Category Archives: Social Class

Caste System

So, what is there to say about caste systems? Well, they’re based on what caste a person is born to and are designed to keep order within society based. The way I see a caste system is that there are levels of power and in no way can you ever move up or down to experience any other one of the castes.

Caste systems maintain the power structure and at the same time, they limit access to power. When born in a caste, you have no chance of mobility and have no idea how the other castes live and prosper. During the Middle Ages in Europe, society was like a caste system; Kings and Queens were at the top, knights were the next stage down and at the bottom were the peasants.  It was an extremely rare occurrence for someone to experience mobility at that time.  There were exceptions like Joan of Arc who was born a peasant girl, having no chance of ever being anywhere but the bottom. But, by the age of 17, she was hearing voices from God and was chosen to lead the French armies into battle and experienced upward mobility as a result (Deadliest Warrior: Season 3, Episode 2. Los Angeles: Spike TV, 2011. N. pag. Web. 27 July 2011).

But for the most part, caste systems are made to keep organization among the masses; it’s mainly set around the characteristic traits that you inherit at birth. And with this specific trait, society sees you as nothing more than that person. You are basically type caste by society, meaning you are known for that one trait and nothing can change that; you live in your caste.

While the United States isn’t based on a caste system, the country of India has a caste system of five castes: you have your priests, the warriors or military, merchants which are your traders or officials, the unskilled workers which are your equivalent to the American blue-collar occupations, and the untouchables who are subjected to doing the jobs that no one wants to take. Thet are trash collectors, window washers, janitors, pretty much the untouchables do the dirty work for the people of India.

A caste system could also be linked to a slave system as well, because, slave systems work a bit like a caste.   Slaves have children, and they too become slaves because of their parents status. They typically were not allowed to move up in status.

Caste systems may be justified based upon stereotypes of how the people are built physically and then subject to jobs that best suit that physique. Caste requires endogamy, and thus  people reproduce with similar individuals and pass on these traits, so it is claimed. For instance, if some people appear to be big and strong, you would label them only useful for a physically demanding jobs like construction or firefighting. Or, an individual with a more slender appearance may only be labeled as a banker or teacher; because that’s pretty much all that they are useful for. But this is discriminatory, because you are labeling and stereotyping people based on appearance and and using this to justify caste discrimination. In my view, I see this as an unnatural way to keep order.

Caste levels can be made based shared physical traits, such as the racially based systems of segregation in the U.S. and South Africa.  A critique of these systems can be found in the 1968 film “Planet of the Apes”, in which the system of caste was based on the species of simian. In this movie, gorillas were the hunters and military based on their size and muscularity. Orangutans were the leaders and government officials because of their ability to cooperate and debate. And chimpanzees were the scholars, teachers, and scientists of the Planet of the Apes (Watchmojo: Planet of the Apes Franchise Retrospective. N.p.: YouTube, 2011. Web. 4 Aug. 2011.) In this system, no one from any castef could move up or down, even those who made the system. In this system, the law forbids you to change caste.  For example, a rich person just sitting around one day thinking, “Gee, I wonder what it’s like to collect trash, or teach children at a school, or even repair a motorcycle for a living,” wouldn’t be allowed to try any of these occupations.

Orangutans

 

 

 

 

Gorillas

Chimpanzeees

 

 

 

 

In a democratic society like the United States, people can experience any occupation. But in a caste system, it’s like being in a box with only one window that doesn’t open so that you can only see what happens and not actually participate. This is similar to a slave system, where there is no chance of mobility through heredity. But for a slave, there is a way out; it’s just very difficult to pry up one of the walls of the box enough in order to get out. Those who are lucky enough to escape the box broke the code of slave and caste to experience social mobility.

In some ways, social class is comparable to a caste. As you know, castes are like being in a box with no door, but social class is like the box with one difference, there’s a door. But there’s a rule for this: in order to experience mobility in a social class system, you need to have some wealth and a little education to move up. It often feels like you are going to be in the class for your whole life, but with that American dream of working hard, you can move up from the bottom.  This is compared to a caste, where no matter how hard you work, you are never going to move up or down; it’s always the same.

