Wealth culture at Algonquin: a case of Affluenza


Ela Or

Opinion Editor Jeffrey Dratch writes that it is important for students to recognize their privilege and work to lessen the social class divide.

Jeffrey Dratch, Opinion Editor

Walking through the halls of Algonquin, or even driving into the parking lots, it is easy to see a significant presence of wealth. Many students arrive at school in brand new luxury cars, and hallways are flooded with designer labels. This ostentatious lifestyle isn’t the case for many students that happen to be less fortunate, however, and there is a vast wealth gap between members of the Algonquin community.

The median household income in Northborough is over $140,000, while over $156,000 in Southborough, according to Census data from 2020. Both of these numbers are significantly higher than the national average of about $70,000. These factors lead to a presence of affluent families throughout both towns. Students are led to feel the need to fit into this culture, and the impact can be detrimental.

And while students at Algonquin are relatively wealthier, 12.6% of students at Algonquin are considered low-income, a number below the state and national averages. Piled under the many layers of privilege are a group of students that aren’t as well off, and often don’t have access to the same opportunities as others. Today’s world is divided based on socioeconomic status, something that is a much bigger issue and beyond the control of many.

However, what makes this wealth culture so toxic, particularly at schools like Algonquin, is the insensitivity and tone deafness of many students. Communities like Northborough and Southborough have helped contribute to the forming of the term affluenza,” which is essentially the concept of not having a moral compass caused by being raised in a childhood of wealth and privilege. Students who have never had money be a problem in their lives often aren’t thinking about the tough situation others are in. Some students get to go to football games, spend time with friends and relax while others are working multiple jobs in order to help support their families. 

This creates a dilemma where the students that are wealthier can spend more time focusing on school and looking better on college applications, causing the students that don’t have this freedom to have less opportunities. Privileged members of the student body have never had to deal with these problems, and live in a “bubble”-like environment where they blindly exclude others in different social classes. This idea is seen in everyday activities, such as going to the mall, where some aren’t able to go simply because they can’t afford to buy anything.

The term affluenza became popularized in a 2013 case involving Ethan Couch, a wealthy Texas teenager who killed four people in a drunk driving incident. Couch’s attorney used the term affluenza as a defense in court, saying that having such a privileged childhood led him to not know the difference between right and wrong. 

While more extreme than the situation present at Algonquin, there is certainly a correlation between Couch’s incident and the wealth culture at Algonquin. In order to improve as a community, it is imperative that students recognize their privilege and take action in order to foster a better community to close the gap between social classes. 

Algonquin has an undoubted presence of wealth, something that has increased over the course of several decades, causing the alienation of lower income students. This divide would be extremely challenging to overcome, but it is important to do your part, stand up against the divide and create a more equal playing field.