People living in higher socioeconomic areas are likely to see a wider diversity of bird species in their parks, according to Paige S. Warren, who holds a joint appointment as a research scientist in the Department of Biology at Virginia Tech and the Center for Environmental Studies at Arizona State University. Their work is part of the Central Arizona-Phoenix Long Term Ecological Research Project.
While this is interesting, it is not in itself a reason to volunteer or seek volunteer opportunities just to potentially raise your status, but a result of higher status individuals preferences in the way they maintain their surrounding environment outside their dwelling.
Another example of health related social economic status inequality is found in a study by The National Center for Tobacco-Free Kids, May 27, 2004. Meg Gallogly reports that tobacco is the leading cause of death in the United States, killing more than 400,000 Americans every year. Another 8 million Americans suffer from a smoking-caused disease, disability, and other serious health problems.
From this same study Gallogly continues, “thanks to the tobacco industry’s targeted marketing efforts, lower-income and less educated populations are particularly burdened by tobacco use – low-income people smoke more, suffer more, spend more, and die more from tobacco use. Smoking is directly correlated with income level and years of education. Since the release of the first Surgeon General’s Report on smoking in 1964, smoking has become ever more concentrated among populations with lower incomes and fewer years of education. Whereas the highest income Americans once smoked at levels even greater than the poorest, they now smoke at barely half the rate of those of lowest income.”
These studies suggests that for the highly motivated lower SES persons (often thought of as poor) who want to climb the social status ladder through education, the potential for liberation is possible. Higher education is one method to increasing one’s status, and therefore increasing one’s potential health.
In another study we find the Network on Socioeconomic Status and Health reporting “a growing body of evidence indicates that socioeconomic status (SES) is a strong predictor of health. Better health is associated with having more income, more years of education, and a more prestigious job, as well as living in neighborhoods where a higher percentage of residents have higher incomes and more education.”
The mission of the Network on Socioeconomic Status and Health is to enhance the understanding of the mechanisms by which socioeconomic factors affect the health of individuals and their communities. Furthermore, the Network reported “With a few exceptions, disease is more prevalent and life expectancy shorter the lower one is in the SES hierarchy.”
In another example of social capital in action, the State of Utah has enacted The Social Capital Formation Act of 1996 as part of welfare reform. The purpose of the Social Capital Formation Act is to promote the availability of social capital in Utah. The act defines social capital as “the value provided to the state by civic organizations.” This means volunteers of America or at least in Utah are targeted for support! This program is promoting volunteering in civic groups as a solution, which is something that the empowered volunteer will hopefully take country wide.
According to the Utah statute, “using social capital, clients of and applicants for services . . . may receive a wide array of services and supports that cannot be provided by state government alone.” The act encourages government efforts to strengthen civic agencies and establishes a process whereby DWS will assess individual applicant’s needs and may refer them to civic agencies. In the act, however, the Legislature also “recognizes the constitutional limits of state government to sustain civic institutions that provide social capital.”
Furthermore, the Utah report stated that, “President George W. Bush’s recent initiative on faith based and community organizations appears to have many similarities to Utah’s social capital law. The federal government may become more involved in this area, but the federal program is not yet well developed.”
A significant source of vital information on social capital can be found on the Saguaro Web site at http://www.ksg.harvard.edu/saguaro. The Saguaro Seminar: Civic Engagement in America is an ongoing initiative of Professor Robert D. Putnam at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. “The project focuses on expanding what we know about our levels of trust, social connectedness, and community engagement and focuses on strategies to increase this engagement.”
Furthermore, this study has quantified many aspects of social capital. It is a study of fraternal and civic groups in Indiana, along with other social capital achieving groups. This study would be beneficial to all empowered volunteers who wish to understand more about this field and the implications involved. I highly recommend this information be included in any SWOT analysis for groups, which can find correlations with which to work with.
Lastly, one of the many ways someone can on an individual basis attempt to improve their status and their social capital is through joining groups which help to improve their members as well as creating platforms for their mutual benefit. An example, one of many that could be listed is the group Toastmasters International. This group promotes the individual experience of public speaking, something which is usually not taught in America’s high schools to any extent. This group not only promotes public speaking, they have a highly structured system that teaches the subject, with many opportunities for practicing the art!