Work and Status

Personal worth is rated in our culture to a considerable extent by the kind of job one holds and by the amount of money it returns in the way of salary or wages. Different jobs have different prestige values as well as different money values. It is not always true that the job that produces the most money rates the highest in prestige. Almost the opposite is true with many jobs in America. The professions are rated relatively high from the standpoint of prestige and yet do not produce so large an income as certain other occupations. Many skilled workmen, for example, make considerably more money than the average teacher or even the college professor in the lower academic ranks.

It seems likely that youth's vocational interests are too much influenced at the present time by the prestige value of a job. During the great depression several studies of the vocational interests of youth showed that a much higher proportion wanted to get into white-collar and professional jobs than society could expect to have in these positions. The prestige values of these jobs are probably reflected in these choices. In wartime, on the other hand, this scheme of values changed very radically. Welders and other overall workers in shipyards, airplane factories, etc., were highly regarded, so that not only men but women flocked to these jobs by the thousands, proud to come home on the streetcars in dirty clothes with their identification badges pinned to their overall bibs or cap bills. So it is that in different periods social pressures tend to modify group evaluations and, consequently, youth's vocational desires.

Many times these social pressures are distorted and have little relationship to the actual needs of society for workers in a given field. It would seem that the school has a responsibility in this regard, trying to give adolescence and youth more realistic views of the kinds of jobs which the majority of them can expect to enter.

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