Perhaps we can overlook the “always the same” idea by taking a look at the novel Divergent; a society divided by five factions represented by one personality trait. How this type of caste system works is that all 16-year old children actually have a chance of mobility. They all have a simulation test that will determine what traits they possess. When finished, the instructor informs them which traits they presented, and they ultimately change caste by blood oath and remain there for the remainder of their days. This concept plays like a caste system that experiences limited mobility. (Roth, Veronica. Divergent. N.p.: HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2013. Web. 22 Oct. 2013). How about that, huh?

Sometimes it’s difficult for people to have mobility based on wealth and income because of their occupation. The people who are in the lower class have it the hardest, they have low paying jobs that almost never experience college education and therefore cannot move up the social ladder. It’s hard to pay for school because they earn very little to pay for it. In contrast, children who are born to wealth, have a much higher chance of attending college, mainly due to the fact that they have the wealth to pay for it. Therefore it’s easier for them to become educated and successful. But it does make me think what their parents or grandparents did to earn that wealth because they may have started with little money as well and their children were just born to rich parents. The parents thought about the American dream and succeeded, but their kids could actually ask their parents for the money and go to college and become whatever they want without really working hard. Think about it.

I feel like that there really is no need for caste systems. Because even though it’s a way to keep peace and order and avoid chaos, we have to realize that people are not going to follow only one person’s system forever. Those people may one day realize that they have more to offer than to just one trait or one occupation,  like the groups in the Planet of the Apes film. We should not label people as belonging to a certain group or otherwise that’s what society is just going to see them as. We also shouldn’t build a society based on what group people are born into, but we should build one based on what they can do.  Stratification systems should be built on talent and freedom, never heredity. What do you think?

— Alexander

Work Cited

Deadliest Warrior: Season 3, Episode 2. Los Angeles: Spike TV, 2011. N. pag. Web. 27 July 2011.

Roth, Veronica. Divergent. N.p.: HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2013. Web. 22 Oct. 2013.

Watchmojo: Planet of the Apes Franchise Retrospective. N.p.: YouTube, 2011. Web. 4 Aug. 2011.

Advertisements

Social Mobility

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.

1-4However 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.

— Meeshon

 

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.

 

 

Social Class

While growing up in America, you learn that people are categorized by their class, which is based on their wealth. The different social classes are the lower class, which is known to most to be poverty, homeless, and unemployed and lacking education. The next class is the working class, the people in this class are considered to be manual laborers. Jobs that you would associate with this class are construction workers, builders, plumbers, and even electricians. Then there is the middle class which most people in the United States would define themselves as. There is an upper middle class and also a lower middle class, usually the upper middle class workers have a good education and a great job, whereas the lower middle class has less of an education and gets paid less. Finally there is the upper class which is comprised of only 1 to 3 percent of the United States population and holds more than 25 percent of the nation’s wealth.  This class divides into two groups:  “old money” and “new money”. Old money are the big dogs at the top of the food chain; they are the most prestigious and were born into wealth.  An example of this would be the Rockefellers.

This picture illustrates the differences in appearance of people in different social classes.

An important belief in the United States is that anyone can advance past the status that they were born into, this belief is what drives many entrepreneurs to come up with new ideas. Social mobility is what keeps people working hard and trying to succeed.  Even though it is rare for someone to change their ascribed class, it is by no means impossible, all it usually takes is hard work and determination. One of the biggest barriers to social mobility is the social inequality that society faces. An example of social inequality is the differences in educational opportunities, a homeless man will be unable to go to college where he can earn a degree which could help him get a job.

