Unnatural Causes

In the diversity class I took this last semester, we talked about many different races and the oppression and/or privilege they experienced…as can probably be inferred from the name of the class. But, one topic that I found especially interesting was the lecture on economic oppression. While race is the topic that many people focus on when they talk about diversity and oppression, the other types of oppression don’t get much air time. Now, I don’t want to downplay oppression based on race as this is still an area that needs huge improvement, but why do we never talk about the other types? Like I’m sure many others, I was raised in a community that had the bootstrap mindset, where people living in poverty or those experiencing economic hardships just needed to pull up their bootstraps and work hard. If you were having problems with money, you must just be lazy, hence why the societal reasons behind the economic gap were never discussed. However, once I began working in social services, the economic disparities in our society became very apparent to me, but I was unsure of how these huge gaps came to be and why it was so hard to close them. These causes become much more clear to me after taking this course. After reading many articles about how people in poverty continue to become poorer and poorer with each generation and the inverse with privilege..becoming more and more privileged or wealthy with each generation and doing much self-reflection about my own upbringing, it became more clear as to why there are huge wealth gaps and why they are so difficult to narrow. One exercise we completed in class really laid out all of these causes. I encourage you to take it yourself. I’ll post the answers at the bottom, so don’t scroll too far down.

Unnatural Causes-Health Equity Quiz


Now that you’ve hopefully taken the quiz and haven’t scrolled too far down, here are the answers to check yourself..prepare to be at least a little shocked:

1) E. 29th place
2) B. In the top 5
3) D. Two and a half times as much
4) E. below 25 (lowest smoking rates)
5) C. 15 years
6) E. Widened by 60%
7) D. 4 times as many
8) E. 1.7 acres
9) E. $1.1 trillion
10) E. All of the above
11) C. whether or not you are wealthy
12) D. 7 times
13) A. Recent Latino immigrants
14) C. sickle cell anemia
15) A. Social reforms (like wage and labor laws, housing codes, etc.) and increased prosperity
16) A. True
17) B. They are more egalitarian
18) D. 21.9%
19) A. None
20) E. 200 hours more
21) A. None
22) E. 90% combined

While I feel like I knew some of the answers to these questions..or had a hunch..I still felt pretty shocked when my professor began reading the answers to us. After shock, I began to feel angry about how extreme the answers were, then a little disappointed at how bad things are in the US.

Here are some questions, too, that came to mind:

Why are we not doing anything to fix the economic gap? If we are doing something, why is it not working?
Why has the wealth gap continued to widen?
Why is the US so far behind from other industrialized nations?

Feel free to discuss these with me in the comments or tell me your thoughts, emotions, or questions that came to mind as you read the answers. This is something that needs to have more discussion and obviously huge change.

5 Replies to “Unnatural Causes”

  1. I like this post, I learned things.

    I scored 15/22 on the quiz, not horrible but not good either. A few of them really surprised me, for instance the 1.1 trillion dollars lost due to chronic illness.

    The U.S. is behind other industrialized nations because many other nations have adopted more of a “Nanny State” mentality. I’m not saying that this doesn’t have faults, it most definitely does, but it also has the benefits of somewhat preventing widespread, rampant, unfettered, corporate control. That being said, obesity is a global epidemic, believe it or not even those nations who were wholly “Third World” just a few decades ago are now seeing obesity rates unparalleled in their *entire history*. Of course there is much more to health than obesity. We’ve created a society in which the poor simply cannot access a balanced diet effectively, while the rich can. I’ve studied this fairly extensively in at least one region of the US and I can say for sure, that there exist places where you simply cannot obtain fresh vegetables from the store. Further, you can’t easily grow them either since your in an urban wasteland with crime rates so high that you’d be fortunate to grow anything without it being ripped out of the ground by vandals.

    Increase food accessibility and you’ll put a big dent in the health-gap, even in the face of the massive wealth-gap.

    1. Wow, that’s quite a bit better than I did in class! I think I was trying to be a little optimistic about the answers..then was crushed by the answers.

      You and I have had long talks about government, health care, food accessibility, and such, but it just continues to amaze me at how far behind the US is compared to other industrialized nations. There are some things that make this country great, but there are many things that could be approved upon. I’m hoping that in our lifetime we’ll see things such as better food accessibility across the board, more affordable housing, socialized health care, and the wealth gap decreasing, including fixing up systems such as student loan debt. Fingers crossed for a better future, and if push comes to shove there’s always Europe!

  2. To be fair, Europe has its own swath of issues. But I agree, there are certain countries (mainly the Northern, very cold ones, lol) that are doing a lot better on a lot of issues (and not so well on others).

  3. Cade and Kelly,

    I agree with what both of you are saying. I really do think that access to healthy foods is a HUGE issue worldwide, not just in the US. Actually, I think that the access is there in the US, but there’s another sneakier issue at hand.

    In working in Benton county I got to meet a lady during a meeting with Chris H. and Megan, and myself. During this meeting the idea of hope came up. What I’m saying is, while it is increasingly difficult for the poor to obtain the same quality of services as the wealthy, I wonder if there’s a psychological issue that complicates the matter.

    People in this county for example don’t believe that their situation can improve. So they don’t make the effort. I suspect that they don’t realize this and wouldn’t agree but I think it is the atmosphere. As someone who is definitely in the “working poor” I can really understand this. You work full time, you pay your bills, you live paycheck to paycheck and are consistently unable to put anything into savings. Then you see people in a better situation not struggling. You see the distance between where you are and where they are, you see that the primary means to improve your situation is money. So now you have choices to make. You have to sacrifice some things to move forward, be it time with family, friends, minor expenditures, etc. And you find that despite your truest efforts, you ended up backsliding.

    Your other option is to become a parasite that feeds on the world around you. You pop out several children, adding one each time they threaten to cut your food stamps or Medicaid. The worst part of this option is that one day, if you should decide to make the leap from parasite to human being you lose several hundred dollars in food stamps, and have to pay for healthcare that used to be free.

    The real problem with the wealth gap in America is that our society is programmed to grow the gap. Either you are well to do and encouraged to stay that way, or you are a parasite whether you want to be or not.

    Going further, if you look at EVERY great civilization in history. What happens when the gap grows too large? The empire collapses. EVERY time.

    Look up the Great Filter… Maybe this is it…

    1. Chris, I would agree with you that both the norms within our society about wealth, how you get it, and who deserves it, as well as people giving up because no matter how hard they try they can’t seem to get anywhere. I feel that the former feeds into the latter and that’s where we need to begin to make change. An interesting article that was presented in a class this past semester laid out one of the main issues that contributes to the wealth gap – college, in the ability to access it and benefits of completing a degree. Here’s the link if you want to check it out: http://campaignstops.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/03/12/the-reproduction-of-privilege/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=1
      We can also see this societal norm in the recent laws being passed that make homelessness almost a taboo thing, where you can’t sleep in certain places and can’t give food to the homeless.

      I don’t think that the rest of the world is perfect when it comes to this, but focusing on the US, we have a long way to go in helping lessen the wealth gap. I don’t think that these individuals who are throwing in the towel are going to be able to gain any traction until we change the society that’s keeping them from being able to afford housing, food, and start a savings account. These norms are out of their control, so we can’t expect them to make any changes to it or their situation.

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