Wednesday, July 18, 2007

MySpace or Facebook, and who are we anyway?

So, the news is out. Social scientists have discovered that MySpace and Facebook in fact mirror class divisions in US society quite neatly. Well-to-do, stable American teens with "good prospects" wind up on Facebook, while poor, queer, marginal and non-white teens end up on MySpace. Even in the military "grunts" tend to be on MySpace and officers on Facebook - guess which one the military banned! For more, click on the word "news" and see fascinating quotes from Danah Boyd's paper.

Just an interesting little insight, you might think. But recent research by both the Sutton Trust in England and the London School of Economics reveals that out of all technologically and economically advanced countries Britain has the lowest rate of social mobility (no real surprise if you've lived there) - and the United States, yes, that's right, the "land of opportunity", has the second lowest rate of social mobility of all the countries studied. Peter Lampl of the Sutton Trust writes: "In no other country were the prospects of those from non-privileged backgrounds more limited".

Reminds me of another study whose source alas I can no longer find, a few years ago, which discovered that while most American's believe social mobility exists as a possibility for them, more than 95% stay right exactly where their parents were.

These new researchers at the London School of Economics found two main reasons for this social stuck-ness. First, the increasing level of income inequality and second, education that disproportionately benefits the better-off.

Countries that do well in social mobility, Sweden and Canada for instance, have far lower income disparities between higher and lower earners. And the quality of education varies less according to parental income.

It's not just what on-line friendly web-site we use, after all.

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