This paper identifies the Anglo-American economic model as one potential cause of class inequality and surveys
the ways in which one’s class relates to one’s ability to own a home. These relationships establish
a framework for the paper’s sociological question, which investigates how parental homeownership and several
of its corollaries (i.e., its effects on one’s ability to afford opportunity, the quality of one’s
communities, and one’s self-concept and self-esteem) influence children’s achievement of higher education.
Thus, the paper ultimately attempts to explain the relationship between the Anglo-American economic model, America’s
class inequality, and homeownership and the eventual impacts of these phenomena on children’s attainment
of higher education. In this way, analyses comment on the cyclical functioning of class inequality under the Anglo-American
Introduction And Objectives
According to David
Cho and Neil Irwin, staff writers of the Washington Post, Treasury Secretary Henry
M. Paulson, Jr. recently detailed a new proposal presented by President George W. Bush’s administration to implement
mortgage-relief for American citizens (D01). Cho and Irwin explained that this plan allows for local governments to assist
struggling homeowners by refinancing their mortgages. Government officials and politicians seem to indisputably acknowledge
that America is currently experiencing, what Cho and Irwin refer to as, a “mortgage crisis.” As legislators pursue
comprehensive solutions to improve this crisis, they will most likely attempt to isolate its proximal causes (e.g., devastating
increases in adjustable-rate loans) and render policies to mitigate its proximal consequences (e.g., foreclosure) (D01).
Yet, as America’s government works to locate and address these immediate issues pertinent to homeownership,
I seek to expand upon this mortgage crisis to understand a much larger picture of severe class inequality.
I chose to reference this complicated mortgage crisis
in my paper’s introduction because it is one consequence of the institutional mechanisms producing class inequality
in the United States. Furthermore, it invites considerations of the ways in which homeownership and class struggle are inextricably
bound. In this paper, I intend to address a choice selection of these considerations by identifying the Anglo-American economic
model as one potential cause of class inequality and by surveying the ways in which one’s class relates to one’s
ability to own a home. I will point to these relationships in order to establish a framework for my larger sociological question,
which aims to investigate how parental homeownership and several of its corollaries (i.e., its effects on one’s ability
to afford opportunity, the quality of one’s communities, and one’s self-concept and self-esteem) influence children’s
achievement in higher education. Thus, my ultimate objective in this paper is to explain the relationship between
the Anglo-American economic model, America’s class inequality, and homeownership and the eventual impacts of these
phenomena on children’s attainment of higher education. In this way, I will use my analyses to comment on
the cyclical functioning of class inequality under the Anglo-American economic model.
The Anglo-American Economic Model And Its Contributions To Class Inequality
Effects on Income Inequality
Although class inequality has many factors contributing
to its production and reproduction, I intend to specifically focus on the contributions of the Anglo-American economic
model to that inequality. Many scholars of economics and sociology contend that the Anglo-American economic model,
despite its possible benefits to a society (e.g., low unemployment rates), often produces severe wealth inequality. In his
article published in Good Governance, Democratic Societies and Globalisation, Luke Martell went as far as to contend
Anglo-American . . . economic model undermines goals such as equality . . . [and] the eradication of poverty” (92).
One can reach this conclusion for a range of reasons. For instance, the Anglo-American regime is structured to give free-market
capitalism more power and freedom by loosening the control and involvement of its government (Sennett 53). In this way, businesses
and corporations have the ability to create a system that is constantly changing its structure, leading to a distinct disadvantage
for citizens with less power and prominence in the workplace (Sennett 53). That is, because this system is prone to
change and is highly flexible, it can create increasing wage inequality (Sennet 54). For example, Harold R. Kerbo asserted
that during the 1980’s “lower-income groups were losing income share while the top groups were making significant
gains” (24). Likewise, in 2003, the lowest 20 percent of American households within the distribution of total U.S.
income received merely 3.4 percent of U.S. income, while the highest 20 percent of households received 49.8 percent of the
annual income in the United States (21). In his paper “Labor Market Institutions Around the World,” Richard B.
Freeman explained how the Anglo-American model’s flexible labor force and low levels of governmental interference
in the economy create poorer governmental oversight and social standards for workers as compared to other economic
models. Through a detailed statistical analysis, Freeman concluded:
The US and the other Anglo-American countries (UK, Canada, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand) have weak employment
protection legislation (EPL) compared to other advanced economies (Freeman, Boxall, and Haynes, 2007) . . . . The
Anglo-American economy with the strongest EPL regulations, Australia, had weaker regulations than the European
countries with the weakest protection, Denmark and Switzerland. The US, which operates in large part by employment-at-will
has the lowest EPL score. In the US, firms own jobs and can replace workers for any business or other (non-discriminatory)
Consequently, we can understand that the Anglo-American regime not only contributes to wage inequity, but also
allows for weaker employment protection.
