Social class is a social ranking. Your social class is often determined by how much money make, but it can also be determined by how you dress, the kind of food you eat, music you listen to, and people you hang out with. Many people in America try to deny that social classes exist. Yet many people try to move into higher social rankings. That process is called social mobility. With social mobility you can move up into higher “better” social class, which is called vertical mobility. Other types of social mobility are horizontal mobility, moving from one social position to another in the same social rank. So you are actually not improving or decreasing your class. An example of this would be working at McDonalds making minimum wage, and leaving McDonalds to take another different type of minimum wage job, such as a maid at Holiday Inn. Intergenerational mobility is changing your social position from that of your parents. An example of this would be if someone’s mom was a dentist and their child became a store clerk; that is an example of downward intergenerational mobility. Upward intergeneration mobility would be if your mother was a high school teacher and you became an engineer. In this, you would be experience upward intergenerational mobility. The last form of social mobility is intragenerational mobility is moving up in social class as an adult. An example of this would be starting your adult life as a dental assistant and then becoming a dentist.
Horizontal mobility is the mobility that many people go through. I have personally experienced and have witnessed other people go through this experience. When I turned 16 I got my first job at a clothing store, and since turning 16 I have had three other jobs at other clothing stores. So I continue to move to different jobs but they always have the same ranking. A different example of horizontal mobility that I have witnessed is with my dad. My dad graduated high school, but did not continue his education, and because of that my dad has not been able to move upward. He worked at a warehouse for about ten years packing and unpacking foods to prisons, and once he became tired of that he started a different job as a truck driver. Even though the jobs have different titles, they both have the same social rank. Vertical mobility does not happen as often as horizontal mobility but it does happen. Some examples of this date back all the way back to pre-Civil War America. Before President Abraham Lincoln took office, he was born into a poor family and had little money to his name. Lincoln would often use his vertical mobility successes as a way to show people that anyone can achieve this American dream like he did, as long as you work hard.
Karl Marx says social status relates to who owns the means of production. Owning the means of production give higher status people a leg up and differentiating them from those who are the workers. As long capitalism exists there will always be a division in classes. A counter to Marx’s ideas is the belief in the American Dream. Since competition is at the heart of capitalism it always is showing people that as long as you work harder than the group who is currently dominant, then you have a chance to experience vertical mobility and this type of competition is what keeps the American dream alive.
However there are many problems associated with social mobility. An example of this would be blacks trying to climb the social ladder. Since America was founded, blacks were always on the bottom of the social ladder. Back in the 1900’s, many lower class whites would take pride in the fact that “at least they were not black.” Now in the twenty-first century, blacks are treated as equal, but blacks and whites still think of blacks as lower class. They think like this without even realizing this is what they are doing. When blacks start to climb the social ladder, many other blacks start saying things to them like “you are acting white” and other degrading things. Many blacks who try to climb the social ladder and improve on their social status would say things like, “we not only have to prove that we are good enough to move up in class, but we have to prove that we are better than “black”.” An example of this is when Jamelle Bouie, a Slate staff writer, who talks about politics and race talks about how even if a white family and a black family grew up exactly the same, the white family would experience more social mobility than the black. “If you took two children – one white, one black – and gave them parents with similar jobs, similar educations, and similar values, the black child would be much more likely to grow up in a neighborhood with higher poverty, worse schools, and more violence.”(Why black Americans have a hard time climbing the social ladder.)
Many Americans try to ignore the fact that social mobility exists; this is the root of the problem. If people accepted the fact that social mobility was a very common thing that people tried to do every day, then people would not be so tough on those who are openly trying to have vertical social mobility. It’s almost as if these people are trying to make fun of the people they are trying to become. An example of this would be celebrities; everybody always makes fun of the things they do and ignore their accomplishments. Maybe some of these critics are actually just wishing to experience the mobility that these stars have achieved.
Work cited: Bouie, Jamelle.”Why black Americans have a hard time climbing the economic ladder: Slat opinion.” Oregonlive.com. n.b. Web. 22 Nov. 2014.