Lent Course 2007: Magnificat

Unit Three - Who Made Me?

"For He hath regarded the lowliness of His handmaiden".

Not too long ago people used to divide themselves by social class into wealth owners (capital) and workers (labour). Most people who were wealthy inherited wealth but some rose to that position as "self made men". Because we live in such a complex society where the state provides us with services such as health and education and where we rely on our trust in other people to conduct business, it is difficult to work out how much of what we are is inherited, how much is contributed by other people and how much actually depends on what we do ourselves.

This homework Unit is an attempt to see if we can find out a little more about ourselves so that we can compare ourselves objectively with our Grunge Park teenagers in Unit Two and also with Mustaq Khan's family in Unit Five.


Before we start, here are four important process points:

Below each question there is a blank on the left hand side for our self score, followed by three estimates .  N.B. they really are estimates, not official figures of:

a) Power

1. Education: How much formal education do you have?

Score 1 point for every year at primary school; 2 for secondary; 3 for sixth form; 4 for further education; 5 for higher education, up to 30 points:

[       ]    25     17        4


2. Time: decisions over our own time are difficult to compute because some people like working long hours and others do not; some people are unemployed and others retired; so this is a self score.

How much control do you feel you have over your own time on a scale from 0-10 where 0 points is no control and 10 points is complete:

[       ]      6       4       1


3. Place: As with question 2, how much control do you feel you have over where you live on a scale from 0-10 where 0 points is no control and 10 points is complete:

[       ]      6       2        0


4. People: How many people do you know well enough to ask for help about anything from a gardening tip to completing a form? For every ten people score 1 point up to 10 points:

[       ]     6        2        1


5. Media assets: How much access do you have to media assets?

Score 2 points each for a television, a radio, a CD/DVD player, every hundred books; up to 10 points:

[       ]     4         3       0


6. Transport: score 10 if you own a car or 5 if you are within easy reach of public transport.

[       ]     8         5       1


7. Lifetime Influence: How much influence have you had or do you have in your community? Score 10 for being a full-time teacher; 3 for chairing any body; 2 for membership of any body; 1 for attending a public meeting or sitting on a jury; up to 20 points:

[       ]     3         1       0


Total (out of 100)     [          ]   58       34        7


b) Income and Wealth

1.      Income: How much is your gross income per year? For every 5,000 up to 100,000 score 1 point:

 [       ]                 6        3       0


2. Capital: If you own a home, how much is it worth? Don't worry about whether it's under mortgage &c. For every 10,000 of value up to 300,000 score 1 point:

[       ]    16        0       0


3. Goods: for how much are your personal good insured: score 1 point for every 5,000 up to 50,000:

[       ]     4         1       0




4. Physical capital: Score 5 points for access to each of the following:

[       ]     5        4          1


5. Social Capital: Score 5 for access to each of the following:

[        ]               15     2         6


Total (out of 100)

[       ]     46     10      7


c) Health

1. Longevity: Score 1 point for every five years of your life expectancy up to 100 years:

[       ]    16       13      8


2. Serious illness/addiction: looking over your life so far, assess your freedom from serious illness and/or addiction with 0 points for chronic, serious illness/addiction and 10 points for complete freedom from them:

[       ]     9         7       2


3. Diet: Again, using self assessment, score the health of your diet with and 0 points for completely unhealthy and 10 points for completely healthy:

[       ]     7         3       3


4. Mental health/well-being. How would you self assess your mental well-being with 0 points for serious problems and 10 points for top form:

[       ]     9        7        5


Total (Out of 50)

[       ]     41      30     18


We can then multiply our total mark out of 250 by four and divide it by 10 to give us a total percentage score.

[       ]     145     74     32

[       ]      58%   30%   13%


If we go back over the questionnaire again it would be helpful to make a rough estimate of what proportion of our score depends on our own efforts and how much of it is part of our cultural, social and economic fabric.

Here are some issues to think about as the result of the comparative analysis of the score card:

First, how much does it matter what kind of family we are born into? It is too difficult to untangle the influence of different kinds of family make-up on the life chances of children so the point here is simply socio-economic: is it broadly true that the greater the income and wealth of the family we are born into, the better the chance we have of education, high income and wealth and a longer life? The answer may seem obvious but it is important to understand the extent to which we agree with this kind of question when we think about social and economic inequality.

Secondly, how much does it matter where we are born? In the United Kingdom this often reflects our socio-economic status which in turn affects the kind of schools and hospitals we have access to and that in turn affects our life chances. That situation is even more critical between countries and within poor countries.

Thirdly, because of these previously noted variables, is there a relationship between effort and outcome? People in Pakistan work longer hours than UK workers and certainly longer hours than the very rich who do not work at all but their incomes are infinitely lower.

Fourthly, in all categories 'upward mobility' is possible but is it broadly true that the 'lower' your starting point the more difficult it is? So, for example, is it is easier for Grunge Park kids to get into university than the Khans?

Finally, if we had used a different, more complex method it would have become clear that if a person suffers a disadvantage in a number of areas then the fairest way to represent that disadvantage is to multiply scores rather than adding them up; in other words, multiple disadvantages exacerbate each other.

If we look at the top of the Unit it is easy to understand the positions of all four of our speakers. We might be equal in the sight of God but we know that concern and respect are often linked with income, wealth and status; we also know how hard it is to achieve greater equality in our society, even if we want to. We will discuss justice and equality in Unit Five.

So here are some more statements to think about:

Now that we know a little more about ourselves, we are ready to look at some practical problems in Units Four and Five before returning to our score cards in Unit Six.