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Why jokes about 'low SES' are not funny

An ongoing social media trend has me unsettled: the labelling of certain actions or choices, in a joking manner, as "low SES" or low socioeconomic status. It started last month, when a social studies guidebook - in a section on how one's class and socioeconomic status can shape an individual's identity - attempted to come up with examples of "higher SES" or "lower SES" traits.

The writer, Rowan Luc, used a table with two columns. The one labelled higher SES had actions such as "use of formal English in daily conversation" and "regular fine dining at expensive restaurants". In the lower-SES column were "use of Singlish or... dialects in daily conversation" and "eating at hawker centres".

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 15, 2018, with the headline 'Why jokes about 'low SES' are not funny'. Print Edition | Subscribe