I really wanted a deep conditioner for my super damaged hair so one day I went to my local beauty supply store and saw one for $15. I thought it was reasonably priced but still walked away in case I found a better deal or a better conditioner. A week later I was walking with a friend on the Upper West Side, and saw another supply store. Intrigued, I dragged him in the store just out of curiosity. I walked around and happened to find the conditioner that I was looking at by my house but this time for $12. How was that possible? I was amazed that the same conditioner was more expensive in a random beauty supply store in Cypress Hills, Brooklyn than in a store on the Upper West Side. I bought the conditioner but still my friend and I were really confused.
A few days later (with my hair nicely conditioned) in class we talked about the culture of poverty. I remember the professor explaining how milk is usually cheaper on more affluent neighborhoods than in neighborhoods with lower incomes. And it still didn’t make sense to me. If people in more prosperous neighborhoods could afford more then why are they paying less? She then explained how people who usually have a higher income could shop around, see competing prices for goods while people who had lower incomes had to just deal with whatever they had around them. This reminded me of a book my SOC101 professor assigned us to read. In it Barbara Ehrenreich, the author, explains how most middle class Americans couldn’t afford to be poor. She explains of this “ghetto tax” that exists in poorer neighborhoods that make people in poorer neighborhoods pay extra for things that upper and middle class Americans get for cheaper or even free. For example, car insurance is usually significantly higher in neighborhoods where people of lower income due to usual high crime rates that exist in poorer neighborhoods. Poor people also usually don’t tend to have bank accounts so they are often subjected to paying fees at check cashing places as opposed to others who can cash checks for free from their bank.
So people with lower incomes have to pay more to be poor? In a country where we believe that everyone has equal opportunities and that you can “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” how can there also be a subconscious penalty for having a lower income? How can people rise up from the lower class if by definition they make significantly less their middle class counterparts but still have to pay more to live? It’s a tough situation and it’s certainly not that simple to fix but I think it’s finally time for all people recognize that there’s a bigger inequality between classes than we think and if not the problem will continue to persist.
Here is the linl to the part of the Ehrenreich book, in blog form. I encourage you all to read it http://ehrenreich.blogs.com/barbaras_blog/2006/07/could_you_affor.html