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May 25, 2013 12:08 PM   Subscribe

Advice for college grads from two sociologists From the writers of the always-amazing Sociological Images, it is directed towards college graduates, but useful for everyone.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 (120 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite

 
One of the hardest ways to be wrong involves saying something that is inadvertently prejudicial. When someone points out that something we said or did was racist, sexist, ableist, homophobic, classist or otherwise, we often feel attacked. Remember, though, that if someone bothers to engage with you on this kind of issue, it means they think you’re worth it.
No, it doesn't always mean that. In fact, sometimes people make accusations of bigotry because they want to tear the subject down, and may even themselves be bigoted in the way they they're talking about. In other words, it is an attack.

Except for that, the rest of it looks pretty good.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:26 PM on May 25, 2013 [10 favorites]


Just find a job that you like. Use that job to help you have a full life with lots of good things and pleasure and helping others and stuff. A great life is pretty good, even if it’s not perfect.

There's some good advice. I also like the advice about there are other options/lifestyles than the traditional buy house/get married/have kids route (all options are valid, don't want to derail).
posted by arcticseal at 12:29 PM on May 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Just find a job you like is a highly privileged bucket of hogwash. Most people don't want to go into business or engineering for its own sake but do so because that's one one of the few ways to make a living and maybe support a family. I don't understand how these people aren't laughed out of the publishers office and publicly shamed. Bourgoisie claptrap.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 12:40 PM on May 25, 2013 [29 favorites]


A job that pays the bills is a job I like more than a job that does not, irrespective of its other advantages. So looking for a job I like seems pretty rational even if, at the moment, that means looking for an unpleasant job that pays well.
posted by LogicalDash at 12:43 PM on May 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


I quite liked it, especially the statistically-supported nods to lifestyles that aren't as alternative as societal discourse leads us to believe.

sometimes people make accusations of bigotry because they want to tear the subject down, and may even themselves be bigoted in the way they they're talking about.

This is where their advice to ask "Can you explain what you mean?" and listen comes in. If it is a thinly-veiled attack, you'll find out. If it's not, you'll learn from it rather than offending someone who meant well. I say this as someone who deals weekly with at least one person who spouts "Oh my god I can't believe all the damned foreigners stealing our jobs" and trying to point out, for instance, that jobs are given by people already in the country (you can't "steal" one).
posted by fraula at 12:45 PM on May 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Guess you haven't heard of H1-b visas.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 12:46 PM on May 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


I followed my dreams and that is why I am now on an endless treadmill running through molasses while something is gaining on me and I am incapable of screaming no matter how hard I try. Success in dream following is not all it is cracked up to be.
posted by srboisvert at 12:47 PM on May 25, 2013 [45 favorites]


Unsurprisingly, some of the advice is better than the rest, and some of the reasoning behind a few of the pieces of advice manages to make the advice seem worse than it is.

But my gosh the thing about renting vs. buying is spot on, and they should teach a class in "your job doesn't have to be your Calling In Life" in high schools.
posted by SMPA at 1:03 PM on May 25, 2013


Buying just means that you expect a positive return on your "investment" over 20 years. The profit is all gotten through the assumption of liquidity risk. Given the economic turmoil of housing and economic busts over the last 20 years how is buying a home a financially wise decision? Old and rotten advice presented as sagacity. This isn't wine its vinegar.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 1:15 PM on May 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


sometimes people make accusations of bigotry because they want to tear the subject down

I feel like it's probably a lot easier to go through life listening when other people tell you something you said/did was -ist than it is to go through life assuming that everyone who suggests such a thing is probably out to get you.
posted by Sara C. at 1:15 PM on May 25, 2013 [24 favorites]


ishrinkmajeans: Just find a job you like is a highly privileged bucket of hogwash. Most people don't want to go into business or engineering for its own sake but do so because that's one one of the few ways to make a living and maybe support a family. I don't understand how these people aren't laughed out of the publishers office and publicly shamed. Bourgoisie claptrap.

Could you explain what you mean by this? The advice is:

"... set your sights just a tad below occupational ecstasy. Just find a job that you like. Use that job to help you have a full life with lots of good things and pleasure and helping others and stuff."

What is privileged and bourgeoisie about that? And what does it have to do with business and engineering in particular?
posted by escape from the potato planet at 1:18 PM on May 25, 2013 [10 favorites]


Just find a job you like is a highly privileged bucket of hogwash.

I think it says "job you like", not "a job that is your lifelong passion and which you cannot WAIT to go back to every single morning".

It's pretty easy to find a job you "like".

I liked working retail. I liked being a junior graphic designer. I like being an assistant. In fact, the older I get the more I discover that I actually like doing a lot of jobs that sound dull, aren't important, are not my life's passion, and will never change the world.

I guess it's privileged to say that "job you like" can be a goal for most people -- maybe most people's work is soul crushing and awful and they have to drink just to get through the day.

But I think the advice is sound. Don't worry so much if your job is not the Ultimate Embodiment Of Everything Important Ever. Just find a job you like doing and do it.
posted by Sara C. at 1:19 PM on May 25, 2013 [22 favorites]


Sara C.: I feel like it's probably a lot easier to go through life listening when other people tell you something you said/did was -ist than it is to go through life assuming that everyone who suggests such a thing is probably out to get you.

If you mean that one should give such accusations fair consideration, instead of reflexively rejecting them, then I agree.

Not every such accusation holds merit, though—there are (arguably well-meaning) people who are simply over-vigilant for anything that could possibly be interpreted as -ist, and there are also (relatively fewer) people who are willing to use such accusations as a way to put someone else on the defensive.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 1:29 PM on May 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


The author is making the assumption that most people don't already go after whatever job gives them the highest possible income that they have the skill to obtain. Most college students today aren't "pursuing their dreams" and therefore having a hard time finding work. This is the worn out trope of the arts history major studying in a field with low employment prospects.

More young college students today are studying engineering and business in university than ever before. However when they graduate they either can't find work or are stuck in a dead end retail job because of financial collapse, efficiency and automation and a general glut of workers.

The authors of this article are making the insinuation that it's the Young Kids fault he's in the dire straits of today's economy. But all the petit bourgeoise drank the koolaid years ago only to find that the economic theories they studied in BizEcon 101 won't save them from the unemployment line.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 1:30 PM on May 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


I laughed. Not sure why.

I guess there's something funny about giving advice to 22 year olds by citing the relevant academic literature.
posted by AlsoMike at 1:30 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


... it's probably a lot easier to go through life listening when other people tell you something you said/did was -ist than it is to go through life assuming that everyone who suggests such a thing is probably out to get you.

False choice. One does not have to assume that people are always doing one or the other. Sometimes people think you are worth it, sometimes they want to tear you down, sometimes they say things because they think it's the trendy thing to say.
posted by Longtime Listener at 1:31 PM on May 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I feel like it's probably a lot easier to go through life listening when other people tell you something you said/did was -ist than it is to go through life assuming that everyone who suggests such a thing is probably out to get you.

Do you also feel like it's easier to assume that people don't know what they're talking about when you don't understand what they're saying? Maybe you should ask, "Can you explain what you mean?" I had in mind a specific incident where a known bigot accused a non-bigot of being a racist for making a completely innocent remark. It was an in-person example of the kind of concern trolling that Limbaugh, Hannity, et al like to engage in. They are, in fact "out to get" their targets, as was the individual in the exchange I witnessed. Everyone present knew it for what it was, and asking the troll to explain what he meant would have been an invitation for more of the same.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 1:34 PM on May 25, 2013


I love how they think they're offering practical advice but then miss the lower rungs on the ladder. Listen When People Point Out Your Privilege? How about "buy a used car instead of a new one, or ride a bike."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:34 PM on May 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


Guess you haven't heard of H1-b visas.