Effects on Class Inequality
The wage and employment inequality that manifests within
an Anglo-American economy translates into wealth and class inequality. Kerbo explained that “[i]ncome is certainly
distributed in an unequal manner in the United Sates, but wealth is distributed even more unequally” (Kerbo
20). For example, if we consider the way in which stock options function in many Anglo-American economies, we can
understand how the model allows wages and employment to determine collateral wealth and socio-economic class. For
example, in 1995, 1 percent of Americans owned 51.4 percent of private corporate stock (Kerbo 155). In this way,
high-income Americans retain massive control over corporate ownership. This contributes to a dramatically stratified
class system; those gaining income develop the ability to own capital and thereby gain wealth, while those hurt
by income inequality fall deeper into poverty and dependence.
Class Inequality, Homeownership, And Higher Education
Homeownership as a Primary Determinant of Class
The socio-economic stratification evident between the
highly paid and well-invested “upper-echelon” of Anglo-American workers and their poorly-paid or unemployed
brethren becomes especially apparent when considering the relationships between class and homeownership. In his article “A
Room with a View or a Room of One's Own? Housing and Social Stratification,” Dalton Conley created a predictive model
demonstrating the positive correlation between family income and homeownership in the United States. He explained the unique
inter-relatedness between income, wealth, and homeownership by asserting that as income predicts homeownership, homeownership
largely determines composite wealth and thereby socio-economic class. Conley stated that “homeownership is the modal
form of wealth holding for American families” (272). In acknowledging the relationships between an individual’s
income, home, and class, we can consider a plethora of other correlates. One of the most significant and widely studied is
higher-education, particularly the correlation between parental homeownership and children’s educational
A Positive Correlation Between Homeownership and Higher Education
In her book, What Money Can't Buy: Family Income and
Children's Life Chances, Susan E. Mayer contended that a child’s class and familial wealth is potentially the greatest
determinant of his or her academic attainment (2-3). She explained that a slight increase in a family’s wealth
will, on average, increase its children’s educations by .02 to .11 years” (57). Conley produced an even
larger estimate of this effect in his article “Capital for College: Parental Assets and Postsecondary Schooling.” His
findings showed that among sons and daughters of heads of households born in 1984, a doubling of their parents’ assets
raised their years of overall schooling by .12 years and raised their years of post-secondary formal education by .11 years
(68). His findings also suggested that doubling parental wealth, which is largely determined by homeownership, will raise
a student’s likelihood of attending college by 8.3 percent and raise the graduation probability of a student already
enrolled in college by 5.6 percent (68). As we consider these findings and understand that homeownership is inextricably
bound to class and wealth, we can explore the relationships between an individual’s prospects for higher education
and his or her parents’ homeownership. In the latter sections of this paper, I plan to embark on that exploration by
investigating several potential reasons why homeownership has such effects. To do so, I will largely rely on correlational
and predictive research, which I concede does not allow us to determine causality. However, despite this potential shortcoming,
the purpose of my investigation is to expose the existence of relationships between parental homeownership and children’s
educational outcomes under the Anglo-American economic model and comment on how these relationships potentially
contribute to a cycle of inequality.
The Effects Of Homeownership On The Attainment Of Higher Education
Education and the Power of Choice
One could easily suspect that a causal relationship exists
between parental homeownership and a child’s educational prospects, as wealth surely affords access to better
school systems, ability to pay for standardized testing assistance from corporations like Kaplan and the Princeton
Review, and access to supplementary educational resources like the Sylvan Learning Center and national student
conferences and seminars. In his book Linking Home and School, Ken Worpole confirmed that in the United
Kingdom housing and education are inextricably bound precisely because of these sorts of factors. Worpole
explained that educational attainment is achieved via a “greater
freedom of choice,” and access to choice is attained via homeownership (29). He discussed the notion that the economic
security associated with homeownership offers individuals tremendous choices with respect to where they will live, where
their children will attend school, what extra-curricular opportunities they will afford for their children. This freedom
of choice secures better academic prospects and positively correlates with children’s attainment of post-secondary
Similarly, Conley, in his article “Capital
for College: Parental Assets and Postsecondary Schooling,” asserted that homeownership not only affords choices of
where to live and what schools to send your children to but also affords choices of how to pay for college. The cost of an
undergraduate college degree in the United States in astronomical. According to Mary Beth Pinto and Phylis M. Mansfield in
their article on the financial risks of college students, 7 to 8 percent of bachelor’s degree recipients in 2004 experienced
tremendous difficulty in repaying their educational debts and may ultimately defaulted or filed bankruptcy as a result (22-23).