— Jason

Social Class

Income and wealth varies from one social class to another and you are most likely going to stay in the same economic class as when you are a growing up. I noticed this when I was very young. I happened to know a few people that were “rich” or “well off” and it seemed like their children grew up and got very good jobs and stayed in the same class as their parents. In SOC, 2012, it states that of the 36 percent of children with parents in the top wealth quintile, only 11 percent drop down into the bottom quintile. The mean income in the United States of American is just over $67,000, the median income is $49,445. Remembering that the mean is the middle of the road, from the poorest of the poor to richest of the rich, the mean income is directly in the middle. The median is all the incomes of every U.S. citizen divided by the number of people the United States. Income brackets are divided into five quintiles. In the lowest quintile the average mean household income is $11,034 per year. The second quintile’s average household mean income is $28,636, the middle quintile’s average mean income is $49,309 per year. In the fourth quintile the mean is $79,040. Now we start getting into the six digit incomes. The fourth is $169,633 and in the fifth quintile, the mean income per household is $287,686. You can plainly see the difference between the levels. In America in 2010, 15 percent of the nation’s population was living below the poverty line. Poverty involves all races, people and ages. People between the ages 18 to 65 years old make up 56.7 percent of the poor population. If you break the percentage of people living at the poverty line up by race, white people make up 42.4 percent, African Americans make up 23.1 percent, Hispanics make up 28.7 percent and Asians and pacific islanders make up 3.0 percent. Statistically, looking at the percent of people that pull themselves out of poverty and live better than their parents did, you see a very small percent of people that move up to a higher quintile. It seems that people tend to be okay with not having more then they grew up with, although it is true that others set goals and work hard to achieve more than their parents did. In some cultures it isn’t a matter of not wanting more. Some cultures look down upon those who want more. It is seen as selfish and disrespectful to outdo your ancestors. In others, the concept of working hard to move up in the world and bettering your life is respected. In general, people that want more out of life can work for it and their hard work can pay off.

— Ethan

Work Cited:  Witt, J. (2012). Ch. 10 Social Class. In SOC 2013. New York: McGraw-Hill Higher Education

The American Dream

I would say I grew up in a lower middle class household. My mother a nurse and my father a small engine mechanic. There were some birthdays and Christmases that were better than others but overall my family was pretty well off. I was not spoiled by any means but I normally got what I wanted, within reason. We lived in a four bedroom house somewhere between rural and suburban. More suburb if I had to choose one. It was home and I would not have traded it for anything else. In high school I had this dream of playing football at a private college called Albion. I visited the college and the coaches really wanted me on the team. However, financially, the money just was not there. Government financial aid did not help out enough for me to attend this college and thus my dream was shattered. I was devastated at first but soon realized it was not the end of the world. I then applied to Lansing Community College and am excelling exponentially.

Everything in our society revolves around money and what socioeconomic status you belong. Statuses can be divided into a few categories based on income. Starting from the bottom it goes like this, lower class, working lower class, lower middle class, upper middle class and upper class. This structure of socioeconomic status has been adopted by many sociologist in recent years. There are any different concepts that contribute to socioeconomic status including, race, location and family type.

Race is probably the most influential aspect of socioeconomic status. In the United States some races have huge advantages and disadvantages. My family is white, both of my parents have Dutch and Irish backgrounds. The United States is 63.2% white by population, however, only 41.5% of the poor population are white (Soc. P.255). More than half of the population in the United States is white but less than half are below the poverty line. Just being born with a white background puts me in a pretty good spot as far as socioeconomic status is concerned. So is that it, as long as you are born into a white family you will be rich? This is simply not the case, these are only averages. There are other factors that contribute, like where you live.

Location is a very interesting concept to socioeconomic status. Where you live has a direct impact on socioeconomic status. The Deep South for example is at a very high disadvantage. South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona all fall in last place with an average of 17-22.2% of the population, in those states, below the poverty line (Soc. P.255). For my family we are sitting pretty well off in this category as well. Living in the great mid-west state of Michigan we experience only 13.3-15.1% of the population below the poverty line (Soc. P.255). Much less than the southern states. What causes this? Race? Location? Family type?

Family types varies across the board, from single dad to happily married couples. The type of family has an impact on socioeconomic status. Married couples have it the best and it makes sense. Two adults, two incomes combining to make one. My family was very well off in this category. My mom makes an average of about $50,000 a year and my dad about $32,00 combining for a total of about $82,000 a year. That is a lot more money than say a single mom or single dad could. But again there are exceptions all over.

