Owning a McMansion gives you more of a voice in society

One Iowa resident suggests McMansion owners have more of a voice in society compared to the marginalized:

There are segments of our population that feel isolated and powerless because it seems no one is listening to their message. Unfortunately we even have a name for them, the marginalized. What exactly does that mean? These are the groups that are left out and not listened to. Examples abound such as the homeless, mentally ill, people with disabilities, inmates, children and the elderly.

For a country so rich in many ways, we have lost the luster by treating those without a voice as if they were not worthy. It speaks volumes about what we do honor.

Is it most important how much money one makes or how powerful they are? Who has the biggest McMansion and the most cars?

Who can boast that they have several vacation homes and multiple residences? Who has a golden parachute ready to be opened when the business goes under and many are left without employment?

There is one idea behind this reference to McMansions that is common but one that is not. First, the common idea: that owning a McMansion is about displaying wealth and status. Critics of the homes suggest those who buy them simply want to show off their money and do so by purchasing homes that are meant to impress. This ties in with images of Americans being obsessed with keeping up with the Joneses, consumption, and materialism.

The second idea is not as common. What if owning a McMansion is more about inequality and who has what resources in society? Even critics who argue McMansions are about people chasing status tend to argue that these people should buy more architecturally sound homes that are less garish. What if McMansions are part of a whole system that privileges those who can purchase homes, provide their children with plenty of support, and enjoy some luxuries in life? This idea does not come up very often. Perhaps this is because the idea implicates owning expensive single-family homes more broadly. Perhaps it is because plenty of Americans still like the suburbs and their private spaces. Regardless, thinking of McMansions more as part of the issue of inequality then could get into ideas how money should be spent, how we should build homes and neighborhoods, and what it means for more people to live the good life.

Gallup examines the link between religion and income

New figures from Gallup examine the link between religion and income. Based on results from asking the question “Is religion an important part of your daily life?”, it appears that religion is more important to the daily lives of those in poorer countries:

This reflects the strong relationship between a country’s socioeconomic status and the religiosity of its residents. In the world’s poorest countries — those with average per-capita incomes of $2,000 or lower — the median proportion who say religion is important in their daily lives is 95%. In contrast, the median for the richest countries — those with average per-capita incomes higher than $25,000 — is 47%.

Why exactly this is the case is briefly explored:

Social scientists have put forth numerous possible explanations for the relationship between the religiosity of a population and its average income level. One theory is that religion plays a more functional role in the world’s poorest countries, helping many residents cope with a daily struggle to provide for themselves and their families. A previous Gallup analysis supports this idea, revealing that the relationship between religiosity and emotional wellbeing is stronger among poor countries than among those in the developed world.

However, there are several countries that don’t fit the relationship:

The United States is one of the rich countries that bucks the trend. About two-thirds of Americans — 65% — say religion is important in their daily lives. Among high-income countries, only Italians, Greeks, Singaporeans, and residents of the oil-rich Persian Gulf states are more likely to say religion is important.

Figures like these provide more data to be interpreted within the secularization debate in sociol0gy. Briefly put, the theory of secularization suggests that the importance of religion in institutional life and personal life diminishes as a society or people become more modern. On one hand, this trend Gallup finds seems to support the theory: as countries become wealthier and generally join the industrialized/developed world, the need for religion diminishes. On the other hand, there are countries that don’t fit the trend. The United States is usually discussed as the primary exception but there are other nations with other religious traditions that also don’t fit.

For a graphical representation of the data, check out this New York Times piece.