from the world's big
15 Things That Might Become Perks for Rich People
The 15 items here, some monumental and some small, speak to the everyday texture of that inequality, how it’s calcifying into a lifestyle and culture gap. As we invest less in public services and infrastructures that traditionally help to close the lifestyle gap between affluent and poor, these things might become more privatized, more identified as luxuries rather than staples of civilization, or more confined to those who can afford to pay.
As scholar Pamela Smock concludes, marriage is becoming “an elite custom.” I summarize this research in my book. The affluent get and stay married today at substantially higher rates than the poor and low-income, for a variety of reasons, and for whatever conclusions you might draw from that trend. In the 1970s, men and women divorced at roughly equal rates across income levels. The powerful trend of “assortative mating” describes how like marries like: We tend to marry people with our exact education and earning power. This means that equality is growing within marriages, but inequality is growing across marriages, and in the institution of marriage.
A POPSICLE FROM AN ICE CREAM TRUCK
Remember the humble summer rite of the Good Humor truck with its enticing jingle? Well, ice cream truck operators are wise to the unprofitability of planning a route through “low-income” neighborhoods. “Our target market here is kids with money,” an insider website explains. “You won’t sell anything if you’re driving around in ‘empty-pocket’ or wrong market areas like elderly neighborhoods or low-income housing areas and trailer parks.” As a rule, the Ice Cream Truck Driver must avoid: “Any economically challenged, low income, or benefit/income support areas…” Even the truck-bought sno-ball might become a rich person’s delicacy. Actually, it’s more a middle-class treat, because the site finds that conspicuously “rich” neighborhoods don’t work so well either, owing to overly “health-conscious parents.”
Speaking of health, CDC data find that the very poorest one-fifth of the country is twice as likely to be obese as the very richest one-fifth. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey cuts the data to find that more than 33% of adults who earn less than $15,000 a year are obese, compared to 25% of those who earn $50,000 or more. Affluent Americans have easier access to healthy food cultures (see below), and the resources for private weight control remedies, including weight loss clinics, private gyms to replace public rec centers shuttered in the recession, personal fitness coaches, or cosmetic nostrums like liposuction.
America has book deserts. Children in economically-depressed areas have an average of 0-2 age-appropriate books at home; children in high-income areas have 199. This wouldn’t be as dire if the public book infrastructure—free public libraries, reading-friendly public spaces, public schools, and public school libraries—was generously funded to pick up the slack. But their funding is getting slashed. A University of Michigan study on reading environments furthermore finds “major and striking differences between neighborhoods” based on wealth. In their study, two high-income neighborhoods sported 11 and 13 places that sold print materials for children, including several bookstores. The poor neighborhoods in the same city had a higher density of children, but only four places in each—drug stores, mostly—that sold print material and no book store in either. The income gap in school libraries was even sharper, with low-income school libraries in “serious disrepair,” and a statistically significant gap in the quantity and quality of books between low and high-income neighborhoods. The rich can always buy their own library. The low-income, not so much, and there are fewer public spaces and resources to fill the gap.
A CHANCE TO START ADULTHOOD UNENCUMBERED BY DEBT
Starting adulthood debt-free is becoming a privilege for the few, the trust funded, and the rich. In 2011, two-thirds of college graduates had debt, with an average debt of $26,600. This amount was up 5% from just the year before.
Low-income Americans are twice as likely as their high-income counterparts to go without dental care, including 17,000,000 low-income children. A 2012 Senate subcommittee report concludes that low-income Americans have a “much harder time” accessing dental care, and it’s not part of basic insurance coverage. A dental visit or supplemental dental insurance is prohibitively expensive. Teeth: it’s a rich thing?
A child’s free or reduced lunch status makes them twice as likely to be an “at risk,” unskilled swimmer. Public swimming pools have been a casualty of the recession, even though during the Depression in the 1930s, more than 1,000 municipal pools were built as part of the public works project. Increasingly, swimming, or even the simple joy of jumping into an icy pool on a hot day, belong to children who can go to private summer camps, private swimming clubs, private swimming lessons, or private schools with a pool. I suspect that fewer still enjoy the pleasure of a free, unfenced, swimming hole on public, undeveloped land, with clean water.