They also quoted financial experts who estimated that, in 2004, approximately one half of all college students had insurmountable
financial burdens “with repayments exceeding 8% of their monthly incomes” (23). Conley explained that such a
financial burden largely deters students from pursuing higher education, while any mitigation of that debt promotes academic
pursuits. He further stated, “parents may use wealth—that is, property—to finance their children’s
educational and professional credentials,” which, in the face of intractable student debt, unobstructs tremendous
educational paths for children (68). Consequently, we can conclude that as parental homeownership alleviates a large majority
of that financial burden, it thereby advances children’s attainment of college degrees.
Education and the Power of Community
In Nicolas Paul Retsinas and Eric S. Belsky’s
Homeownership: Examining the Unexamined Goal, an article authored by William M. Rohe, Shannon Van Zandt,
and George McCarthy suggested that the wealth accumulated through homeownership is not the only way parental
homeownership affects children’s
prospects of earning college degrees. Rohe et al. cited Boehm and Schlottman’s 1999 study, which provided statistical
evidence from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics that even when average house value, parental education, parental income,
and family size are controlled, homeownership is still a highly significant indicator of educational attainment (398). They
demonstrated how this finding and others like it (e.g., Essen and his colleagues’ 1978 analyses of the National
Child Development Study) demonstrated that homeownership affected higher education, even when many important confounding
variables, especially parental income and home value, were controlled. These data have left researchers questioning how and why parental
homeownership affects a student’s chances of pursuing an undergraduate diploma. Many have pointed to the importance
of a student’s community or neighborhood on his or her academic successes. Thus, as we acknowledge the relationship
between homeownership and community, we can again associate homeownership with a child’s educational outcome.
To do so, let us first consider Rohe et al.'s contentions
regarding the links between homeownership and community. They hypothesized that because homeowners have great financial stake
in the quality of their neighborhoods, they attend to antisocial behaviors of children and adolescents and thus promote their
scholastic achievement (397). Furthermore, Rohe et al. explained that “[h]omeowners tend to stay longer in a neighborhood,
making them more effective monitors of children in the neighborhood” (398). Worpole explained the importance of this
community focus has on higher education. In his analysis of education and homeownership in the United Kingdom, Worpole found
that that individuals actualize their potential best through strong communities that observe their youth, emphasize rights
and responsibilities, and instill a sense of community relatedness and personal worth among their members (37). Thus, as
homeownership encourages people to stay in communities for longer, it promotes this sort of tenor among a community. In entertaining
both Rohe et al.’s views on the impact of homeownership on community and Worpole’s views on the relationship
between community and education, we can ascertain that homeownership seems to create communities, which in their
encouragement of neighborliness, interpersonal relatedness, and individual contributions, are more conducive to
scholastic pursuits. In this way, we have located another potential explanation as to how and why parental
homeownership materially affects children’s attainment of higher education.
Education and the Power of Self
In understanding that we should not reduce the impact
of parental homeownership on children’s educational achievement to terms of parental wealth or income, we too should
not conceptually limit this impact to terms of community quality. In fact, there are most likely many other intangible factors
contributing to how parental homeownership influences children’s scholastic outcomes. One such factor is the way in
which parental homeownership can affect a child’s sense of self. Let us consider Conley’s discussion on
this issue in his article “A Room with a View or a Room of One’s Own.” Conley noted that parental
homeownership may transmit implicit messages to children regarding what sorts of actions and choices are most important
and respectable. That is, households that buy their residences may suggest that one ought to defer gratification,
work toward specific aspirations, and accumulate equity, rather than consume goods and pursue immediate gratification
(267). In this way, Conley believed that students raised by homeowners may develop their self-concepts in relation
to this value-framework. Similarly, in Social
Class, Poverty and Education: Policy and Practice edited by Bruce Jesse Biddle, David L.Dubois expressed
a similar notion. Dubois asserted that one’s academic success is contingent upon his or her resilience in an academic environment;
he then went on to explain that such resilience may develop from “personal values and aspirations oriented toward success
in important life domains” (133). Accordingly, if we consider that parental homeownership may transmit to children
that academia is an “important life domain,” it thus promotes academic resilience in children. Therefore, in
understanding Conley and Dubois’ assertions, we can ascertain that parental homeownership may foster a sort
of future-orientation and academic resilience, which allow children to develop self-concepts and schemata that
incline them toward higher education.