The point is there are many different aspects and concepts that make up ones socioeconomic status. They all add up to the end product which is where you stand in the greater society. My family is sitting in a fairly good place for what we need. We have food on the table every night, clothes on our backs and a roof over our heads. We have all that we could hope for. I think I got ahead of my status when looking for colleges to attend, picking a private school was not the best case scenario. As far as my football dreams go, when one door closes another shall open. I am currently an assistant coach on my hometown’s middle school football team. Teaching the game of football to younger kids is way more enjoyable than playing, in my opinion. There is a lot that money can buy but it cannot buy you everything. “Money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as a driver” – Ayn Rand.

 — Dylon

 

Works cited:  Witt, Soc 3rd edition. Mcgraw Hill Education Inc. P. 236-263. New York, NY. 2014.

Cultural Capital

According to sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, cultural capital is our tastes, knowledge, attitudes, language, and ways of thinking that we exchange in interaction with others. We adapt to our certain cultural capital when we become a part of certain social classes and cultural groups. Almost everything that a person does is because of their cultural capital. What we wear, how we talk, where we live, what grocery stores we shop at, what we consider to be entertainment, are all a part of our cultural capital.

This concept of cultural capital relates heavily to our social classes. People of the upper class have different lifestyles and tastes than people of working or lower class. For example, people of the upper class are more likely to consider the opera or “black-tie parties” as entertainment than people of the working or lower class, who may enjoy NASCAR on television. Another example of this takes place in high schools. In high schools all over the United States, there are different social classes within each of them. For some schools, most of the students belong to the same social class, usually when the school is private or in a well-off area. But in most schools there is a little bit of everything. When there are different social classes in one school, there will be groups, or “cliques” that stick together because they share the same cultural capital. There may be a group of students that all hang out together because they live in the nice part of town, shop at expensive places and have nice cars. At the same time, there will be groups of students that hang out together because they all live in the poor area of town, they get their clothes from the same stores like Good Will, and don’t have cars but ride the bus together. People tend to associate and stick together with people in their social class because they share the same cultural capital and it makes it easier for them to interact sharing the same interests and hobbies.

Often times when dealing with cultural capital, stereotypes are involved. Stereotypes are unreliable generalizations about all members of a group that do not recognize individual differences within that group. It is very common for people to stereotype social classes other than their own. For example, people of the upper class often stereotype the lower class as being lazy, talking with uneducated slang, and being obese. Stereotypes cause problems between social classes and forces a bigger gap between them with negative thoughts on each other. People of certain social classes sometimes don’t do things only because they don’t want to be judged by their peers as someone of another social class. An example would be if someone of the upper class wanted to partake in an activity called “mudding” (people drive their trucks through the mud and get stuck) but didn’t because they would be judged as someone from the lower class by their friends and feel this would be negative due to stereotypes. This is the problem that comes along with cultural capital.

There are also some problems with cultural capital when social mobility occurs. Social mobility is when someone moves from one social class to another. The problem with this is that when someone joins a new social class, the cultural capital that they had with their old class now changes and they adopt new cultural capital. If someone originally from the working class gradually becomes a part of the upper class, they no longer have the lifestyle they once had. Often times, people struggle with the new change because they feel they don’t belong or are not accepted by the people in their new social class. For example, in the movie “People Like Us,” there was a woman who felt uncomfortable going to the upper class social gatherings because she was new to that lifestyle and wasn’t used to the etiquette rules and things like that. Although the people around her in the video seemed to be accepting of her, often times that is not the case. Also when social mobility occurs, the people who are a part of the social class that the person left behind often times feel betrayed because they “forget where they came from”. The person making the change feels unaccepted in either social class.

— Mackenzie

Witt, Jon. Soc 2014. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2014. Print.

Social Inequality

Do you know what social inequality is? When it’s brought to your attention you most likely are thinking it means having unequal rights in society, which, in a way, you’re right! Social inequality is described as a condition in which members of society have different amounts of wealth, prestige, or power. You understand now? Let’s look at it this way, a boy who is raised around parents that are farmers versus a boy being raised around parents that are lawyers is most likely going to stay in or around that same “class” per say.  A child’s social class greatly affects his chance to go outside of the class he was born into. This affects the boy’s amount of wealth, prestige or power throughout his life.

