Social Class in the United States

There are not exact guidelines for classes in the United States and different theories try to make it classified. Most Americans believe in a three-class model. They are the rich, the middle class, and the poor. America is a diverse society considering its culture, economy, politics and ideology which make different levels of wealth, income, education, occupation and social behavior. It is not easy sometimes to classify certain groups or people in a certain class.

One approach which is more common is based on cultural and economic diversity of the people and defines more of them in middle class.

"Sociologist Dennis Gilbert, William Thompson and Joseph Hickey as well as James Henslin have proposed class systems with six distinct social classes. These class models feature an upper or capitalist class consisting of the rich and powerful, an upper middle class consisting of highly educated and Well-paid professionals, a lower middle class consisting of semi-professionals, a working class compiled by clerical as well as blue collar employees whose work is highly routinized and a lower class which is according to Gilbert is divided between the working poor and underclass. "

"A stratified society is one marked by inequality, by differences among people that are regarded as being higher or lower … it is logically possible for a society to be stratified in a continuous gradation between high and low without any sharp lines … in reality … there is only a limited number of types of occupations … People in similar positions … grow similar in their thinking and lifestyle … they form a pattern, and this pattern creates social class. " -Dennis Gilbert, The American Class Structure, 1998

The nominal approach believes that American society is socially and economically fragmented and it causes no clear class distinctions.

There are also some who believe in certain classifications, but the most common idea points out the American society as a highly developed one which frames a complicated class system. Again those who put vast majority of Americans among the middle class are more.

Class in the US is more based on the personal income and educational attainment for the people age 25 or older. It results in the hierarchy in which individuals find themselves.The members of the society are distributed among positions of varying importance, influence, and prestige. It describes the positions a person may be regarded in the society. The positions are not equal some are more agreeable than the others regarding their essentiality to the well-being of the society as a whole. There are some positions which are rewarded with prestige and income. The positions can be occupation related or not, like the role of being a parent or being a member of a wealthy family. The job role itself remains one of the most important status features in the United States and that is why the promotion at work is so important. The positions and jobs create opportunities to enjoy different services and facilities of the society which are not provided equal to all. For example the more money a person has the better clothes he can buy and it is related to the class the very same person belongs.

"It is impossible to understand people's behavior … without the concept of social stratification, because class position has a pervasive influence on almost everything … the clothes we wear … the television shows we watch … the colors we paint our homes in and the names we give our pets … Our position in the social hierarchy affects our health, happiness, and even how long we will live. " -William Thompson, Joseph Hickey, Society in Focus, 2005

The nature of American lifestyle which is based on capitalism produces classes as well.
"We are proud of those facts of American life that fit the pattern we are thought but somehow we are often ashamed of those equally important social facts which demonstrate the presence of social class. and by doing so we tend to deny their existence and magically make them disappear from consciousness. " -W. Lloyd Warner, What Social Class Is In America

To study the class system in the US different elements must be considered, some of them will be followed briefly in this article.

1. Income which is one of the most predominant indicators of class status. It has total influence on the class of people.

"It should be stressed … that a position does not bring power and prestige because it draws a high income. therefore superficial and erroneous to regard high income as the cause of a man's power and prestige, just as it is erroneous to think that a man's fever is the cause of his disease … The economic source of power and prestige is not income primarily, but the ownership of capital goods (including patents, good will, and professional reputation). Such ownership should be distinguished from the possession of consumers' goods, which is an index rather than a cause of social standing.'- Kingsley Davis and Wilbert E Moore, Principles of Stratification

2. Education which is related to occupation and income. Higher education is required for many middle class jobs. Generally the better income provides better opportunities to study.

3. Culture which contains sub-cultures as well. It causes assimilation among people to be like the other classes maybe. As mentioned before US is a diverse country and it provides assimilation and generalization which will affect everything in people's lives from the manner in which they raise their children, initiation and maintenance of romantic relationship to the color in which they paint their houses.

Also, agriculture and other industries are important studying about the class system in America.
The elements which stated and the others which were all studied by sociologists are used to define the social class in America as: upper class, corporate elite, middle class, upper middle, traditional middle class, lower middle class, working class and lower class.

Source by Fatemeh Azimzadeh

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