Can you explain what you mean? /not intended as snark, would prefer to not get snark in reply
posted by rtha at 1:38 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I wasn't trying to be snarky either (well maybe a little). The poster above that comment claimed that foreign nationals don't take jobs from citizens when that is explicitly not the case with the granting of h1-b visas to foreigners for reduced pay and implicitly not the case in terms of outsourcing.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 1:43 PM on May 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


H1-B visas are granted by the State Dept. to foreign nationals who are sponsored by a domestic corporation to work in the US. If the corporation did not sponsor them, they would not get the visa or be able to work here. Some corporations love H1-Bs; it lets them pay below-market salaries and otherwise demean people who cannot easily change employers.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 1:44 PM on May 25, 2013 [8 favorites]


I have a developing hypothesis that the people who are shitting all over this advice are less happy than people who say something like "hey, this is good advice."
posted by MoonOrb at 1:45 PM on May 25, 2013 [24 favorites]


ishrinkmajeans: The authors of this article are making the insinuation that it's the Young Kids fault he's in the dire straits of today's economy.

Huh. I didn't see the article as commenting on the economic situation at all.

At any rate, it seems like sound advice regardless of the economic situation. Even in boom times, the vast majority of people don't grow up to change the world or realize their dreams. College-age kids, whatever the economy is like, are often sure they'll be the exception—I certainly thought I would be—and there are plenty of commencement addresses and so on that encourage the idea.

I read the article as simply saying "you're probably not going to do that, and that's okay, and you can still have a fulfilling life".
posted by escape from the potato planet at 1:46 PM on May 25, 2013


How about "Find a job that doesn't make you go into therapy" ?
posted by hellojed at 1:47 PM on May 25, 2013 [10 favorites]


I have a developing hypothesis that the people who are shitting all over this advice are less happy than people who say something like "hey, this is good advice."

That's a cute way of appearing intelligent and worldly without taking an actual stand on why the advice is sound. Bravo.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 1:48 PM on May 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


I read the article as simply saying "you're probably not going to do that, and that's okay, and you can still have a fulfilling life".

That could be. I have no problem with that interpretation but the article set off my bullshit alarm that's all. It's hard to know the intention of the author in this case I guess.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 1:50 PM on May 25, 2013


You're right, I take it back. You seem like a pretty happy fellow.
posted by MoonOrb at 1:52 PM on May 25, 2013 [12 favorites]


If you mean that one should give such accusations fair consideration, instead of reflexively rejecting them, then I agree.

Yeah, that's usually what the verb "listening" means.
posted by Sara C. at 1:54 PM on May 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


> I have a developing hypothesis that the people who are shitting all over this advice are less happy than people who say something like "hey, this is good advice."

I thought this comment was funny, because as I was reading I kept thinking, "Wow, the people who give advice like this must not know what it's like for life to suck and not be able to do anything about it."

I tend to think of myself as a pretty happy person, though. I'm one of those lucky enough to have a job that fits in with my life's passion (programming and math). A healthy dose of snark always seems to balm any disappointment I might encounter.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 1:54 PM on May 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


ishrinkmajeans: "I wasn't trying to be snarky either (well maybe a little). The poster above that comment claimed that foreign nationals don't take jobs from citizens when that is explicitly not the case with the granting of h1-b visas to foreigners for reduced pay and implicitly not the case in terms of outsourcing."

Apparently, workers with H1-B visas earn more than comparable American workers. (Though they're defining American workers as US-born, presumably to eliminate people who moved to the US on a H1-B visa to begin with.)
posted by hoyland at 1:56 PM on May 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


The best career advice anyone could ever give to college student is "be worth more than what you want to get paid."

That said, I think the advice is a mix of good, bad, and imported from somewhere east of Jupiter for all of its relevance.

Not being too focused on "dreams" is good. Focusing on dreams tends to distract you from the opportunities you didn't expect but nevertheless are supposed to exploit.

The entire sequence of friends-over-marriage-and-kids sounds interesting, but it hardly stands up anecdotally. Successful people are OVERWHELMINGLY in traditional marriages with kids. Correlation ain't causation, sure, but to suggest that what a 22 year really needs to be thinking about more is the career upside of being a child-free bachelor ... no.

And in what kind of workplace do people walk around accusing colleagues of bigotry? Even in sociology departments I'd hazard a guess that the bold pro-subalternians are mainly accusing bad Others of being bigots, not their 50 year straight while male colleagues who hired them and sat on their tenure committee.
posted by MattD at 1:57 PM on May 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah, that's usually what the verb "listening" means.

Usually. Sometimes it carries extra connotations of "obeying orders" or "accepting uncritically". Apparently you didn't mean those, so hey.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 1:57 PM on May 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Listen When People Point Out Your Privilege

I think this is important for people to hear. If you 've gone from High School to College to the job market, you are fairly privileged. While there are many people you know who are better off than you, there are a lot more who you don't know who aren't. I think it's a valuable skill to see yourself in context and realize what responsibilities you have in the world.

So when someone calls you on your shit, listen. They might be wrong, but they might also be right.
posted by elwoodwiles at 1:59 PM on May 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's hard to know the intention of the author in this case I guess.

It's written by two sociologists who have a blog about race/class/gender/queerness issues. This advice is most likely geared towards their college-aged audience, people who have spent their time in college studying the social sciences and humanities and/or spend their free time thinking about and working on progressive political issues.

A lot of their audience is probably liberal arts majors, or more practical majors that go along with a liberal arts approach (education, psychology, social work, communications, etc). A lot of their audience was probably raised up until this moment to believe it was important for them to Find Their Passion and Change The World.

It's pretty clear that the intention of the authors is to speak to that audience.

It wouldn't really be in their wheelhouse to start giving advice about whether to buy a used car or how to protect your bank account when the economy is in the toilet.
posted by Sara C. at 2:00 PM on May 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sometimes it carries extra connotations of "obeying orders"

You've definitely read a lot into my short comment.
posted by Sara C. at 2:01 PM on May 25, 2013


Um, I've sorry if I've given offense somehow. I certainly didn't mean to. I don't think we disagree.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 2:02 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hmmm Sara c I see your point. My only reservation in that case is that their audience is limited and doesnt appear aimed at the majority of college age young people who try to maximize their income already.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 2:03 PM on May 25, 2013


what a 22 year really needs to be thinking about more is the career upside of being a child-free bachelor

For a 22 year old, their advice is spot on.

I know a lot of people in their twenties who aren't free to pursue the kinds of lives they want because they are saddled with a house, a kid, three dogs, a car note, and all the other trappings of Traditional Family.

Nesting is great, but it's not really for when you're 22.

When you're 22 it's better to move through the world lightly for a little bit, at least until you get a sense of what you want.
posted by Sara C. at 2:05 PM on May 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


ishrinkmajeans - the article is posted on a Sociology website. I don't know why it's necessary that they speak to a universal audience. It's pretty obvious if you RTFA that it's intended for a specialized audience, not every human being on the planet.

(Though I think some of the advice is great advice for every human being on the planet, if you divorce it from the "you are a 22 year old college graduate" context.)
posted by Sara C. at 2:07 PM on May 25, 2013


The advice is for new graduates, not for people whose spirit is already crushed. Let the kids have their own descent into mediocrity and despair; we've had our time.
posted by thelonius at 2:11 PM on May 25, 2013 [9 favorites]


Look at one point I was a bartender, it was okay job, I liked parts of it, sometimes it was a pain in the ass, it wasn't my burning passion dreamiest dream and some nights I really, really did not want to go in or put up with another barking drunk, but I liked it well enough.

