Socioeconomic Status in America

Social Justice Learning: adolescent

Today's Lesson: Socioeconomic Status in America

Socioeconomic status (SES) is measured by several factors, but most often it focuses on income, occupation, and education, and it can have either a positive or negative impact on a person's life in the ways it affects access to resources crucial to an individual’s upward mobility. Research has also found the lower the SES, the more likely someone is to have physiological and psychological health issues. These conversations can be difficult to start, and often are focused on either talking to very young children, or how to educate ourselves as adults. But social justice learning is a life-long journey, and one that is just as important for those in the in between age categories, AKA adolescents. Below you will find educational resources specifically geared toward school-aged children.

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Learning Levels

Early Childhood Adolescent Adult



Crenshaw book cover

Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate follows Jackson and his family, who have fallen on hard times. There's no more money for rent. And not much for food, either. His parents, his little sister, and their dog may have to live in their minivan. Again. Crenshaw is a cat. He's large, he's outspoken, and he's imaginary. He has come back into Jackson's life to help him. But is an imaginary friend enough to save this family from losing everything?


EXTRA CREDIT: The worker shortage in the U.S. has been a boon to some. Teen workers are in high demand. Teen unemployment is the lowest it's been since the early 1950s. NPR’s Lelia Fadel talks to Evans Prater, founder of Mount Inspiration Apparel, and teen general manager Mary Grace Flattery, and reports on their experience.



Poor Kids

Travel to the Quad Cities, a great American crossroads along the border of Iowa and Illinois, to explore the lives of children living in the suburbs of the nation’s heartland and growing up poor. Told from the point of view of the children themselves, FRONTLINE’s documentary Poor Kids offers perspective on the impact of unemployment, foreclosure and financial distress as seen through the eyes of the children affected. You can also watch the film on the free PBS Video App here and find a transcript of the film here.


EXTRA CREDIT: In this clip from WTTW’s FIRSTHAND: Living in Poverty we meet Dominetrius Chambers. She graduated third in her high school class but has struggled with her next steps. We follow as she is introduced to the nonprofit My Block, My Hood, My City which connects her to mentors and places around the city. Will the excitement of new people and places lead to greater opportunity?



America’s poverty myths busted

On the Media podcast logo

WNYC’s On the Media podcast explores how the media shapes our worldview. In this five-part series “Busted: America’s Poverty Myths” host Brooke Gladstone traveled to Ohio to learn from people living the varied reality of poverty today, and to unpack the myths that shape our private presumptions as well as our policy decisions. Each episode features the voices and complex stories of individuals, as well essential context from scholars, to lay open the tales we tell ourselves.


EXTRA CREDIT: WFSU’s podcast 411 Teen, hosted Dr. Liz Holifield, hopes to address common concerns of today’s teenager. In their “Partners for Justice” from October of 2021, explores the idea of being trapped in cycle of criminalization, poverty, and incarceration while trying to navigate a criminal legal system that is toxic by design.