The work of the second TF culminated in a Journal of Social Issues publication (Lott & Bullock, 2001) titled Listening to the Voices of Poor Women. Included were papers on: identification of the poor; attitudes and attributions for poverty; media images; low-income parents and the public schools; welfare mothers’ reflections of personal responsibility; housing; experiences with public assistance; clothing; applied research with underserved communities; partnerships with community agencies; and social policy implications.
The establishment of these two task forces marked a formal recognition by SPW of the relationship between gender, social class, and poverty. For APA, passage of the 2000 Resolution signified acceptance of the importance of social class as a variable in human behavior. We need to honor the ground-breaking work of the members of these task forces, some of whom participated as graduate students: Diane Bowker-Turner, Ann Brodsky, Heather Bullock, Catherine Cozzarelli, Katherine Gamble, Ingrid Johnstonn-Robledo, Bernice Lott, Donna McDonald, Guerda Nicolas, Pamela Reid, Stephanie Riger, Joy Rice, Joan Rollins, Lenore Rubin, Janis Sanchez-Hucles, Renee Saris, Jacqueline Scarbrough, Hazel Spears, and Karen Wyche.
A further development began when I was elected by SPSSI to represent it on APA Council (where I served for 6 years). Shortly after I began on Council in 2002, it decided, after a not-too-lengthy discussion, to sunset the Urban Affairs Committee (author of the 2000 Resolution on Poverty and SES). I found this decision, supported by the Public Interest Directorate (as a cost reduction measure), very disturbing. It seemed to be a clear sign of APA’s low level of interest in social class issues, despite the Resolution it had approved two years earlier. My co-SPSSI representative, Irma Serrano-Garcia, and I then drafted a new business item for COR asking for a permanent committee on SES to be part of the Public Interest Directorate. We presented this to Council at its August 2003 meeting. Such a committee seemed to be a clear follow-up to the earlier Resolution on Poverty and SES that had included recommendations for research, education, advocacy, and public policy. The proposed committee would function as the primary coordinator of SES issues, examine disparities between social classes in access to resources, their impact on human welfare, and propose inequity-reducing strategies. This call for a new permanent committee on social class was met with some positive reactions but a greater number and variety of negative responses or indifference. Some saw little need for another “committee;” some feared diluting APA’s attention to ethnic minorities.
The Board for the Advancement of Psychology in the Public Interest (BAPPI) reviewed the initiative and did not approve it, offering instead a substitute motion that called on its committees to review the extent to which SES issues were addressed in their work. After reviewing the responses, BAPPI formulated a revised substitute motion that requested the establishment of a six-member APA Task Force on SES. The substitute motion was approved by Council in February 2005.
This APA TF was chaired by Susan Saegert and included Nancy Adler, Heather Bullock, Ana Mari Cauce, William Lui, and Karen Wyche as members. Its final report and recommendations (APA, 2006) were approved during a fateful COR meeting in New Orleans in August 2006, a year after the Katrina tragedy. It was no accident that the events of Katrina influenced the decision and prompted some impassioned vocal support from those who saw the clear relationship between social class, poverty, and the suffering of so many in the aftermath of Katrina. At the same time, at this meeting in New Orleans, a high-ranking member of APA governance urged opposition, commenting that social class was a subject in (and for) sociology, not psychology! But the Committee was approved (CSES), as well as a new APA Office on Socioeconomic Status (OSES) to be housed in the Public Interest Directorate. The first CSES meeting was held in 2007; Heather Bullock was the first chairperson and served in this capacity for three years.
A third chapter in this history of leadership by SPW and SPSSI began in 2006 when the two division presidents (Joan Chrisler and Irene Frieze, respectively) asked Heather Bullock and me to chair a task force that would study the question of how courses in psychology could incorporate issues of social class. Out of this work came a report on Resources for the Inclusion of Social Class in Psychology Curricula (APA, 2008) that is now online as a living document maintained by OSES. Members of this group, faculty and graduate students, included Martha Bergen, Hal Bertilson, Crystal Blount, Lina Chhun, Larry Gainor, Keri Gregory, Katharine Hahn, Mary Hill, Jessica Johnson, Julie Philllips, Faye Remers, Harmony Repond, Christine Smith, and Shirley Truong. The extensive and detailed list of resources covers classroom exercises, course syllabi, fiction, legislation on relevant social policy, popular media, scholarly books and articles, and websites.
Both SPW and SPSSI should be proud of the indispensable role they have played in raising the consciousness of APA about the significance of social class in understanding human behavior and in recognizing the vital place of class issues in our education, theory, research, and practice (see also Bullock, Lott, & Truong, 2011). As birth parents of APA’s OSES and CSES, both divisions should continue to observe their achievements and look for opportunities to work together to further critical class scholarship, applications and progressive social policy.
Thanks to Alex Rutherford and Heather Bullock for their gracious assistance in filling in blanks and providing great suggestions.