When I was working data entry for a bank because my family really, really a secondary source of income, I would spend everyday thinking about how I wanted to kill my boss, my coworkers, or myself, and I started to drink a lot more then when I was surrounded by huge bottles of alcohol in the previous job.


Try to avoid jobs that make you wish for the sweet release of death seems like fine advice.
posted by The Whelk at 2:15 PM on May 25, 2013 [51 favorites]


Remember when the youth were disillusioned and cynical? And an article written by fusty academics telling them how to live would have been greeted with a tsunami of eye-rolling such as the world had never seen? I miss those days.

What happened, young people? How have we allowed our national strategic reserves of sarcasm to become so depleted?
posted by AlsoMike at 2:18 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


For realsies, Whelk.

I'm a LOT happier as an armored courier making sub-$13/hour than I was doing QA and clerical stuff for corporate tax software at $16+/hour. And as you can tell from those figures, the idea of me as middle class bourgeoisie is risible.
posted by kavasa at 2:18 PM on May 25, 2013


Try to avoid jobs that give you wish for the sweet release of death seems like fine advice.

This is known as the Misfits Rule. You should quit any job where, on a regular basis, you sing to yourself "Sweet lovely death / I am waiting for your breath."
posted by ifandonlyif at 2:22 PM on May 25, 2013 [12 favorites]


I once worked for a top 5 bank in the finance department where our job was to fire as many workers as possible to save the company money. Maybe that is where my socialist leanings and impotent rage stem from. But who can even tell these days?
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 2:23 PM on May 25, 2013


Anything in there about not majoring in sociology?
posted by box at 2:26 PM on May 25, 2013 [10 favorites]


What happened, young people? How have we allowed our national strategic reserves of sarcasm to become so depleted?

Our parents were jaded and sarcastic, and the only way to rebel was to be sparkly and positive.
posted by vogon_poet at 2:28 PM on May 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's pretty obvious if you RTFA that it's intended for a specialized audience, not every human being on the planet.

Certainly not every human being on the planet, but it is pretty clear that their intended audience is new college grads everywhere.

It wouldn't really be in their wheelhouse to start giving advice about whether to buy a used car or how to protect your bank account when the economy is in the toilet.

See their point #5.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 2:30 PM on May 25, 2013


The profit is all gotten through the assumption of liquidity risk. Given the economic turmoil of housing and economic busts over the last 20 years how is buying a home a financially wise decision?

Man, this always gets trotted out, with a complete lack of understanding of what the purpose of buying a house/owning land is ultimately /for/.

Yes, if you are just trying to flip the house and make money, it's a suckers game, find somewhere else. But if you are trying to improve your life and the lives of your children, you should absolutely be reaching to own. Because nothing else is going to give them as big a leg up in this world as not having to worry about rent for a large chunk of their life will.

Sure, you pay more if you get a mortgage. Ultimately maybe even slightly more than rent would have been - hard to say. But in the end, you own the house free and clear. If your assets are less than a million dollars, you can transfer the house tax-free to your children, which means all they have to deal with are the use taxes, which are a fraction of the value and of what a similar rent would have been. That means they don't have to deal with the complexities and financial encumbrances of finding and renting a place. Will they have to do upkeep? Sure, but not as much as I think people are assuming they will. Your children will then be able to pass the house on to their kids. You have given your family a leg up for the foreseeable future until total economic collapse. That's a huge, huge deal that I think is too often underestimated.
posted by corb at 2:31 PM on May 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


Our sparkly can do positivism is the only way to deal ith the fact that we're all horribly doomed. Sarcasm is a luxury in a world more surreal than the most paranoid hash dreams of Robert Aton Wilson.
posted by The Whelk at 2:34 PM on May 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


Corb I think that the labor market is fractious and uncertain enough that buying a house on the principle that I will transfer ownership to my kids and grand kids is not really feasible. People move to where the jobs are and the jobs move around a lot. How many people do you know who live in the same city they were born in?
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 2:34 PM on May 25, 2013 [8 favorites]


Also, whats a "welk"?
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 2:35 PM on May 25, 2013


I think the point is that, when you're 22, the idea that by your 50's, if you're lucky, you might own a home free and clear should not be a top priority.

Instead, figuring out how to be an adult and what you want to do with your life and what's important to you should be your first priority.

If you buy a house at 22, you can't take a job in a different city at 23. Or backpack around southeast Asia at 24. Or go back to grad school at 25. Because you bought that house in service to an idea that is minimally thirty years away. At 22 you don't need to be thinking 30 years down the road, you need to be thinking 5 years down the road.
posted by Sara C. at 2:36 PM on May 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


Because nothing else is going to give them as big a leg up in this world as not having to worry about rent for a large chunk of their life will.
Er, what? Are you assuming in this scenario that you're going to hand your house down to your kid and they're going to live on the family estate the rest of their days? Wouldn't it be a better investment in your child's future if you were to put the money in a high-yield education savings fund and guarantee them zero student loan debt in twenty years?
posted by deathpanels at 2:36 PM on May 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


The state shell of New Jersey.
posted by The Whelk at 2:36 PM on May 25, 2013


( besides, the really cynical and jaded kids didn't go and make zines and complain about Time magazine covers, they went into finance and politics.)
posted by The Whelk at 2:38 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


No, he specifically asked what a "welk" is, and that is an old man that leads an army of singing mannequins.
posted by LionIndex at 2:39 PM on May 25, 2013 [8 favorites]


How many people do you know who live in the same city they were born in?

How many college graduates, you mean. I know a lot of people who live in the same city they were born in, but few college graduates who haven't moved.
posted by tychotesla at 2:39 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oddly enough, given the above discussion, this is what they actually wrote:

"The truth is that the vast majority of us will not be employed in a job that is both our lifelong passion and a world-changer; that’s just not the way our global economy is."

The first part is true and very important for people to realize, the latter has absolutely nothing to do with it. It's never been true, ever, for most people that they were able to be employed in a job that is their "lifelong passion".

Bottom line is that if your sense of self-actualization and happiness is primarily bound up in your job in the way that "lifelong passion and world-changing" implies — and, yes, that includes business majors and CS majors and engineers as well as humanities majors — then unless you're among a fortunate minority, you're not going to be self-actualized and you're going to be unhappy. Because for most people a job is not that fulfilling intrinsically and if you expect it to be, you're most likely going to be bitterly disappointed.

We have this whole culture of asking children to think about "what they want to be when they grow up" and it's revealing and disturbing that this is saying that essential identity is found in career. And we load up kids with these expectations in picking college majors about "who they will be" and then they graduate and leave school with these hopes that they are about to "be who they should be" and it's mostly a lie. A large number don't ever find jobs in their chosen field. Most of those who do, eventually change careers anyway.