Now you may be asking, what is social class.  Well, it’s a group of people with similar positions in society. Like the boys and their parents, in most cases, will be in the same class. In other words a maid and a janitor are in the same social class just as a dentist and an architect are. These two sets of examples of social classes are also forms of social inequality; one set makes a greater amount than the other set. With all this being said, I’d like you to know that just because one is raised in a certain class it is very possible for them to change classes, this is called social mobility.

Social mobility is when there is movement of individuals or groups from one position in society to another, this can happen positively or negatively, this is called vertical mobility. To give you a better understanding let’s say the maid is now a dentist and the architect is now a janitor. The maid has now experienced great vertical mobility while the architect has now experienced negative vertical mobility. Let’s just go into a little more depth, here’s a short story about Benjamin Franklin. Franklin’s father was a soap maker with 17 children to take care of, he wanted Benjamin to enter the clergy but could only afford one year of schooling and clergymen needed many years of schooling. Instead he had him apprenticed to his brother who was a printer and he ended up selling their work on the streets. After trying many times to show his work to his brother and others, he ran away looking for printers work, he failed greatly and even became homeless. Soon enough he finally got a printers job and started his own business and the citizens began to notice him. He began getting contracts to do government jobs and from then on business was booming. To this day we know him as drafting the Declaration of Independence and the face to the $100 bill. Benjamin Franklin is just one example of vertical mobility, social class and social mobility that ties into social inequality.

— Ryan

 

Cited Sources

“A Quick Biography of Benjamin Franklin.” The Electric Ben Franklin. USHistory.org, 4 July

  1. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <http://www.ushistory.org/franklin/info/&gt;.

Witt, Jon. “Social Class.” SOC. 3rd ed. New York: McGraw Hill, 2014. 238. Print.

Witt, Jon. “Social Class.” SOC. 3rd ed. New York: McGraw Hill, 2014. 240-242. Print.

Social Mobility

Most people are told by their guardians, starting at a very young age, that if they really want something with enough work and time they can change anything to suit their desires. This is a great initial concept and one of the things that most people who remember their childhood fondly keep as one of the warmest memories of their caretakers. It is not my focus to debate the value of this idea on the positive development of children, even though it might be interesting to do so, but to examine the actual validity of this idea when compared to the real world application of social mobility.

When we are working towards our goals it is ingrained into our ideology as Americans that we will eventually move upwards within our social class system and be more socially stable or well off than our parents/guardians. The definition of social mobility is “The degree to which one can change the social stratum into which one is born.” When we think of the American success story we idealize people who were born into poverty or substandard conditions and rose above their initial means and found a new place within the world in a higher social class. What most people don’t realize however is that these are the very few cases within the thousands of similar scenarios that play out much differently all across the country. There is a growing stress on the need for a college education in order to be successful within our current system and this is supported by many studies showing the importance of education and the influence that it has on job security and yearly income.

The strength of education is widely accepted as a necessary part of a successful life, and more young adults are enrolling in colleges and universities across the country than ever before. In addition to all the young individuals attempting college there is also high numbers of middle aged people returning to education in attempts to better themselves. These are very commendable ideals but when compared with the success rate and actual reality of the chances of people going through college when born into the middle or lower class, all of a sudden we don’t see our country advancing as a whole at the rate we had thought we were. Studies have shown that children with high intellectual ability born into socially successful classes maintain this level of intellectual superiority, while children of the same potential born into lower social classes quickly plummet to a lower standard of intellectual pursuits. The inverse follows the same trend of logic, children with low potential that are born into the upper class quickly rise to reach the near levels of their peers while those born with low potential from a poor class level off fairly early and don’t usually rise above what they were born with. There are obviously exceptions for this idea however the data that supports this as an average is fairly startling.

The idea that people born into higher classes stay there is not an entirely uncommon concept and is shown most prevalently in the Conflict Theory represented by the Bourgeoisie and Proletariat concept. The Bourgeoisie representing the upper class of our capitalist system, and the Proletariat being those born into the lower classes. While this sociological perspective might not be the absolute best representation for the American class system it does postulate some interesting reasons for the tendency of people to maintain the same general class status as their guardians. If you are born into a wealthy family who possesses the ability to buy all the best educational opportunities, it only stands to reason that you will be more likely to succeed in the world maintaining that elevated social status. On the other hand if you are born into a low social class who does not possess the resources to offer the best chances at success you will be far more likely to follow along the same footsteps of not earning an advanced education setting you at a serious disadvantage in today’s job markets. This can be seen in general trends for children’s test scores when scaled with their parents education levels.

