The Economics Behind Bullying

Photo courtesy of wikimedia commons

Photo courtesy of wikimedia commons

By Carina Calderón and Mariana Valdez

Dragging her feet to her group of friends, a girl notices the holes in the soles of her shoes. As she looks at the rest of her friends’ clothes, she notices a fashion trend: holey jeans, plain t-shirts, and slightly dirty sneakers. Turning her head to look at the kids by the lockers, she catches the eye of a boy, with a Diamond Supply Co. tee and black leather shoes, who quickly looks away. When did ignoring those of a lower socioeconomic class become such a normal practice?

Although not everyone is affected by their socioeconomic class, many people are. Adolescence is a time when we search for our true identity and the experience of bullying takes a huge toll on this journey. Socioeconomic bullying may not be prevalent in our high school, but that does not mean that it does not exist. In fact, teens of lower socioeconomic status have a greater chance of being bullied, according to the American Journal of Public Health. 

When teenagers are bullied, they second-guess themselves and feel inadequate. This can cause teens to either act out in aggression or turn inward and isolate themselves to avoid being picked on. 

In the case of this girl, the boy near the lockers indirectly bullied her by ignoring her presence due to her apparent socioeconomic class.

When adolescents are embarrassed by certain people they communicate with, they tend to deny or make less of their relationship. By doing so, the teenager directly bullies the less fortunate individual by allowing his or her economic class to define who he or she is as a person.

According to the Normative social influence theory, as a people, we conform to the thoughts, beliefs, and actions of our social groups to gain approval. Conformity is a major factor in the problem of socioeconomic bullying and many teenagers fail to interact with kids of different economic classes in fear that the rest of their group will disapprove. Because of this distress, those of lower socioeconomic bracket suffer cruelty from those who regard themselves as higher in value. 

A major factor in the problem of socioeconomic bullying involves the way teens categorize themselves into groups. By this action, teens cut off the possibilities of various friendships because they limit themselves to the social class they put themselves in. The issue with this is that one begins to label various other groups and generalize them. For instance, one may label the kids wearing ragged clothes as “poor,” a negative connotation, and generalize the whole group as unworthy of their attention and friendship. By generalizing whole groups, adolescents fail to learn about individuals who could have the same sense of humor, passion, and mind-set as themselves. 

Despite denying our actions, we have all been in the position where we have judged someone without knowing them at all. In order to not make people feel a sense of rejection and unworthiness, we need to stop this habit that we have become so accustomed to. 

A person’s worth is not based on what they own, but rather their personalities and the happiness they bring to others. How can one learn more about another if he or she never gives that individual a fair chance to become friends? At the end of the day, it should not be about someone’s Coach bag or latest Jordans that will secure the friendship, but rather the person that you have decided to give the chance of friendship to, despite their appearance. 

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