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Student Poverty

Prior assumptions about poverty and its relativity to human nature are needed to be able to begin researching poverty. A starting point is needed, and this is nearly always based on other people’s research. A hypothesis is formed firstly, based on existing theory formulated by other research and conclusions, and then I will try to anticipate some outcomes and relationships that I may find. From this I can begin to formulate best course of investigation.
If the outcome of my research then confirms the theories I had already hypothesised, then I know that the original framework on which I had based my research has been fairly accurate. However I must always take into account the variables, and probability that I could be mistaken in my line of research. Or that my own values, being a student myself, may have influenced my analysis.

We can begin by looking at what kind of assumptions can be made about poverty.
?The CO-existence of rich nations plagued with widespread diseases of overconsumption and poor communities existing at the barest imaginable level of livelihood, cannot be morally defended. But to assume that this implies that there is some easily discovered, absolute and apparently universal, line below which there is poverty and above which there is not, is fundamentally to misunderstand the problem……… most of the research into poverty in Britain during the past eighty years has been based upon just such a misconception.? (Coates and Silburn, 1970.)
From the above statement we can see the kind of assumptions already made in 1970, that could affect the way a sociologist may choose to organise his research today. From reading Coates and Silburn, it can be assumed that there is no fine line between being in a state of poverty and a state of non-poverty. It would depend on the standard of living within the country you are studying. The researcher therefore may not choose to base his research on just the people assumed to be living in a state of poverty in one country, when given the state of poverty in another country, the former would be considered well off.

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The bases of my research will be in an outer London University, so the comparisons between another country and ours are not really relevant, however will look at comparisons with other universities. As I intend to base this project upon the bases of weather or not class is variable in student poverty, it is within my interests to compare the university I am studying (The University Of Greenwich) with other universities that are considered to be richer or poorer than my own. But the statement above is of use, as it suggests that there is no line drawn between poverty and non-poverty. This would lead me believe that attempts to distinguish those who are in poverty and those who are not will not be an easy task, and I must take this into account when analysing my research.
My data research consists of a survey, which was first sampled, then finalised. The survey was carried out via 250 individual interviews as it contained certain aspects, which may not have been fully understood by the subject. Not only were financial specific questions asked, but opinion orientated questions also. This is a quantitative based research
The Social class, and the correct determination of it has never been well defined. There is no single excepted way of determining just which social class an individual belongs to. So to best determine how to determine how a student should be socially classified, I will be using methods introduced by John Goldthorpe. This takes the father as the most influential family member, and those within his family as having his allocated class. But should this be the case among all our subjects?
Defining class groupings in economic terms is an extremely difficult task. But the different groups within the same class do not receive the same income. If we try and break down the allocation of class into family’s we can see there are many flaws in the process of today’s modern society. Within a family today it is not uncommon for both the man and women to work (or even for women to be the sole providers, especially in single parent family’s), so should their combined income be taken into consideration when defining which class the family is in? Or should it just be the highest earner?
?The most significant questions for class analysis concern the two larger groups, women and children. Class has generally assigned dependent members of the family to the class position of the head of the household. But a large proportion of women are in paid employment in most western societies?.Here too class analysis assigns them? most cases to that of the husband or father.? (Hindess 1987, p: 70)
Barry Hindess refers mainly to John Goldthorpe’s study concerning class structure and mobility. Mobility between classes is important, because of the effect it has on the development of social attitudes. Social mobility can therefore be associated with wider commitments of men, outside the working environment. Goldthorpe argues you cannot distinguish a man or woman’s class merely by the position he or she holds at work and the subsequent pay the job entails. Although it is worth noting that a man or women’s financial position strongly influences the social aspect of there lives. Unfortunately the study Goldthorpe carried out was in many ways inaccurate, as women’s class was distinguished by the class position of the head of her household. In most cases her husband or father. This way of determining the social position in terms of class is fine for women and children who do not work, if you want to determine class purely by financial status. However in modern western societies there are many exceptions which would make a study of this kind inaccurate, if a different way of determining class allocation cannot be found. But in the meantime even if a women is in paid employment, her class is still determined by that of a male member of her household.

[Marxism] is grounded in concepts that do not and could not address directly the gender of the exploiters and those whose labour is appropriated. A Marxist analysis of capitalism is therefore conceived around a primary contradiction between labour and capital and operates with categories that . . . can be termed ?sex blind?. Feminism, however, points in a different direction, emphasising precisely the relations of gender ? largely speaking, of the oppression of women by men ? that Marxism has tended to pass over in silence. Barrett, (1980).
It can now be determined that perhaps one reason that class analysis is so difficult, is because of the way that women are now taking roles always assumed to be the responsibility of the men.

