Life Happens: A Work, Class & Access to Resources Exercise

Created by:Tracy E. Ore, Professor of Sociology, Saint Cloud State University

This exercise is intended to aid participants in understanding the impact of socioeconomic status on an individual's life chances. Developed in 1998, I have recently revised it, assigning income levels to the "families" based on data from the 2000 census as well as a recent occupational salary survey. The income levels of the families essentially represent median incomes in the different income quintiles and are "typical" for the occupations described. The "Life Happens" cards have also been updated.

This exercise has been done in a variety of settings, from an hour class to a semester long project, with participants working in groups as families, getting a life situation or two a week (in the form of a "life happens" card) and reporting periodically on the status of their families. At the end of the semester the participants submit a final report on their families.

Note: some of the information is specific to Central Minnesota so you may need to change things for your location. You can access a cost of living calculator for metropolitan areas and rural parts of each state at the web site for the Economic Policy Institute. Thanks go to Dr. David Cotter (Union College) for pointing me toward this resource.

You are welcome to use this exercise. All I ask is that you credit the source when using it.


If you have questions, feel free to contact me.


Life Happens Instructions

Life Happens Cards



Back to Home Page