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Lottery of birth
Lottery of birth

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2 Thinking point: check your privilege

The phrase ‘check your privilege’ is often used on social media to remind others that the life they were born into came with specific privileges.

It is also used to remind others that every individual may need to acknowledge their own inherent privileges and be willing to recognise structural social advantages that they have by virtue of birth and position – such as being born wealthy, being born male and being born white – in order to gain a better understanding of what is said, thought or done.

Figure 3 Some people are born into more privileged lives than others

Most of us are privileged in some ways and less privileged in others. So if you ‘check your privilege’ about whether you are a lottery of birth winner or loser, lots of things are likely to spring to mind. These things will depend on your age, your class, your gender, where you were born, your family income and wealth, but also the wider context such as the political stability of your country or the laws and rights in existence within your society.

You may consider that science and technology made it a very safe time for you to be born, perhaps that your parent(s) had a stable job in a strong economy, perhaps that there was good maternity health care for your mother. However, you may be thinking that there was no free health service in place to provide immunisations and medical treatment for you as a new-born baby, or perhaps you thought ahead a little and regretted that there wasn’t a straightforward path to a good education waiting for you.

If you didn’t have the best start in life, were there social economic or political forces at work that enabled you to be ‘socially mobile’? Social mobility looks at the ability or difficulty with which individuals are able, or not, to move up the socio-economic ladder. You will return to the issue of social mobility later this week.

Next you will look specifically at how poverty and the lottery of birth can profoundly affect your chances in life.