All of this is not to suggest that should you be born into a high social class that you aren’t likely to move down in standing, for that is an ever present and dangerous fact for the majority of New York stockbrokers and such. However, the concept of being able to stay in a higher social class when born into it only makes sense if you consider the fact that people raised in a higher class standing were given more opportunities and developmental chances because of the resources they had available to them.

In summary, I do not believe that social mobility is something to be given up on as an unattainable ideal, but rather should be understood to be far less likely than the common belief currently is within our country. Social mobility is not impossible and a truly inspirational occurrence, yet the statistics of today show that we may need to seriously evaluate how we view social mobility in terms of realistic outcomes. This is important to us as a nation because all issues should be seen as they truly are, not how we wish we could see them simply because of the ideal of what we wish them to be.

–Curtis

Social Class

Since the beginning of time, people have been categorized. The broadest category that everyone seems to fit into was a ‘social class’ category. Over time, and within different cultures, the definition of each class and what put you there has varied. For some cultures it was due to money, some it was a matter of race, and others a matter of immigration. Really, any type of social location could put a certain person into a certain class. As sociologists, we know the most important fundamentals of culture. Those fundamentals being: culture is learned and shared, and varies across time and place. That being said, we can deduce that our culture today has made our social class system what it is, based on what we have learned from other (much older) cultures. So I think the big question here is, why do we put people into social class systems? I firmly believe social classes help to define people and help a society function. Unfortunately, money defines who we are and in our society today, money (how much we have and how much we make) puts us into the classes we are in.

Money rules us. It buys us nice cars, nice clothes, and nice houses. You wouldn’t put Kim Kardashian and a homeless man in the same social class, would you? Of course not. You’ve been taught that how much money a person has, puts them into the social class they ‘belong’ in. So Kim would be put into the Elite class, and the homeless man would be put into the poor class. From day one, we have been taught that we each belong somewhere. As a child, I remember being confused. We have these social classes, but everyone is supposed to be equal? That doesn’t make much sense. However, I have since come to realize that as a society, we do the things we do because it is what we have been taught to do. The town I live in is primarily a lower-middle class town, with a few families being middle class, and a few families being lower class. My family is one of the few upper-middle class families in this town of less than ten thousand people. So personally, I was quite often reminded of my family’s money in a not so nice way. Jealousy is an emotion often aroused in teenagers, but high school was hard no matter how well I dealt with the kids who made me feel bad. All they saw were the nice clothes I wore and the nice car I drove to school. They didn’t see how hard both of my parents worked each and every day. My passionate Republican side says that everyone gets what they work for. I think that’s the issue with people today. They so desperately want something; they just aren’t willing to work for it. The same goes for social classes; people don’t want to be in the lower class anymore, but they really don’t do much to earn the money to put them in a different class. Like I stated earlier, money defines who we are.

Along with money, I feel as though racism has been a leading factor of putting people into different classes. Often times, the media will tell you a story of a murder committed by a black man, but they won’t tell you about the crimes committed of a white man. The media and movies have taught us that black people are always the ones to get in trouble. With the Civil War, and the Civil Rights Act, you would have thought that racism would have ended, but I do believe it is still alive today. For example, if a white woman and an Asian woman go to interview for the same job, the white woman is more likely to get the job. However, if a man and a female go in for the same job (no matter the race), the man will most likely get the job.

The biggest factors defining social class are income and wealth. To give you an example of social class inequality, in the workplace, for every dollar a man makes, a woman makes 77 cents. Potentiall, this puts any single father in a high social standing compared to a single mother. Also, the median household income is around $52,000 per year. From everything she does (clothing line, video game, makeup line, photo shoots, etc.), Kim Kardashian has stated she made roughly $28 million this year. Hardly seems fair. But then again, the famous quote goes, “Life isn’t fair.”