Food deserts are almost universally in low-income communities; 2.3 million Americans live more than one mile from a supermarket and don’t own a car. Wealthy districts in America have three times as many supermarkets as poor districts.
In Crazy, author Pete Earley describes how prisons and police officers end up doing the work of mental health institutions and psychiatrists today. The National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors reports that states cut $4.35 billion in mental health spending from 2009 to 2012. While 22,000,000 Americans have a substance dependence problem, 21,000,000 don’t get treatment for it. A month-long stay in a private rehab facility would cost around $25,000. And, if growing numbers of therapists in private practice just decide to stop treating patients who rely on insurance—which is already happening because of the frustration of wrassling with insurance companies to extract payment—then they’ll be left treating only mental sufferers who can pay full freight. As it was in the beginning with Freud, so it might be in the future: Only comfortably bourgeois clients can afford not to suffer.
LEARNING TO PAINT A PICTURE, OR PLAY THE VIOLIN
Most K-12 public schools still do provide arts and music education. However, as Secretary Arne Duncan notes, there’s already an “equity gap” in the content and quantity of arts and music education, and the trend isn’t good. The Center on Education Policy finds that since the enactment of No Child Left Behind, 44% of public school districts have reduced instruction time in art and music. State budgets can’t sustain investments in “off-test” subjects. In practice this means that low-income children disproportionately lose the opportunity to enrich their aesthetic and cultural lives: Tiger Mothers will always have the resources to supplement with private lessons, museum trips, concerts, art summer camps, and supplies they buy themselves.
Fifty-seven percent of Americans have less than $25,000 in any kind of savings. Almost all—94%--of households with incomes over $75,000 have saved at least something for retirement, but only 24% of households with incomes less than $35,000. The ability not to have to work forever is likely to get more class-defined, as Social Security frays and pensions through union and public sector jobs go the way of the dodo. Furthermore, the “recovery” in the economy has privileged investors and who already have savings, and hasn’t translated into income gains that might allow a worker to begin saving.
PARKS and GREEN SPACES
This one’s a mixed bag. If you’re low-income in an urban or suburban environment, some research finds that your “spatial diversity” and proximity to parks and green spaces are more limited, but if you’re low-income in a non-urban environment, then you have easier access to green spaces.
You might not be affluent enough to have your child learn about evolution. Some of the deepest red states are also among the poorest, and in these school districts there’s a growing movement to disavow evolutionary theory. The chance to learn about evolution is greater with blue state school districts in more affluent blue states—school funding is typically tied to property taxes—and with nonsectarian (did I mention very expensive?) private schools.
With more states in the last decade having de facto restricted abortion by chipping away at access, we might soon return to the day when access to an abortion, whether abroad or in the U.S., required more money and a black market. Most notable today is the dearth of clinics through the center of the country, including Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wyoming. In this region, 400,000 women of reproductive age live more than 150 miles from the closest clinic. The states with the fewest clinics also tend to have the most restrictions on abortion. Insurance companies won’t be required to provide abortions under Obamacare. Some states already ban private insurance coverage for elective abortion.
Americans are happier overall in times of lower income inequality, according to research by University of Virginia professor Shigehiro Oishi, based on national data from the General Social Survey . This happiness gap isn’t an artifact, entirely, of lower incomes themselves, but of the lack of trust and common destiny that the income gap secondarily creates. It’s the oldest saying in the book that “money can’t buy happiness.” Less income inequality, however, does buy more happiness.
But, if you’re rich, don’t worry. The size of the income gap “had no effect on happiness” for wealthy Americans….just on the happiness of the un-rich.
Innovation in manufacturing has crawled since the 1950s. That's about to speed up.
Health officials in China reported that a man was infected with bubonic plague, the infectious disease that caused the Black Death.
- The case was reported in the city of Bayannur, which has issued a level-three plague prevention warning.
- Modern antibiotics can effectively treat bubonic plague, which spreads mainly by fleas.
- Chinese health officials are also monitoring a newly discovered type of swine flu that has the potential to develop into a pandemic virus.