This isn't because the economy is shitty, it's always been this way.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:40 PM on May 25, 2013 [19 favorites]


Corb I think that the labor market is fractious and uncertain enough that buying a house on the principle that I will transfer ownership to my kids and grand kids is not really feasible. People move to where the jobs are and the jobs move around a lot. How many people do you know who live in the same city they were born in?
Seriously, I think this must be a generation gap thing. I'm twenty-eight, and I have never lived as an adult in a non-recession economy. The idea that I might ever have a stable enough job to firmly plant my feet and buy a square of dirt to live on indefinitely is so outside the realm of possibility that I cannot even begin to relate to the "invest in a house" type advice. You may as well be telling me to buy a salt cave or a V2 rocket. Even if I have a decent job now, I have very low confidence that I won't suddenly get laid off or the company will go under or I'll otherwise have my source of financial stability ripped out from underneath me and I'll have to work at a liquor store and sell keychains on Etsy to supplement the food stamps.
posted by deathpanels at 2:50 PM on May 25, 2013 [46 favorites]


Some corporations love H1-Bs; it lets them pay below-market salaries and otherwise demean people who cannot easily change employers.

What could "below-market" even mean in this sentence?
posted by lambdaphage at 2:54 PM on May 25, 2013


Below what employees free from visa servitude would be willing to work for given the difficulty and nature of the work. Don't be willfully obtuse.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 2:56 PM on May 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


I grew up in a part of the country where, for most of the recession, things haven't been that dire. And property values are pretty low. And the only facet of the recession there has been the bursting housing bubble/buyers' real estate market. It's also a conservative part of the country, and a lot of people really do think the next thing to do after college is get married and buy a house.

I know WAY TOO MANY PEOPLE who made bad real estate decisions way too young and are now seeing their options shrink rather than grow. None of it seems to be catastrophic, but it sucks to be 25 and have your reality be "I can't do X because I have a mortgage to pay."
posted by Sara C. at 2:57 PM on May 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


I also know older people whose families left them a house free and clear, but it's 50 years later and that house is now in an undesirable neighborhood or in bad condition or otherwise a liability more than a blessing.
posted by Sara C. at 2:59 PM on May 25, 2013


Of course, one would also have to hope that the house one inherited would happen to be in the same location as the few easily-obtainable hard-labour jobs that the youth are being told to move across the country to apply for, I suppose.
posted by ominous_paws at 3:02 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Owning a house with the view to passing it on to your kids is the wrong reason to own a house. Recent generations are more mobile and unlikely to stay in their home town (like 7 of my Dad's siblings did). Any kids likely have their own residences and are more likely to sell it than move into the family homestead.
posted by arcticseal at 3:04 PM on May 25, 2013


I thought the advice about not having kids was spot on, and was precisely the reason we chose not to have kids. One source of joy was not worth the trade of of every other aspect of our lives taking a hit.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 3:07 PM on May 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


One of the parts of the H1 visa process is proving that the visa holder makes a competitive salary. Some companies abuse the process, but of the dozens of people I know with H1, not a single one is paid less than their peers and most are paid more.

The biggest problem I see with the H1 is the sponsorship. If for wathever reason you don't like your job it is very hard to quit and get another one. Is like the medical insurance crappy job trap.

Many of the people I know with H1 would like to quit their high paying jobs and take a job at smaller companies for a lower salary, but smaller companies can not afford the cost of sponsoring the H1 process. I've been to been card celebrations where someone finally went from H1 to green card holder, and it is never about finally making as much money as an American, it is always about the freedom of moving the family to another city and getting an easier job.

I have friends who would like to go work at startups that are paying their American employees below market, these startups will not take them because the H1 requires them to be paid more.

I would like to hear specific instances of an H1 worker taking a lower salary than an American who also has the same job, or of an equally qualified American losing a job to a less qualified H1 woeker who is cheaper for the company.
posted by Doroteo Arango II at 3:08 PM on May 25, 2013 [2 favorites]



Below what employees free from visa servitude would be willing to work for given the difficulty and nature of the work. Don't be willfully obtuse.


I agree that foreign workers should be free from "visa servitude", simply because it's immoral to prevent people from travelling freely across borders to work with people who want to work with them. The current H1-B arrangement, in which we admit a trickle of skilled foreign workers and condition their visa upon a particular employment arrangement, is inefficient. So I think we're on the same page here.

But if we were to liberalize the visa system and admit more skilled foreign workers (as I think we would both prefer), the first-order effect would be for wages in those sectors to decline further as more workers seek the higher returns of working in the U.S. relative to their home country baseline. Hence my confusion remains about what "below-market" means; isn't it correct to say instead that current wages for professionals in the U.S. are above-market, since the wage premium is due largely to artificial constriction of the labor supply through strict visa programs?
posted by lambdaphage at 3:11 PM on May 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


There is video evidence of lawyers giving advice to HR on how to advertise in the backpage of newspapers and other obscure avenues in order to make a "showing in good faith" of trying to hire Americans without success so that they can hire h1-bs. If they could hire Americans at the same or reduced cost as compared to foreigners what possible reason would they have to resort to these tactics?
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 3:13 PM on May 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


Owning a house with the view to passing it on to your kids is the wrong reason to own a house. Recent generations are more mobile and unlikely to stay in their home town (like 7 of my Dad's siblings did)

Recent generations are often more mobile, yes. But a large part of that need for mobility is the fact that they need to be able to afford to exist - they need a place to live, they need clothes on their back, they need food. Rent is usually the largest expense in all of that. Especially in a rough economy, I can't believe that a free-and-clear house in an area close to work wouldn't at least be a factor in people's choices of where to live.

I will agree that maybe at 22 it shouldn't be your first consideration, though - but it wouldn't be a bad idea to encourage people to keep good credit. It will be useful for renting /or owning. And jobs, these days, apparently.
posted by corb at 3:15 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Lamdaphage

The reason h1-bs are sought is that they can be paid less than Americans. If h1-bs were freely allowed to go to other companies they could demand a higher wage. The result would be a slight lowering of overall wages but it would prevent the hiring of foreigners at the expense of citizens because those foreigners could be taken advantage of thus harming both the unemployed citizen and the visa bound foreigner.

Additionally, if we let in more foreigners and let them be hired where they willed it would lower the prices of goods as well. So though wages might fall it cannot be assumed that purchasing power would also be lowered.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 3:20 PM on May 25, 2013


[Heya, ishrinkmajeans, you've made about a fifth of the comments in this thread so far and have been coming on a little strong at a couple points besides; please throttle back a bit and don't let this turn into a taking-on-all-comers sort of dynamic.]
posted by cortex at 3:26 PM on May 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


One thing not mentioned in here (to elaborate on what Sara C is saying) is the TREMENDOUS pressure you come under about 25 to SETTLE DOWN AND BUY A HOUSE. When we were 25, the wife and I were barraged with dictums from all sides that YOU MUST BUY A HOUSE NOW YOU MUST BUY A HOUSE OR YOU WILL NEVER BE A GROWNUP DON'T YOU WANT TO BE A REAL GROWNUP? BUY BUY BUY A HOUSE IS AN INVESTMENT! My family was putting us under insane pressure, all but throwing money at us for a down payment.

A bunch of my friends/coworkers were in a mad scramble to buy a house and settle down and be real adults and always shook their heads sadly at what an opportunity we were passing up. The market crashed a year later and all of them are now stuck in the town we lived in then, upside down on houses they couldn't sell if they wanted to, and pretty much stuck in their old jobs making what they made then. By contrast, we've travelled around the world and I'm making double what I would be making there.

Part of that was sheer stubborn on my part, of course, but a lot of it was luck. We'd started considering it because literally everyone in our lives was demanding we do it and if every single person is telling me to do something, I start wondering if maybe I'm wrong, you know?

Even one person saying "Yo, don't buy a house if you don't like the homeowner lifestyle, you're not a weirdo if you just wanna rent" would've been tremendously reassuring.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 3:33 PM on May 25, 2013 [10 favorites]


ishrinkmajeans,

I don't think we actually disagree about anything; your point about purchasing power, especially, is one I tried to acknowledge by disclaiming that falling wages in professional sectors would only be a first-order effect.

