Setting up Gender Stratified Monopoly

by Stacy Smith

This document includes details for playing Gender Stratified Monopoly, as described in my 2017 Teaching Sociology article, Gender Stratified Monopoly: Why Do I Earn Less and Pay More? Feel free to use these materials to set up your own game boards.


Download: Setting up Gender Stratified Monopoly

Abstract

A modified version of Monopoly has long been used as a simulation exercise to teach inequality. Versions of Modified Monopoly (MM) have touched on minority status relative to inequality but without an exploration of the complex interaction between minority status and class. This article introduces Gender Stratified Monopoly (GSM), an adaptation that can be added to existing versions of MM as a step toward such a conversation. I draw on written student reflections and observations from five test courses over two years to demonstrate the effectiveness of GSM. Data indicate student recognition of the female status as more economically challenging and less “fair” relative to the male status, with real-world consequences.

Citation

Smith, Stacy L. 2017. “Gender Stratified Monopoly: Why Do I Earn Less and Pay More?” Teaching Sociology 45(2): 168-76.

Link to article in Teaching Sociology


Cards Designating Binary Gender, Marital Status, Number of Children, and Divorce

Below are examples of the cards as I use them. For a five-player game, print the following cards for each game board used:

  • Binary gender: either two male, three female, or three male, two female. I recommend varying the pattern if you are using more than one game board.
  • Children: 1 – Children: 0, 1 – Children: 1, 2 – Children: 2, 1 – Children: 7
  • Marital status: either two married, three unmarried, or three married, two unmarried. I recommend varying the pattern if you are using more than one game board.
  • Divorce: one-two divorce cards, depending on your approach to marital status. I recommend leaving at least one married player at the board, so that the newly divorced player experiences the contrast.

Download Setting up Gender Stratified Monopoly to access examples of cards.

Setting Starting Cash

Although several approaches to Monopoly play with four players, I use five so that each quintile is represented. My approach could easily be modified for four players rather than five.

I factored starting cash by multiplying the traditional starting amount for standard Monopoly ($1,500) by the number of players (5) for a total starting “income” of $7,500.  Players are assigned a starting amount based on the player’s place in the chart of income quintiles.  Based on 2014 figures, the lowest and highest quintiles would receive an estimated 3.1% and 51.2% (respectively) of shares of aggregate income (“Income and Poverty in the United States 2015”:9).  The lowest-quintile Monopoly player would thus receive $233 and the highest $3,840.

While this approach is accurate to current measures of income inequality, it has its drawbacks.  First, setting up Monopoly to use as a simulation game for the classroom is already time-consuming for the instructor.  In addition to determining current quintile statistics, the instructor must also determine a strategy for distributing cash among envelopes so that students cannot accurately judge how much cash each contains by looking at or feeling the envelopes.  Thus, updating the cash distribution by current quintiles would be time consuming and with little return on effort.  It is much easier to simply present current, updated information in the days leading up to the in-class activity and only modify starting cash if actual statistics change dramatically.

The chart below recommends starting amounts that approximate, but do not exactly follow, current quintile statistics; the lowest quintile receives $300 rather than $233 and the highest receives $2,500 rather than $3,840.  After showing students accurate statistics on inequality, I emphasize that the game is not as unequal as reality to foster game play. Experience shows that this fact impresses students and students often comment about how much more difficult the game would have been had the income distributions have been accurate.  For the simulation to be successful in teaching the effects of stratification, class, and inequality on life chances, students must believe that they have some chance to improve their situation.  Perhaps ironically, if the game begins with too much inequality, students may simply refuse to participate because their actual economic circumstances are demoralizing.

Envelope Preparation

Envelopes should be prepared so that students receive a random combination of quintile designation (represented by starting cash and property), binary gender, marital status, and number of children. Emphasize to students that this random-ness mimics being “born” into particular circumstances.

Students may try to determine which envelopes are “worth” more by feel. Using the chart below, envelopes will all feel approximately the same, so students will not know their quintile until they open the envelopes. Generally, the easiest way to determine quintile is to look at the property.

Quintile Starting Property Starting Cash Amount of Various Denominations
1s 5s 10s 20s 50s 100s 500s
Lowest Baltic Ave 300 15 1 4 2 2 1 0
Second Vermont Ave 500 0 20 0 0 4 2 0
Middle New York Ave 1000 0 0 11 7 3 6 0
Fourth Indiana Ave 1500 10 2 8 10 2 1 2
Highest Boardwalk 2500 0 0 0 0 12 14 1

Game Rules

Prior to game play, I read through and lead a discussion of modified game rules. For example, only the wealthiest players are allowed to purchase utilities or railroads. I ask students to imagine that their city has decided to privatize the water treatment plant, and ask what quintile would be allowed the opportunity to do so. Which players would have the money? Which would be perceived as reliable to run an important utility? If middle-class and lower-class citizens pooled funds to buy the utility, would they be allowed to buy it? Why or why not?

An alternative to giving students a game rule sheet is to have students brainstorm game rules. However, this activity takes most of a class period, and generally achieves similar results across classes. I have found that it’s most effective to simply hand out rules.

I based my game play on Fisher’s (2008) description of USA Stratified Monopoly. Fisher provides a chart, which I modified for my purposes.

References

Fisher, Edith M. 2008. “USA Stratified Monopoly: A Simulation Game about Social Class Stratification.” Teaching Sociology 36(3):272–82. (Retrieved from JSTOR on October 29, 2015).

Proctor, Bernadette D., Jessica L. Semega, and Melissa A. Kollar. “Income and Poverty in the United States: 2015.” U.S. Bureau of Census, Report Number P60-256. Retrieved July 5, 2017 from https://www.census.gov/library/publications/2016/demo/p60-256.html.

Smith, Stacy L. 2017. “Gender Stratified Monopoly: Why Do I Earn Less and Pay More?” Teaching Sociology 45(2): 168-76.


Downloadable version: Setting up Gender Stratified Monopoly