Bacteria under microscope
needpix.com<p>Today, bubonic plague can be treated effectively with antibiotics.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Unlike in the 14th century, we now have an understanding of how this disease is transmitted," Dr. Shanthi Kappagoda, an infectious disease physician at Stanford Health Care, told <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">Healthline</a>. "We know how to prevent it — avoid handling sick or dead animals in areas where there is transmission. We are also able to treat patients who are infected with effective antibiotics, and can give antibiotics to people who may have been exposed to the bacteria [and] prevent them [from] getting sick."</p>
This plague patient is displaying a swollen, ruptured inguinal lymph node, or buboe.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention<p>Still, hundreds of people develop bubonic plague every year. In the U.S., a handful of cases occur annually, particularly in New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado, <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/plague/faq/index.html" target="_blank">where habitats allow the bacteria to spread more easily among wild rodent populations</a>. But these cases are very rare, mainly because you need to be in close contact with rodents in order to get infected. And though plague can spread from human to human, this <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">only occurs with pneumonic plague</a>, and transmission is also rare.</p>
A new swine flu in China<p>Last week, researchers in China also reported another public health concern: a new virus that has "all the essential hallmarks" of a pandemic virus.<br></p><p>In a paper published in the <a href="https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2020/06/23/1921186117" target="_blank">Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences</a>, researchers say the virus was discovered in pigs in China, and it descended from the H1N1 virus, commonly called "swine flu." That virus was able to transmit from human to human, and it killed an estimated 151,700 to 575,400 people worldwide from 2009 to 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.</p>There's no evidence showing that the new virus can spread from person to person. But the researchers did find that 10 percent of swine workers had been infected by the virus, called G4 reassortant EA H1N1. This level of infectivity raises concerns, because it "greatly enhances the opportunity for virus adaptation in humans and raises concerns for the possible generation of pandemic viruses," the researchers wrote.
So far, 30 student teams have entered the Indy Autonomous Challenge, scheduled for October 2021.
- The Indy Autonomous Challenge will task student teams with developing self-driving software for race cars.
- The competition requires cars to complete 20 laps within 25 minutes, meaning cars would need to average about 110 mph.
- The organizers say they hope to advance the field of driverless cars and "inspire the next generation of STEM talent."
Indy Autonomous Challenge<p>Completing the race in 25 minutes means the cars will need to average about 110 miles per hour. So, while the race may end up being a bit slower than a typical Indy 500 competition, in which winners average speeds of over 160 mph, it's still set to be the fastest autonomous race featuring full-size cars.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"There is no human redundancy there," Matt Peak, managing director for Energy Systems Network, a nonprofit that develops technology for the automation and energy sectors, told the <a href="https://www.post-gazette.com/business/tech-news/2020/06/01/Indy-Autonomous-Challenge-Indy-500-Indianapolis-Motor-Speedway-Ansys-Aptiv-self-driving-cars/stories/202005280137" target="_blank">Pittsburgh Post-Gazette</a>. "Either your car makes this happen or smash into the wall you go."</p>
Illustration of the Indy Autonomous Challenge
Indy Autonomous Challenge<p>The Indy Autonomous Challenge <a href="https://www.indyautonomouschallenge.com/rules" target="_blank">describes</a> itself as a "past-the-post" competition, which "refers to a binary, objective, measurable performance rather than a subjective evaluation, judgement, or recognition."</p><p>This competition design was inspired by the 2004 DARPA Grand Challenge, which tasked teams with developing driverless cars and sending them along a 150-mile route in Southern California for a chance to win $1 million. But that prize went unclaimed, because within a few hours after starting, all the vehicles had suffered some kind of critical failure.</p>
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Indy Autonomous Challenge<p>One factor that could prevent a similar outcome in the upcoming race is the ability to test-run cars on a virtual racetrack. The simulation software company Ansys Inc. has already developed a model of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on which teams will test their algorithms as part of a series of qualifying rounds.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"We can create, with physics, multiple real-life scenarios that are reflective of the real world," Ansys President Ajei Gopal told <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/autonomous-vehicles-to-race-at-indianapolis-motor-speedway-11595237401?mod=e2tw" target="_blank">The Wall Street Journal</a>. "We can use that to train the AI, so it starts to come up to speed."</p><p>Still, the race could reveal that self-driving cars aren't quite ready to race at speeds of over 110 mph. After all, regular self-driving cars already face enough logistical and technical roadblocks, including <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-53349313#:~:text=Tesla%20will%20be%20able%20to,no%20driver%20input%2C%20he%20said." target="_blank">crumbling infrastructure, communication issues</a> and the <a href="https://bigthink.com/paul-ratner/would-you-ride-in-a-car-thats-programmed-to-kill-you" target="_self">fateful moral decisions driverless cars will have to make in split seconds</a>.</p>But the Indy Autonomous Challenge <a href="https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5da73021d0636f4ec706fa0a/t/5dc0680c41954d4ef41ec2b2/1572890638793/Indy+Autonomous+Challenge+Ruleset+-+v5NOV2019+%282%29.pdf" target="_blank">says</a> its main goal is to advance the industry, by challenging "students around the world to imagine, invent, and prove a new generation of automated vehicle (AV) software and inspire the next generation of STEM talent."