I'm not offering an unqualified defense of the current H1-B program, I just question whether it is accurate to say that it allows companies to offer "below-market wages" rather than allowing them to opt out of hiring American-born workers at above-market wages. The fact that the H1-B quota fills up within days suggests strongly to me that foreign workers see the program as a good deal on the whole; if someone is willing to do a job at a given wage, then that wage is the market wage.
posted by lambdaphage at 3:36 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


The reason h1-bs are sought is that they can be paid less than Americans.

Except they're not. We've got anecdata, we've got the link to the Bookings Institution thing I posted above and so on.

I'm pretty sure the reason you post hilariously specific and obscure job ads is to avoid the headache of having to explain why you need a 'type A widget expert' and, no, a 'type B widget expert' or a general widget expert won't do even though an American fitting one of those descriptions responded to your ad.
posted by hoyland at 3:39 PM on May 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Since recent college graduates have much less earning power than they used to have, it's not so nutty to tell them to focus on getting a job they like, as opposed to telling them that the first thing they should invest in is a house.

You need more work experience, life experience, and stability before you can be sure about buying. You should not be stretching your budget to buy a house. You should not be working yourself to death when it will not actually make things concretely better for you. You should not waste away in hipsterdom or some other haze, since you can't land a "grown-up job" right out of college.
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:39 PM on May 25, 2013


I'm a little taken aback that this advice pissed anyone off. They were basically taking the "follow your bliss" BS that kids usually get at graduation and replacing it with something they thought would be more useful. I don't see that they expected their advice to be All You'll Ever Need to Know, or equally applicable to every single person. It's just advice. You don't have to take it.

And the Whelk brought this up also, there are some jobs which meet your financial needs but also make you completely miserable; the work is bad, your boss is insane, you are being stalked/harassed by a coworker, whatever. Wanting something better is not a character flaw nor necessarily unrealistic, even in a crazed economy. If you look long enough, you might at least find something that is a lateral move paywise but a definite upgrade in terms of your mental well-being.
posted by emjaybee at 3:47 PM on May 25, 2013 [9 favorites]


One of the hardest ways to be wrong involves saying something that is inadvertently prejudicial. When someone points out that something we said or did was racist, sexist, ableist, homophobic, classist or otherwise, we often feel attacked. Remember, though, that if someone bothers to engage with you on this kind of issue, it means they think you’re worth it.

No, it doesn't always mean that. In fact, sometimes people make accusations of bigotry because they want to tear the subject down, and may even themselves be bigoted in the way they they're talking about. In other words, it is an attack.


You beat me to this. One could go on and on about the confusions mixed up with the currently-trendy accusation of "privilege"...but instead I'll just point out that it's pretty appalling that that this would be thrown in as if it were a finding of sociology rather than an extremely contentious and politically-loaded (and, I'd say, confused) way of talking about discrimination and inequality.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 3:48 PM on May 25, 2013


"You are alive, for a while longer; make the most of it."
posted by Wordshore at 3:52 PM on May 25, 2013


"One thing not mentioned in here (to elaborate on what Sara C is saying) is the TREMENDOUS pressure you come under about 25 to SETTLE DOWN AND BUY A HOUSE. When we were 25, the wife and I were barraged with dictums from all sides that YOU MUST BUY A HOUSE NOW YOU MUST BUY A HOUSE OR YOU WILL NEVER BE A GROWNUP DON'T YOU WANT TO BE A REAL GROWNUP? BUY BUY BUY A HOUSE IS AN INVESTMENT! My family was putting us under insane pressure, all but throwing money at us for a down payment. "

This is really striking to me because it makes me feel in a very immediate way how much of a cultural divide there is between me and most of my cohort.

"Wanting something better is not a character flaw nor necessarily unrealistic, even in a crazed economy. If you look long enough, you might at least find something that is a lateral move paywise but a definite upgrade in terms of your mental well-being."

Right. What I was criticizing and what the authors were debunking — the idea that we all should find our perfect jobs and, in that, we'll find self-actualization and happiness — is one thing, and it's a different thing than what you describe. I wasn't saying that one should accept being unhappy in a job — in fact, that sort of advice is really just the flip-side of this whole bogus set of values.

What we should expect from our jobs is that we are reasonably comfortable in doing them. For most of us, it shouldn't be our identity and our measure of self-worth; but, also, it shouldn't actively harm our self-worth and our happiness. Jobs are just not so important that we should wrap most of our dreams and desires in them, and for that reason they're not so important that they're worth sacrificing our daily health and happiness, either.

Really, it's pretty much the same with romantic partners. Another person is not the answer to happiness and fulfillment. Another person can help or hurt with that, and they're important in that respect, but someone else won't make everything right and all dreams come true and, for the same reason, it's not worth living with another person in unhappiness and frustration out of the expectation that there will be a pay-off later that will make it all worth it. Jobs and romantic relationships are aspects of our lives that should be integrated into the whole in ways that are proportionate and healthy. And, hell, this is true about children, too.

Or owning a home.

A common thread with this is confusing living up to conventional social expectations with actually being happy. And as much as it seems obvious that these things are not the same, it's also the case that we're inundated with messages from birth onward that strongly equivocate about this. The images presented to high school kids about college and possible careers, the images presented to young adults about romance and marriage, and children, and home ownership, and pretty much about consumption in all of advertising, tell us that if we do these things, behave in these ways, our lives will be wonderful, perfect, joyful.

I think it's very significant that, literally, we sell young people on college and careers in the same ways and with the same messages that we sell them new cars, deodorants, and smartphones.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:26 PM on May 25, 2013 [9 favorites]


"At 22 you don't need to be thinking 30 years down the road, you need to be thinking 5 years down the road."

I'm going to respectfully disagree. I spent my 20s - and 30s - having a pretty fantastic time, studying, partying, moving from cuty to city, doing interesting jobs for not-much money. I had a ball! But you know what? I kind of wish I HAD thought about the future a bit more. Because, even with an excellent well-paid stable job (exceptional good fortune), a loving partner (also in stable, highly-paid employment) it's quite hard to make up that lost financial ground. Where 'make up lost ground' means 'save for retirement above the poverty level'. I don't think it hurts to have an awareness at 22 that your career choices have an impact on your later quality of life and to factor a bit of longer-term forward planning into your Crazee Carefree Adventures.
posted by t0astie at 4:52 PM on May 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


I think it's possible to think about the future without sinking yourself into an ill-advised money trap the second you're free of 16 years of education.

I think if you're in your early 20's, you know you're EXACTLY where you want to be, you have significant financial resources, and you find your dream house which you KNOW is the home you'll want to live in for your entire adult life, sure, by all means, buy a house.

But, again, I know a lot more people who made ill-advised real estate choices in their 20's than I know people who made good ones.
posted by Sara C. at 4:59 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


If they could hire Americans at the same or reduced cost as compared to foreigners what possible reason would they have to resort to these tactics?

Because they want the best, not the cheapest.
Typically, the company has already done the actual job interviews, and the candidate that fit, that the department heads asked HR to hire, turned out to be one that needs a visa - but that is HR & Legal's headache, the department heads just want the best. But the visa process demands evidence in a formula and timeframe that doesn't reflect the actual candidate selection process - I think it even requires the company to start a search after beginning the visa process, when the only reason they started the visa process to begin with is because they already searched. Legal advises to follow immigraton's playbook, even though that playbook is pointless.
posted by anonymisc at 5:14 PM on May 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


@ishrinkmajeans: Most people don't want to go into business or engineering for its own sake but do so because that's one one of the few ways to make a living and maybe support a family.

