When someone thinks of the poor they instantly imagine a homeless man sleeping in a cardboard box or the nearest garbage can, but the working poor especially in the inner-city is commonly overlooked by society. However the working poor, in this case the working poor in the inner-city, are people advancing to try and make their lives better. They are taking minimum wage jobs so that they can barely afford a roof over their heads. Within Katherine Newman's novel No Shame In My Game, she studies the working poor in the inner-city to draw conclusions about how to help them and dispute common stereotypes and the images people commonly view. Newman's conclusions along with the way she had conducted her case study will be evaluated for her positive and negative points while searching for any biases she may have portrayed within her novel. Even before I started reading Katherine Newman's novel No Shame In My Game I had learned a little about Newman's background, which may cause her to have a bias towards her case study.
Newman is clearly within the middle class even perhaps towards the upper end. She is a Harvard anthropologist that would seem to have never experienced such situations as her subjects. Like most of the middle class she could simply have thought that the poor were only the few men in cardboard boxes in rough neighborhoods and not truly consider the working poor in the inner-city until the case study was started and her thesis written. This could greatly affect her procedures in observing data with her hundreds of subjects over the span of a few years.
The thinking of someone who is not within the working class may flaw the order and process at which the case study was conducted. There may be variables that Newman did not consider and did not research that could change her data and conclusions. Using the social scientific method to collect data and revise her hypothesis involves knowing all the angles and variables that are applied, but if an extra variable were to present itself it would call for a change in the hypothesis. This one change could alter all of Newman's conclusions and data she presents. Newman presents her supporting evidence largely with statistics although I do not believe many of her statistics are real world numbers for her exact case study but her observations and train of thought under certain situations are very clear.
Within her novel Newman states that "estimates of the gap between the number of people who need jobs and the number of available jobs in New York approach almost one million" (Newman, 63). She then proceeds to say, "it should draw our attention to the acute nature of the job problem" (Newman, 63). I do not understand how she can make such an argument when the data she gives is an "exaggeration" because it also includes many people who are only unemployed for a short period of time (Newman, 63). Newman gives us data that she believes is an exaggeration so therefore how can she think that it is a good indicator to draw societies attention to the "acute nature of the job problem" (Newman, 63).
She continues to tell the audience data that is not directly related to only the working poor in the inner-city. On the other hand her supporting evidence which entails direct statistics for the working poor in the inner-city that work in the fast food industry seem very plausible and possible. Newman states that there are about fourteen applicants for every one opening at her subject's job, Burger Barn (Rosenberg, 2). She also goes through her train of thought such as when describing the importance and limitations of social networks. The social network clearly helps to give the people who are a part of them hope, in some cases they have someone in their social network that works for the post office or a public hospital which lets them know that it is possible to achieve better living or that better living was achieved not long ago. Once the analysis of her data was complete Newman gathered her data and derived a few policies and proposals.
One Newman's proposals included relocating jobs, which would involve relocating people. To relocate the volumes of people to achieve her goal of social change would not be received well by the middle class. The middle class takes property very seriously, if someone was to relocate them from their nice suburban houses and environment straight into Harlem one would be extremely angry. The rest of her proposals are ideas that would seem to work to help improve the working poor and influence their job situation but only for small groups. Newman's remedies are in a small scale that is geared to help small groups, which is largely unequal to the scale of need for all the working poor. Several of her proposals involved methods that we use today such as a reform of unionization for low wage workers and a reform to improve the health care and child care for the poor.
One of her best proposals by far is to incorporate a school to work program. This is largely similar to the cooperative education experience many receive at Kettering University. This has many advantages including the school, the school's teachers, and the employers. The schools would benefit from a sense of purpose that is now incorporated within the student body and gives the school an opportunity for a system of punishments and rewards available. Employers of the students greatly benefit as well. The Teachers and employers would form strong relationships in which teachers provide reliable information about quality students in return for the employers offer to guarantee employment to graduating students each year.
The enhanced public image of the employer is greatly increased and would not only boost the companies reputation but allow them the opportunity to hand pick the best and brightest students that they would like to hire from the school. A proposal of Newman's also helps to address the problem of blocked vertical mobility. Low wage employers are allowed to select from a pool of highly qualified workers to be considered for advancement into the primary sector of jobs in exchange for one year of guaranteed work from the employees. This idea also has advantages for the low wage employer by granting them stability which would at least last a full year and grant them access to other employers allowing them to progress with many business ventures inaccessible otherwise. A great incentive could also be granted.
If the government would allow the employers to take a tax break it would allow employers to overcome skepticism and convince them that there is no situation that does not benefit them. No Shame In My Game by Katherine Newman has a thesis that consists of and incorporates several themes throughout the introduction to social sciences course. One theme that has been obviously displayed in both the course and the novel is class. It is very hard for someone to change their social ranking. Someone born into the inner-city and into a family that would be considered poor does not have the opportunities as a middle class child. The working poor has a much stronger work ethic than the middle class and start working at earlier ages (13 - 15 years old) for a lot less, usually minimum wage.
To increase someone's class ranking from the poor to the low end of the middle class is portrayed as something quite easy to people in the middle class. It seems that if you put your time and effort into school and receive a good education then one can go on and progress through college allowing them access to better paying jobs. However, most of these kids have to take on a job around the ages from 13 to 15, which in some cases is full time while they attempt to attend school. The hope of many of Newman's subjects seems to lead them to one main goal. Not to have to use welfare unlike their parents. The working class buys into the same cultural values as the middle class does.
The working class has to first follow the same cultural values as the middle class if they hope to one day become part of the middle class. This thinking is not entirely flawed but unfortunately it is not enough to raise ones ranking in society. Newman had set out to answer a question: "What might be done to reverse this scenario [the working poor being subjected to a worse lifestyle than the unemployed on welfare] (and what can be done) to build upon the advantages that a life on the job offers" (Newman, xv). I believe she had answered her question in a manner that proves useful and insightful. The conclusions that Newman had drawn where evaluated to being positive on some aspects while neutral on others. However I do not agree with some methods she used and data she used within her case study but nonetheless it still grants the audience a clear view of the working poor in the inner-city.
Her slight bias could have caused her to conduct the research and study in a less accurate manner but she has proceeded to explain her train of thought well through the novel. As a whole Newman's case study grants a view into the "true" poor of America.