Do you know where the free local medical clinics are located? Probably not, but a quick google search on your smart phone may tell you. Do you know what problems to look for in a used car? Probably not, but you will make sure your mechanic friend checks it out. Do you know how to keep your clothes from being stolen at the laundromat? Probably not, and you probably never will. Individuals living in poverty, however, do not have the luxury of not knowing the answers to these questions because they represent three situations crucial to the lower class. Chapter three of Bridges Out of Poverty, highlights these type of situations in its discussion of hidden class rules.
Bridges asserts that each social class has a set of unspoken rules specific to that group. In order to flourish or survive within that group, members must know and practice the hidden rules. Unfortunately, those living in poverty may not know the hidden rules of the middle or upper class, which may create barriers to sustainable living. For example, physically fighting or having someone who is willing to physically fight for you is more of a necessity within the lower class, whereas the ability to affectively use words to negotiate and handle situations is a necessity within the middle and upper classes. Consequently, someone who only knows the rules of the lower class may likely handle disagreements with coworkers in a completely different way than someone of another class. A different example is money management. Those in the lower class may be unaccustomed to having and therefore managing money. So if they acquire money, they may focus on short-term needs, like clothes, cars, and food. Whereas, someone in the middle or upper class, is likely to know more about money management. When these people acquire money, they are likely to balance between short-term and long-term needs, such as retirement, regular savings accounts, and investments.
What are some of the hidden class rules that you observed? What do you think is our role, as social service providers, employers, and community members? In order to build bridges out of poverty, we must build bridges that give people tools to understand and coexist with others in different social classes. Hidden class rules cannot continue to be barriers.