The above graph shows the amount of students parents who have jobs over the working classification of 6, as you can see the amount of men is much greater than the amount of women. So I think it will make this investigation more accurate if I go with John Goldthorpe’s method of classifying a family’s class to that that of the male of the father of the family. Weather or not a student who is no longer dependent on his family should be given their own class is another argument, a student may believe that he or she is not actually a member of a social class at all.
Moving on to the subject of poverty, and its definition, how can it be determined if someone is in poverty or not? Sociologist Antony Giddens likes to make the definition of poverty based upon Charles Booths establishment of consistent standard of subsistence of poverty. To try and define poverty he states that ?Lack of basic requirements to sustain a physically healthy existence – sufficient food and shelter to make possible the physically efficient functioning of the body? ( Giddens, 1989.) So in this instance a researcher may organise his research on those who are malnourished, or suffering from physical ailments. This may lead him to base his research on medical records
If the type of research you choose to follow on poverty has already been done then obviously the research you undertake will be to investigate the areas not covered, that you feel are incorrect, or not covered to the extent you feel is necessary. Some of the best sociological work undertaken has been based on other people’s studies.
Sociological research has to be systematic when making a careful analysis of poverty. There are many different issues of poverty, which can be studied, all of which can be influenced by prior understanding, brought by other research or the researchers own values.

A sample questionnaire was the first task given to us to create( a brief example of one of the samples can be found at the end of this report ). Even though the tutor provided the final questionnaire, the experience we gained from doing the sample was of value. The final questionnaire was based on previous years of research, and was ultimately more proficient than any our group had come up with.
It is important to point out that much of the data that was collected may be inaccurate, many of the subjects could only give rough figures on their financial situations. Questions on expenditure could only be roughly estimated, and most of the subjects lacked the proper-recorded paper work on other financial aspects.

I aim to find out, through the analysis of the data collected, weather or not the class of a student effects their financial standing, thus leading to an understanding of how poverty among students should be perceived.
We can begin by looking at a broad overview of the students who took part in the survey.

From the above data we can see that a fair balance of men and women have taken part in the survey. However the age groups, and the course years, are not so equally balanced. In both cases the some of the same reasons could be given for these occurrences. Firstly the researchers were themselves first year students, so it is logical that they would know, and therefore interview more first year students, and as most first year students are aged between 18 and 21, so this would also account for the majority of first year students interviewed. Also Mature students, and students who are in their second third and fourth year are also less likely to live on campus, again lessening the chances of them being interviewed. So this must be taken into account when studying poverty among students, as a large category of students who may be much richer or poorer, than the majority of students interviewed, have been left out. And as a consequence the accuracy of the report may suffer.

I will now begin to examine the different classes, and the differences they share or may not share.
I have chosen to show the fathers job classification as I will be taking this as the corresponding students class allocation. As we can already see, the lower skilled categories are prevalent among the students interviewed for this report. It is of some interest that this is a big change from say thirty years ago when mostly those from the higher classes were able to study at university.

The Charts on the previous page give us some indication on how students themselves perceive poverty. I was expecting to find that students whose father came from a higher class, would perceive themselves as being more in a state of poverty, than those whose fathers class was lower class. However the difference is not significant enough to suggest that this is so. Reasons for this could be that they receive more financial support from their family than those of the lower classes. This might suggest that there is a common link between the perception of poverty between all the classes. Or indeed that students are receiving the same standard of living that they had before attending university. Suggesting that most students interviewed are not living in a state of poverty.

The analysis of the questionnaire has shown that there is little difference between the perceived states of poverty among the different classes of students. However discovering if any students are actually living in poverty is a harder question to answer. It must first be determined exactly what a state of poverty is, which is why I have concentrated on discovering what the students perceptions are on weather they are in poverty or not. In comparison to our own university, I would like to look at an article written about the state of student poverty in Ireland.

SFY activists in Dublin have reacted strongly to the poverty to which students are being subjected, as revealed in a Union of Students in Ireland survey last week.

The survey, which betrayed the true level of student deprivation in the 26 counties, uncovered such worrying statistics as: ?a paltry maintenance grant of ?45.90? for those living away from home is barely enough to cover students’ accommodation costs, not inclusive of the cost of utilities. (Pierse 1998)
The above statement would certainly suggest from what we have seen so far that the students at the university studied are much better off, than those studying in Ireland.

But over all I would say that student poverty is not a major problem at the university of Greenwich, even though it may well be at other universities. Also class does not seem to be a prevalent variable on the issue of student poverty.

Sex? M/F
Age ______
Year 1/2/3/4/5
Are you a part time or a full time student? _____ time.

Were you in full time employment before coming to University? Y/N
If yes, what type of job did you have? ____________________________________________________
Were you in part- time employment before coming to University? Y/N
If yes, what type of job did you have? ____________________________________________________
Are you in part- time employment while studying at University? Y/N
If yes, what type of job do you have? ____________________________________________________
Do you know how much money per week you spend on entertainment? Y/N
If yes, how much? __________________
Did you have all or part of your tuition fees paid for you? Y/N
If yes, who paid them? _______________________________________________________________
Did you receive a grant? Y/N
If yes, how much did you receive? _____________
Have you applied/received a student loan? Y/N
If yes, how much did you apply for? _____________
Does your father have a job? Y/N
If yes, what does he do? _______________________________________________________________
Does your mother have a job? Y/N
If yes, what does she do? ______________________________________________________________
Do your parents help to support you financially? Y/N
If yes, how much do they give you per term? ________________________


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