In his considerations of how one’s self-concept
affects one’s academic attainment, Dubois explained that self-esteem and a sense of self-efficacy can be just as influential
as one’s value system and goal-orientation. He provided case vignettes of students with varying family situations,
self-concepts, and levels of academic achievement to expose the interrelated dynamics of the “aspects of the self.” He
used these case studies to determine that self-esteem and feelings of competency are of primary importance to a person’s
academic resilience and success (133-134). In order to appreciate this apparent relationship between self-esteem and academic
outcomes in our investigation of parental homeownership, we must analyze empirical evidence supporting the idea that homeownership
contributes to a person’s self-esteem.
Rohe et al. cited several empirical studies providing
strong support for the effects of homeownership on developing a strong positive self concept. For example,
according to a study conducted by Balfour and Smith as part of a lease purchase program sponsored by the Cleveland
Housing Network, merely providing an individual with the opportunity to own a home strongly elevates his
or her self-esteem and sense of societal worth (386). Similarly, Rohe et al. referenced a qualitative study based
on indepth-interviews, which concluded that “the mere fact of owning . . . property” influences how people see “evidence of their own success
of failure in life” (386). Data from the National Survey of Families and Households in 1996 also reported that “homeowners
were more likely to agree to the statement, ‘I do things as well as anyone,’” (386). One may conclude
that these correlations could be due to an ideological value placed on homeownership in particular societies, which becomes
translated through social messages and dominant precepts. As such, we can predict that children, as well as adults, are subject
to positive associations of homeownership and similarly base their self-esteem, in part, on their statuses as the children
of homeowners or non-homeowners. Furthermore, as mentioned earlier, Conley believed that given households transmit implicit
messages about values and respectability to their children. If we consider this assertion in view of the above empirical
research, we can hypothesize that the effect that homeownership has on a homeowner’s self-esteem and confidence may “trickle
down” to the child in his or her household. That is, Rohe explained that homeowners adopt an intergenerational “homeowning
ethic,” through which they take pride in and establish a sense of self-worth based on their status as homeowners (397).
They then pass that ethic down to posterity and affirm to children that homeownership is commendable. In this way, children
may develop their self-esteem and self-concept in light of their caretakers’ status as homeowners, which in consideration
of Dubois’ findings, will positively impact their educational outcomes.
Conclusion: An Intergenerational Cycle
In concluding their analyses of
the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, Boehm and Schlottman deduced that the primary channel by which children
of homeowners benefit in society is their increased educational attainment (Rohe et al. 398). To render
such a conclusion suggests that increased educational attainment provides a more valuable societal advantage
than any other benefit associated with parental homeownership (e.g., collateral wealth, parental income,
community). If we embrace Boehm and Schlottman’s contention, or at the
very least acknowledge that educational achievement is an invaluable mechanism by which many individuals can begin
to obtain fair salaries, purchase homes, and even transcend class lines, we can begin to understand the
cyclical functioning of class inequality under the Anglo-American economic model.
As I have demonstrated in this analysis, class correlates
with homeownership, homeownership correlates with education, and education correlates with class. Yet, the interrelatedness
of this web of variables becomes even more complex as we consider the way in which it can be predicted by intergenerational
models. For instance, Conley contended in his article for the journal, Sociology of Education, that socio-economic
class status collapses across generations and as much as 80 percent of capital accumulation can be “attributed to intergenerational
transfers” (60). He also explained that recent research on the role of family transfers within the distribution of
wealth reveals a stronger correlation with intergenerational capital than income (60). Thus, as classes under the Anglo-American
economic model construct themselves based on factors like wealth, property, and academic or professional qualifications,
they intergenerationally reproduce and maintain themselves (Conley 68). In this fashion, class status is inherited and propagated.
It is a legacy as well as a prospect. Our efforts as members of an Anglo-American society must be toward ensuring that
such a prospect is neither necessary nor unavoidable. We must work to assure that one’s class is never inexorably prescribed
and that one’s attempts, abilities, or aspirations to transcend that class are never stifled by the muscle
of institutionalized inequality.
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