This is, without a doubt, one of the singularly most douchebaggy comment made on MeFi in a long time, and that's really, really saying a lot. Bourgoisie claptrap, indeed.
posted by kjs3 at 5:31 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I really object to the idea that people go into engineering for the money. Most of the engineers that I know live and breathe the stuff. Personally I am a programmer because I can't imagine being anything else. It's nice that it pays well but that's never why I've done it.
posted by octothorpe at 5:38 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Following Cortex's advice I will stop responding in this thread in order to let other voices have a chance to speak up. Just know, everyone that disagrees with me; you're still wrong. That is all.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 5:39 PM on May 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


The biggest draw to owning a home for me is that rental stock is generally old, kind of run-down, and usually has some strike (location; iffy school district; needs some major repair someday soon; dated interiors) that keeps it from selling. You are always, in a sense, squatting in someone else's castoff, unwanted home.

But the real-estate-financing game is such a giant clusterfuck, which also sucks up a lot of the money you would normally use for repairs and taxes, that owning your own place is, to borrow a metaphor from an episode of the Cosby Show, like getting a wonderful steak presented on a garbage can lid. Even if it is the best steak you've ever smelt or seen, it's still being presented so badly that you just can't eat it.

I am a solid, boring citizen with a good job who pays her rent on time and would take good care of a house. But the cost of buying is so astronimcal in relation to the value of what you get that I'd get screwed no matter how solid and boring I am. Either by the cost of a new house or the repairs on an older one.

So I keep renting. But it's not really The Answer to this problem. Reforming the housing finance clusterfuck would be. You know, the one where people who own their homes outright still get foreclosed on because there is no way to stop the blind machinery of foreclosures, even when it is blatantly wrong and fraudulent. The lenders are too big and powerful, the entire housing market is a tragic farce, and no one seems to give the tiniest shit about it except Elizabeth Warren and few lonely protesters.

Most of the people I know my age pay a mortgage, and just hope for the best. I just can't muster up the confidence to follow them.
posted by emjaybee at 5:41 PM on May 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


. We'd started considering it because literally everyone in our lives was demanding we do it and if every single person is telling me to do something, I start wondering if maybe I'm wrong, you know?

"Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful."
posted by the man of twists and turns at 5:44 PM on May 25, 2013


I've heard it said there is no real slur for privileged white people, but that isn't true. Call an educated white person a bigot and you'll soon find out those are fighting words.

From what I've seen, the accusation of bigotry, unless it is blatant, is posturing or trying to start a fight. It's ad hominem, and it instantly takes the conversation into a dangerous place where the participants must desperately prove/refute or lose all credibility. It's not a conversation anymore and it goes to shit.
posted by hellslinger at 5:55 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


The back and forth isn't helping — that just leads to escalation and makes everyone else uncomfortable.

For what it's worth, ishrinkmajeans, you have a lot of strongly held opinions, many of which I agree with, and your righteous outrage is something that both generally and specifically many people here share. But you're saying things in a fairly aggressive and unnuanced way that tends to, probably unintentionally, offend some people who are actually present in this thread.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:58 PM on May 25, 2013


[A few comments removed, cut it out pronto.]
posted by cortex at 6:00 PM on May 25, 2013


I did actually buy a huge six bedroom turn-of-the-century foursquare when I was 25 but it only cost $43,000 and even at the 8.5% interest rates of the time, the payments were cheaper than rent. There were some advantages to living in a depressed rust belt city in the nineties.
posted by octothorpe at 6:23 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


wow, I didn't think that this article would spark so much dissent, but I suppose I should have seen it coming. That's what I love about this place though, so may different viewpoints, such thorough examination of all ideas. One of the main things that struck me about this advice was the "don't worry about being single" I have a bunch of friends that really do look down on themselves for not having found the perfect partner, and others that I worry are staying in bad relationships because they feel that not having anyone means that they are a failure. it's such a pervasive attitude, that helps no-one. Also the bit about think hard about having kids. I have never wanted children, but, holy hell, the pressure! A younger me could have really used this. (old, present me doesn't give a rat's ass what people think!)
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 6:36 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


In the article's defense, I suppose makes sense to advise grads to position themselves for upward mobility. They've got a lot more flexibility and options if they aren't tied to a mortgage or transfer costs of a house, and they aren't tied to keeping a family fed.

But I think the article misses when it fails to recognize multiple dimensions of success. Hopefully the advice does not dissuade too many from pursuing their dreams. Some of us should do that.
posted by surplus at 6:40 PM on May 25, 2013


"Also the bit about think hard about having kids. I have never wanted children, but, holy hell, the pressure! A younger me could have really used this. (old, present me doesn't give a rat's ass what people think!)"

I didn't have kids and there was no pressure on me to have kids. But I regret not having kids, probably more than anything else in my life. Even so, I wouldn't prefer to have been pressured to have kids, even if — perhaps particularly if — such pressure had caused me to have had kids.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:50 PM on May 25, 2013


But in the end, you own the house free and clear. If your assets are less than a million dollars, you can transfer the house tax-free to your children, which means all they have to deal with are the use taxes, which are a fraction of the value and of what a similar rent would have been. That means they don't have to deal with the complexities and financial encumbrances of finding and renting a place.

My parents own their house free and clear. Guess what? They're still living in it. They're pretty healthy retired folks, so I'm guessing they'll be there a while. And they get real skittish if my suitcase looks too big when I visit. Plus, I'm pretty sure my sisters would have a problem with me living rent free in my parent's house without them. In all seriousness, knock on wood, I'll be at retirement age myself when I have to start thinking about any advantages that come from my parents decision to buy a house.

Buying that house was great for them, as they did most of their earning at a time when working for the same employer for 30 years and retiring with a safe pension was still somewhat of a safe bet. They pushed that "you're an adult, you have to buy a house now" philosophy on me in my 20's. I know they meant well, but it was a disaster for me, both financially and emotionally. I was trapped and I knew it, and it sucked.

Once I sold the house and moved on, my career and life flourished due to the flexibility I had to really focus on my talents and make choices based on what was best for me at the time. Including taking time off, moving across the country, living abroad, living with friends to save money, etc.

I'm sure I'll buy a house again, but it'll be purely for reasons of finding a place I feel like living in for a long time. To me, It's a thing to own, just like any other thing. Not a life-strategy.
posted by billyfleetwood at 6:58 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm also curious about all these deceased parents who don't have any debts that aren't sufficiently offset by assets other than the house. How many people giving this advice have actually been through probate of a parent's estate? Because I have, and my sister and I had to sell land, intended to be our legacy, to pay creditors.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:05 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


A common thread with this is confusing living up to conventional social expectations with actually being happy. And as much as it seems obvious that these things are not the same, it's also the case that we're inundated with messages from birth onward that strongly equivocate about this.

And this type of analysis is the worst thing about SocImages, and about American sociology in general. One one hand, they have a fetish for simple and obvious critiques of culture — basically "HALP ur social conventions are oppressing my white middle class individuality!" It's framed as socially progressive, providing insights into cultural power so that we can be liberated from it, even while reproducing a very narrow set of cultural assumptions.

One example: the advice to do what makes you happy, and not to worry about social conventions makes a lot of sense from within white middle class culture, which to a large extent, already respects and prizes doing your own thing and thumbing your nose at convention. This is because the white middle class is culturally privileged and economically self-sufficient, so they can afford to promote that kind of rugged individualism. But if you come from an economically disadvantaged or immigrant community, the consequences of deviating from social conventions are much more severe, partly because by economic necessity, those communities need to pool their collective resources, so the culture leans towards more tight-knit bonds.

