or career connections.

  • When an insurance company denies a claim, awareness that the denial can be challenged is learned, not innate. Knowing with whom (and how) to pursue a denial (even the fact that it can be fought) is largely unimaginable to those who grew up outside the “establishment” without good social connections or experience.

In each case above–economic and social, most people are highly aware of those in better circumstances and frequently oblivious to the experience of those with fewer advantages than they. However, among the various forms of privilege, when pointed out, those with these privileges–at least at the extreme end–can often see their relative good fortune.

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