A new Harvard study finds that the language you use affects patient outcome.
- A study at Harvard's McLean Hospital claims that using the language of chemical imbalances worsens patient outcomes.
- Though psychiatry has largely abandoned DSM categories, professor Joseph E Davis writes that the field continues to strive for a "brain-based diagnostic system."
- Chemical explanations of mental health appear to benefit pharmaceutical companies far more than patients.
Challenging the Chemical Imbalance Theory of Mental Disorders: Robert Whitaker, Journalist<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="41699c8c2cb2aee9271a36646e0bee7d"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/-8BDC7i8Yyw?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>This is a far cry from Howard Rusk's 1947 NY Times editorial calling for mental healt</p><p>h disorders to be treated similarly to physical disease (such as diabetes and cancer). This mindset—not attributable to Rusk alone; he was merely relaying the psychiatric currency of the time—has dominated the field for decades: mental anguish is a genetic and/or chemical-deficiency disorder that must be treated pharmacologically.</p><p>Even as psychiatry untethered from DSM categories, the field still used chemistry to validate its existence. Psychotherapy, arguably the most efficient means for managing much of our anxiety and depression, is time- and labor-intensive. Counseling requires an empathetic and wizened ear to guide the patient to do the work. Ingesting a pill to do that work for you is more seductive, and easier. As Davis writes, even though the industry abandoned the DSM, it continues to strive for a "brain-based diagnostic system." </p><p>That language has infiltrated public consciousness. The team at McLean surveyed 279 patients seeking acute treatment for depression. As they note, the causes of psychological distress have constantly shifted over the millennia: humoral imbalance in the ancient world; spiritual possession in medieval times; early childhood experiences around the time of Freud; maladaptive thought patterns dominant in the latter half of last century. While the team found that psychosocial explanations remain popular, biogenetic explanations (such as the chemical imbalance theory) are becoming more prominent. </p><p>Interestingly, the 80 people Davis interviewed for his book predominantly relied on biogenetic explanations. Instead of doctors diagnosing patients, as you might expect, they increasingly serve to confirm what patients come in suspecting. Patients arrive at medical offices confident in their self-diagnoses. They believe a pill is the best course of treatment, largely because they saw an advertisement or listened to a friend. Doctors too often oblige without further curiosity as to the reasons for their distress. </p>
Image: Illustration Forest / Shutterstock<p>While medicalizing mental health softens the stigma of depression—if a disorder is inheritable, it was never really your fault—it also disempowers the patient. The team at McLean writes,</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"More recent studies indicate that participants who are told that their depression is caused by a chemical imbalance or genetic abnormality expect to have depression for a longer period, report more depressive symptoms, and feel they have less control over their negative emotions."</p><p>Davis points out the language used by direct-to-consumer advertising prevalent in America. Doctors, media, and advertising agencies converge around common messages, such as everyday blues is a "real medical condition," everyone is susceptible to clinical depression, and drugs correct underlying somatic conditions that you never consciously control. He continues,</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Your inner life and evaluative stance are of marginal, if any, relevance; counseling or psychotherapy aimed at self-insight would serve little purpose." </p><p>The McLean team discovered a similar phenomenon: patients expect little from psychotherapy and a lot from pills. When depression is treated as the result of an internal and immutable essence instead of environmental conditions, behavioral changes are not expected to make much difference. Chemistry rules the popular imagination.</p>