The problem is that the money in the US isn’t distributed equally; and I agree, it isn’t! I must warn you, Republican is going to come out of my mouth again. It irritates me to no end when I see a person panhandling on the side of the road. So my solution to those people is: instead of wasting your time making a few bucks on the side of the road, go to a place like McDonalds which hires all of the time, and make more money working there. Everyone has to start somewhere. It might be a crappy place like McDonalds, but it’s a start. Typically, people tend to stay in the same social class their whole lives, but any change you want to make, you have to work for it.

Social classes are unfair, a double-edged sword, if you will. However, in order to have a classless society, people would need to love themselves, and love thy neighbor. Knowing history, that will never happen. So for now, I think we as a society need to deal with the social class system and work towards a more loving society in general.

Here is a humorous video about social class from 1957:

Here is a stereotypical explanation of social class:

— Abby

 

Social Class

The United States social class system is broken down into five classes; the upper class, lower class, middle class, working class and the poor. Social inequality is ever present with the vast differences between these classes.

There are endless examples of the differences between upper class and the other lower classes. Members of the upper class are able to live extravagantly, having the best of everything. They are able to take vacations, buy the most expensive houses, cars, clothes, etc.   They can afford medical care and prescriptions. Members of the lower classes simply do not have these same luxuries.  The members of the poor class are often faced with having to choose between prescriptions or food. They often don’t have cars or adequate housing. Vacations and higher education are dreams, not realities. Members of the poor are happy to have clothes that are often used. Members of the working class often live paycheck to paycheck which can result in overdue bills and late fees. They have little to no savings. Members of the upper middle class are comfortable. They are not rich, but they can live comfortably and easily afford the costs of living as well as living within their means.

According to the US Census Bureau, American Community Survey, in 2011, 32.1 percent of Americans were members of the working class (PRB.Org).

According to the US Census Bureau, American Community Survey, in 2011, 32.1 percent of Americans were members of the working class (PRB.Org).

The size of this class continues to grow. My family is a working class family. I can tell you from my own personal experiences that the everyday struggle is real. My husband and I both work, yet are struggling to make ends meet. The only extra spending we have is for our college classes. Housing, food for our family of four, utilities, insurance and gas literally takes everything we have. We are not able to save for higher education for our children. If something unexpected happens, such as having to have car repairs or having to replace our hot water heater, it sets us back for weeks, sometimes months. Extracurricular activities for our kids are considered a luxury.

Discrimination has always been present in our country. It is most often thought of as minorities being denied social participation or human rights. On employment applications, we see statements telling us they will not discriminate against one’s race, color, religion, sex or national origin. I think it can be argued that social class can be added to those statements. I believe members of all classes are stereotyped. For example, members of the poor class are assumed to be uneducated, lazy and sometimes unworthy. Members of the upper class are assumed to be educated, motivated and important.

I thought this was an accurate depiction of our social classes here in the United States.

I thought this was an accurate depiction of our social classes here in the United States.

Look at the differences here. Clearly the bottom of the picture is our two lower classes. Notice the difference in clothing, lighting and cleanliness. It’s all bare bones if you will. Then you have the upper middle class dressed nice and neat with smiles on their faces. The one guy has a laptop and a cool lamp. Then the upper level is posh. All decked out in gold, huge smiles on their faces, looking like ‘fat cats’. The folks climbing the ladder cannot be ignored either. They are both trying their best to climb to the top. And what about the man falling on the left? To me, this looks as though he tried to climb to the top, only to be knocked down. Perhaps this artist does not believe in social mobility, lol!

Upper class is in no way the majority group, but it is definitely the dominant group. It is the rich that make the rules for all. Members of the upper classes are allowed a great number of privileges. Oddly enough, celebrities get free clothes and jewelry as the designers see that as advertisement. Celebrities are the last folks needing free clothes! Members of the upper class typically have high credit scores so they receive lower interest rates on mortgages, insurance, loans and credit cards. These are just some of the privileges the dominant upper class group receives. There are countless others.

At the end of the day, we are all human. We all want to live a good life and to be able to provide for our families. Those of us that are parents worry about our kids. We all have bills that must be paid on time. We all love to be entertained. Despite having all of these things in common, our social class seems to define who we are as individuals. Our social class is a label, one that creates an unnecessary divide between us as humans.

–Kim