The second thing that's highly problematic about this opposition between social conventions and happiness is that lots of this advice is ultimately about the way that social conventions are out of step with contemporary capitalism, and the advice is effectively how to accommodate yourself better to those new requirements.

New graduates can barely find jobs at all, much less their dream jobs, so we have a deconstruction of the myth of following your passion at work. Let's critique the myth of the American dream of home ownership, because living with your parents and/or sharing shitty apartments with roommates are in your future for the foreseeable decade. Marriage? Kids? That's a just a joke.

We're going through a period of adjustment while the American middle class is being hollowed out. New graduates are economically worse off than their parents. They're waking up to this fact as they go out into the labor market. But don't worry, here comes the American sociology establishment to give them self-help advice, helping them to be happy by adjusting their expectations to these new realities.

Your parents cluelessly expect that you will be able to buy a house and start a family, but you're over your head in debt and can't find a decent job. "Don't blame the 1%," say the sociologists, "It's your parents who are oppressing you."
posted by AlsoMike at 8:26 PM on May 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


1) "Keep friends close; keep your enemies closer" --- The Godfather

2) "Don't let yourself get attached to anything you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you feel the heat around the corner." --- Heat

3) "Ass, grass, or gas; nobody rides for free"
posted by Renoroc at 8:26 PM on May 25, 2013


Hey alsomike, you wanna be Internet friendsies?
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 8:33 PM on May 25, 2013


"Don't blame the 1%," say the sociologists, "It's your parents who are oppressing you."

As an anthropology major, I took a lot of sociology courses in college. I don't remember any of them having this outlook, or anything like it. It's an academic discipline and as such doesn't prescribe any moral code, value system, or cast blame on anyone's parents.

I suppose you can accuse the Sociological Images bloggers of that, but this doesn't sound like anything I'm familiar with WRT sociology as an academic discipline.
posted by Sara C. at 8:37 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Apparently, a sociologist ran over AlsoMike's puppy, then pulled-over, got out of the car, and cackled manically in satisfaction while young AlsoMike cried.

"New graduates can barely find jobs at all, much less their dream jobs, so we have a deconstruction of the myth of following your passion at work."

I've been criticizing the "myth of following your passion at work" for over two decades now. And many people have been making that critique of American culture since at least the middle of the twentieth century. So I don't know what the fuck you're on about.

Not to mention that you have somehow attempted to simultaneously speak for non-white, poor Americans, emphasizing their relatively narrow economic possibilities while also asserting that "criticizing the myth of following your passion at work" is denying people what they rightly should be able to expect because it used to be true.

For who? Not the ethnic minorities and the poor.

You're using minorities and the poor as a prop, as an attempt at leftist credibility, which you desperately need as cover while you scream outrage at how college graduates can't expect to make more money than their parents and own houses. It's the worst injustice in generations! And the sociologists are abetting it! Damn them!
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:27 PM on May 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


ishrinkmajeans, sure why not?

Sara C., my point is that they critique certain expectations presumed to be held by parents, family, etc. and obscure the economic factors that have made it impossible for new grads to meet those expectations. The tl;dr headline is that they're blaming the parents instead of the 1%.

You're right that sociologists, in a moral relativist mode, probably would claim that they simply observe that parental expectations cause unhappiness, and leave the moral judgments to other people. But they know perfectly well what the moral judgment would be, so this kind of dissembling doesn't warm me to the discipline at all. And this is not the only example of the serious problems with mainstream sociology.

Ivan, I've also criticized the passion at work ideal, but on the grounds that it is about rebranding capitalist workaholism for a post-1960s hedonistic society. This article still holds it up as the ideal: "it’s ok to set your sights just a tad below occupational ecstasy."

My point that this advice assumes a white middle class audience is that their awareness of racial issues is incredibly superficial, and they shouldn't get a pass just because they threw in something about checking your privilege.
posted by AlsoMike at 10:26 PM on May 25, 2013


The truth is that the vast majority of us will not be employed in a job that is both our lifelong passion and a world-changer; that’s just not the way our global economy is.
Well, you can save an African child's life by giving $2500 to the Against Malaria Foundation. So any career can trivially be made world-changing if it pays enough for you to have some disposable income. (More on this.)
Research shows that young people’s expectations about their marital status (e.g., the desire to be married by 30 and have kids by 32) have little or no relationship to what actually happens to people. So, go with the flow.
Hm, it looks like their citation for this statement is a book that deals with men only. This seems worth noting, 'cause I'd expect women to have stronger convictions regarding marriage and kids than men.
posted by astrofinch at 10:48 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


corb: " Recent generations are often more mobile, yes. But a large part of that need for mobility is the fact that they need to be able to afford to exist - they need a place to live, they need clothes on their back, they need food. Rent is usually the largest expense in all of that. Especially in a rough economy, I can't believe that a free-and-clear house in an area close to work wouldn't at least be a factor in people's choices of where to live."

Guess I get to provide a contrary data point, then. My husband and I live (and have lived for the past 10 years) in a moderately-crappy one-bedroom apartment in a sketchy neighborhood (Funktown — named after a violent drug gang from the '80s) in Oakland. A few relevant maps: median income 2010; change in median income 2000-2010. I've worked in downtown Oakland for the past 15 years or so. My husband's job has him working at various locations around the Bay Area, most often in SF.

My father lives (and has lived for the past 35 years) in a much (MUCH) nicer neighborhood (median income 2010; median home value 2010; change in median home value 2000-2010). He's 35 miles away; about a 45-minute drive. As far as I know, the house is paid off.

And you know what? Assuming my dad leaves me his house when he dies, as soon as it's possible the first thing my husband and I do will be to put the house on the market. For us (as strange as this may sound to some) living in a paid-off house in Palo Alto would be markedly less appealing than living in a rented apartment in Oakland. Yes, we'd most certainly move to a nicer rental — something with a yard, for example — but we'd stay here in Oakland. And, if possible, we'd stay here in Funktown.
posted by Lexica at 10:55 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


corb, You assume that renting is more expensive than buying. Why? That has not been my experience anywhere. Renters don't have to pay for repairs and taxes & so on.
posted by Gringos Without Borders at 6:05 AM on May 26, 2013


There is video evidence of lawyers giving advice to HR on how to advertise in the backpage of newspapers and other obscure avenues in order to make a "showing in good faith" of trying to hire Americans without success so that they can hire h1-bs.

I am sure I applied for a bunch of those jobs in the time before monster.com and indeed.com, etc. became the way to find employment. Mostly, I never heard back. One application got me an interview at a fairly famous tech company, and I did well; the people I interviewed with said I was what they wanted and was going to be hired. Then they called me, very embarrassed, because they had not been told that this job was earmarked for a specific foreign person. So yes, the H1-B program does take jobs from American workers, at least in one instance.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:50 AM on May 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


In Mother Jones: How H-1B Visas Are Screwing Tech Workers
"The H-1B worker learns the job and then rotates back to the home country and takes the work with him," explains Ron Hira, an immigration expert who teaches at the Rochester Institute of Technology. None other than India's former commerce secretary once dubbed the H-1B the "outsourcing visa."
. . .
Yet if tech workers are in such short supply, why are so many of them unemployed or underpaid? According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), tech employment rates still haven't rebounded to pre-recession levels. And from 2001 to 2011, the mean hourly wage for computer programmers didn't even increase enough to beat inflation.

