Watch the full episode. See more Need To Know.

We watched this video today in the first class of the semester. It was intended to get some ideas percolating about a range of social problems, including some opinions about how to fix them. Here is the web link to the PBS page:

PBS Newshour: “Obama’s Student Loan Relief Plan: How Helpful Would it Be?”

 This was partially shown in class from October 26, 2011—two voices moderated by PBS Senior Correspondent Gwen Ifill. Guests are Generation Debt author Anya Kamenetz and Jeff Selingo of the Chronicle of Higher Education

Student Loan Reform 

Short Video from the Obama administration on the new student loan policy changes made in 2010. 

Here is a short, two-minute cartoon public service announcement created by the Denver Road Home project. How do you see homelessness? 

Home at Last?

Video: Home at Last?

Here is a good 25-minute feature on Housing First presented by PBS. If you have time, you may want to take a look and get some more insight into the pros, cons, and dilemmas of this policy. It also includes a segment on “facts and figures” and many other links and resources on homelessness, including two interesting additional video segments, one on the new rising group of “middle class” homeless who lost their jobs and homes in the economic crisis, and a second one that shows a radical solution for homelessness, moving homeless people into foreclosed houses. Finally, here is the Housing and Urban Development page with all the statistics on Colorado homeless.

Guest Speaker: Info on Boulder Shelter for the Homeless

                             Our Building

In our November 18 class, Chris Gilmore will join us. Chris works as a full-time supervisor at the shelter. All students should try to attend this class. It will include an in-class assignment, in the form of questions that ask relevant questions to our guest speaker. In order to avoid basic questions that are answered on the website, please look through the website for the Boulder Shelter. Review the programs and services they offer. This will allow you to ask more intelligent questions and successfully complete the assignment. We want to get some ideas about how Chris sees the homeless problem as a social problems worker who interacts everyday with this population. 

Here is the current wish list for the Boulder Shelter for the Homeless. On the day of Chris’ visit, you have the option to bring something to donate to the shelter. This is not a mandatory activity; it’s just a nice thing to do before Thanksgiving week. The shelter’s web site also lists volunteer opportunities. Perhaps some of you would be interested to volunteer, or to look into having any student group you belong to volunteer some time to the shelter.

Finally: I will arrange a tour of the shelter with Chris if enough students express interest in this opportunity. 

Abstract Preferences and Real Choices

Here  is an interesting short entry on Sociological Images about how our preferences differ if you give us abstract or concrete things to choose between. 

Mean World Syndrome

                               Mean World Syndrome, The

Here is the best online supplement to the documentary Mean World Syndrome. We watched Mean World Syndrome in class on Wednesday and Friday November 9 &11. There is a low-resolution preview of the movie and some useful supplemental documents that summarize points from the documentary on the distributor’s site, Media Education Foundation. You may want to check here if you don’t remember points asked on the handout, or if there was a point you wanted to go over again.

Rising Age Gap in Economic Well-being


This just-released report from Pew Research describes the gap that has grown in wealth by age. According to Pew: “Older adults have made dramatic gains relative to younger adults in their economic well being during the past quarter century, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of data from two key U.S. Census sources.

These findings say that the younger group bought houses at the height of the bubble and have lost value. They also may have been more vulnerable to job loss, and have more student debt to carry. They also note how this affects delay of marriage, of having children, and other personal life choices. It clearly shows some interactions between structure and individual behaviors, and how the effect is in part dependent on your age during certain societal events or transitions.


   Poverty Rates Under The Two Measures

 Poverty RatesUsing Two Measures For Total Population And By Age Group

The government released a new experimental measure for poverty today. Here is a report from NPR on the results. This may complement some of our recent readings on inequality and poverty. Check out the last few lines, which tries to discount measures of poverty based on the items poor people own. You might consider this comment in light of the “Luxury or Necessity” report from Pew Research. 

Pew Research: Luxury or Necessity?


Here is a link to the Pew Research report from 2006, "Luxury or Necessity."

This includes the charts I used in class last week, when we discussed the “standard of living” that people expect in the U.S. Remember that Wilkinson and Dorling have said it is relative inequality that matters. Dorling suggested that the debarred” are those excluded from social norms in two ways, and the “disenfranchised” are those without a car where car ownership is assumed. The normative expectations and the range from top to bottom are important to understanding these categories. This report helps to illustrate what expectations are, and how they have changed over time. 

Pew Research: A Nation of “Haves” and “Have-Nots”?


According to Pew Report from 2007, “a growing share of the public has come to the view that American society is divided into two groups, the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’” over the past two decades. Obviously this relates to the themes of inequality from Dorling and from the recently shown Ted talk from Richard Wilkinson. It may also be useful for someone doing the paper topic on “Consumption.”

Click on the above photo to visit their report about these views.