Yet another category of privilege

February 11, 2010

I follow the unemployment numbers–in general, but also by race and gender–pretty closely.  And they’re not good.  Overall unemployment is disheartening, but the racial breakdown is another reminder that we’ve got a long way to go.

In January 2010, White unemployment was 8.7%.  For African Americans, it was 16.5%.  For African American men, the percentage climbs to 17.6.

And scroll back to this summer.  White youth unemployment hovered around 25% but African American youth unemployment nudged 50%.  No matter what time boundaries you draw, African Americans are twice as likely to be unemployed as Whites.  The disparity is incredible.

But it wasn’t until stumbling into Roger Martin’s work at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management that I realized a huge part of why I haven’t felt the high unemployment levels in my peer group–even across race.  By his definition, we’re all in the creative class.  And even now, unemployment in the creative class is just crossing the 4% threshold.

Once you commit to naming your privilege, the list never ends.



  1. Read this in reader, but then had an afterthought. The working-service-creative class distinction. Is this fully an aspect of privilege? Why–because of connection to educational opportunities? At first glance, I would tend to see that graph more as a reflection of what markets have been most affected by the recession, rather than a critique of which professions are more privileged. Can you give me a basic rundown of class and privilege? (Sorry, I feel like I am asking for SOC 101 again.)

  2. Fair question.

    So first, I wasn’t trying to argue that “job category” itself constitutes a system of privilege/oppression. I was instead naming another manifestation of my race and class privilege–in this case, that in addition to being privileged in all sorts of other ways, I’m less likely to be unemployed. And that’s the thing about systems of privilege and oppression—folks who are better off to start with are, throughout their lives, given additional advantages.

    That said. There is definitely an argument to be made that the creative class is advantaged over, say, the working class—manifested in better wages, lower unemployment, increased likelihood of benefits, fewer job-related injuries, etc. But, as I basically implied above, I’m hesitant to name that a privilege/oppression system. I’d rather do exactly what you alluded to and trace job category back to educational attainment back to socioeconomic status.

    Flying Whale?

  3. […] 2010 Regarding the unemployment levels of the working, service, and so-called creative classes, a commenter writes: The working-service-creative class distinction. Is this fully an aspect of privilege? […]

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