The ease of hiring H-1B workers certainly hasn't helped. More than 80 percent of H-1B visa holders are approved to be hired at wages below those paid to American-born workers for comparable positions, according to EPI.

posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:07 AM on May 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think if you're in your early 20's, you know you're EXACTLY where you want to be, you have significant financial resources, and you find your dream house which you KNOW is the home you'll want to live in for your entire adult life, sure, by all means, buy a house.

Let me be clear, Sara C, because I think you're misreading me. By no fucking means would I ever advise anyone buy a house in their early twenties. No fucking means. But I think that telling people in their early twenties, "Hey, you might want to buy a house in your late twenties/early thirties, it might be a good idea to make sure you have credit by then, and maybe a little something saved in the bank for a down payment wouldn't hurt either" is a better idea than telling them "Don't worry, there's no reason to buy a house." Because it's not like you can just wake up one day and say, "I'm going to buy a house! Sweet!"

And you know what? Assuming my dad leaves me his house when he dies, as soon as it's possible the first thing my husband and I do will be to put the house on the market. For us (as strange as this may sound to some) living in a paid-off house in Palo Alto would be markedly less appealing than living in a rented apartment in Oakland.

Sure, I'm not saying that a free-and-clear house would be the only factor. You have other factors that make you want to stay in Oakland - I'm not sure what they are, and maybe your parents don't either, but whatever they are, they outweigh the factor of free home ownership. But are you telling me that those ideas have never, ever been a factor and never will? That you'll never have even a moment of considering it? Especially if you wind up not doing so well by the time that inheritance comes around?

I try to be a pragmatist. Look, I want all the babies to be fabulously successful, I really do! And maybe they'll all be successful enough to thumb their nose at mom's house. But the odds are that not all of them will be. Somebody's going to need a free place to live for a while. And when I die, it's quite possible that somebody's going to have a larger family than they have apartment or house. And for me, it's important to offer them that opportunity. (The other thing is that you get to update your will as you go. If your kids are all doing well enough that you know they won't want to move in, maybe your grandkid might not be.)
posted by corb at 8:00 AM on May 26, 2013


Let me be clear, Sara C, because I think you're misreading me. By no fucking means would I ever advise anyone buy a house in their early twenties.

Then why are you commenting in this FPP about advice to recent college grads?
posted by Sara C. at 8:06 AM on May 26, 2013


Then why are you commenting in this FPP about advice to recent college grads?

See above, because the advice isn't "Don't buy a house just yet, but start preparing for it" but "Don't worry about buying a house," which implies /ever/. I know personally I would have really appreciated being told in my early 20s, when I was blowing disposable income on clothes I would wear for only a year or two, high-tech electronics that would rapidly go out of date, and tickets to things that I'd barely remember, that it would be a good idea to establish good credit and start saving money for my eventual down payment. It would have made my life now much easier.
posted by corb at 8:12 AM on May 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


So yes, the H1-B program does take jobs from American workers, at least in one instance.

I'll see your 1 and subtract you 30. :)
I was at a company trying to move from being a small player in its industry to becoming a much bigger player. They were vying for a huge project - beyond their current capacity - and to get it, they needed to fill a key position. They were able to get a great person via their first-ever h-1b application. That person was instrumental in the company winning the contract, which caused a huge pipeline of money that was pouring into a foreign company, to be moved and started pouring into the USA instead, into this previously-smaller-but-now-expanding company and 30-ish Americans got jobs, courtesy of hiring a single h-1b.

(In that other country, a bunch of people got laid off for Christmas, but it's all about jobs for Americans...)

You won't find h-1b's waiting tables - work that would go to someone in America. Instead, almost all h-1b's are in industries in international markets, where if those companies lag, those projects could go to companies outside the USA entirely, taking a lot more jobs with them than just the h-1bs.

No doubt there will be plenty of individuals on h-1b that aren't the best and the brightest, but perfect is the enemy of the good.

More seriously, having the lion's share of the world's best and the brightest is one of the USA's last remaining mega-assets, and there is very real risk that if ways for those people to work here are curtailed, the world's best and brightest will end up competing against the USA, and winning - other countries have lower costs, governments handle healthcare instead of saddling companies with it, etc. The USA holds its own against all that by having the talent. So the way to reform h-1b to prevent it's temporary nature from outsourcing talent is to make it easier for talent to get greencards much faster and in greater numbers. H-1b fills an important need, but we want to keep those people, not send them away to become competitors.

Going the other direction - making immigration harder - will erode one the USA's last great advantages, which will erode the standard of living that can be maintained here, and as that falls, as jobs become shittier and harder to get, the instinctive response of many competing for fewer jobs will be to screw down even tighter on immigrants filling any jobs, thus damaging the economy even more, rinse repeat, in a downward spiral.
posted by anonymisc at 12:58 PM on May 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


this h1-b conversation would be really great in this open thread.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:21 PM on May 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


AlsoMike: speaking as a cultural anthropologist, I have to say that I find that n+1 account of sociology fairly incoherent. Maybe it's making a coherent intervention in literary studies. I wouldn't know. But it certainly doesn't anything important about sociology as a discipline.

It reads to me like the typical complaint that any undergrad has on reading a structural explanation of some social or cultural phenomenon: "But what about free will?" (or "agency," if they've learnt the lingo). A live question and a constant concern, sure. An original critique, no.

In any case, anyone who claims that sociology has achieved "a dominant share in the contemporary 'marketplace' of ideas" is spending too little time outside the English department. And anyone who lumps Latour (a "radical"? Ontologically, maybe. Politically, no.) and Bourdieu in as one and the same doesn't know what they're talking about, theoretically speaking.
posted by col_pogo at 2:26 PM on May 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Lexica: And, if possible, we'd stay here in Funktown.

Why?
posted by hellslinger at 2:40 PM on May 26, 2013


Honestly, SocImages is just a low-quality blog. It's like the Reader's Digest of social criticism. I'm completely simpatico with their mission and orientation but in terms of substance the blog is consistently more shallow, more spurious, and more careless than its peers. I remember at one point it seemed like the authors were having to go back into almost every post and "update" based on the fact that they had completely mis-analyzed something or not done due diligence in finding out the full story.
posted by threeants at 5:59 PM on May 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


We live in a culture where you are pretty much considered a failure if you aren't married, have a kid, and have a house by 25 or so....or at least, if you lag in any or all of these areas past that age, you get a lot of shit from society. Hell, you pretty much feel like a failure as a human being for stuff that is mostly out of your control. And I feel like that every day, despite all logic and reason otherwise. Not to mention hearing stories about sad marriages and folks who shouldn't have had kids and how one of my friends is probably going to go bankrupt because they can't sell their condo in SoCal and one of the kids has whopping medical problems. I know darned well that stuff isn't all it's cracked up to be.... but I still feel that whopping FAILURE anyway. And we wonder why people are making the choices that they do even if they're not the best these days, like house buying.
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:01 PM on May 27, 2013


Not trying to invalidate your feelings, jenfullmoon, but this sounds very idiosyncratic. I went way past 25 before doing any of those things, and did not feel that society was giving me any shit whatsoever for it. Nor did I feel like a failure for it. Maybe things have changed enormously since then, or maybe the fact that my family expressed no concern for my not having married, or had kids, or bought a house translated for me to no societal pressure.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:31 PM on May 27, 2013


col_pogo, in my opinion, sociologists have an absurdly inflated regard for their trivial pseudo-insights, so your academic condescension doesn't impress me at all.
posted by AlsoMike at 11:57 AM on May 28, 2013


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