Paper #2 Analysis of Stratification Social Class Introduction This paper will describe this student’s informed opinion regarding the class structure in the United States in terms of social class. Prior to researching for this paper this student did not think much about social class. However after knowing what she now knows it seems impossible to not realize the stratification in society. This paper will discuss key terms, additional readings, new knowledge regarding social class, and a critique of class structure. Class structure
Society is divided into seven sections: The super rich, wealthy, upper middle class, lower middle class, working class, the working poor, and the underclass. The super rich includes the persons who have benefits such as: A social register, alumni set asides at Ivy League schools, interlocking corporate boards of directors, and whose incomes are over $250,000. The wealthy class includes those with incomes over $200,000, children in private schools, and servants. The upper middle class includes approximately 23% of the households in the United States.
The incomes in this class of society range from $75,000 to $199,000. They are highly educated and professional, and active in local politics. The lower middle class is the most diverse class and is typically comprised of teachers, nurses, firefighters, police officers, and office workers. Their annual incomes range from $50,000 to $74,999. Their children can only attend college with work-study or student loans. The working class or “blue collar class” of society have jobs, not careers, as factory workers or clerical workers, or in hospitality and tourism.
The working class comprises 27% of the class structure. The children of the working class attend a community college for two years but are not likely to graduate. The working poor’s annual income does not exceed $25,000, they have unstable work without benefits, and include the highest percentage of people of color. The last class of society as outlined by Dr. Armstead, is the underclass. This class is growing rapidly. It includes about 15. 6 million unskilled workers and unemployed young mothers.
There are other economic stratification systems which include: Closed systems, open systems, Marxian model, and Weberian model. People born into a closed system are assigned their class position at birth and will never have an opportunity to better their situation. An example of this is India’s cast system. Those individuals living in an open system have an opportunity to move from one social class to another. No system is completely open or closed. The Marxian model divides society into four classes: capitalist class, managerial class, small business class, and the working class.
The Weberian model divides society into six sections: upper class, upper middle class, middle class, working class, working poor, and underclass. Additional Readings There are different social and economic lifestyles among the social classes. For example, Dr. William Domhoff believes the elite class of society sticks together by relaxing and socializing with each other at exclusive places such as The Bohemian Grove in California. Journalist Barbara Ehrenreich went undercover as an unskilled worker posing as a cleaning lady, waitress, nursing home aid, hotel maid, and Wal-Mart sales clerk.
Through her journey, readers were able to see what “prosperity” looks like through the eyes of the lowest level workers. The root causes of inequality are still not entirely understood as D. Weinberg explains in “A Brief Look at Postwar U. S Income Inequality. ” One of the factors that influence inequality is the wage distribution has become considerably more unequal with more highly skilled, trained, and educated at the top experiencing real wage gains and those at the bottom experiencing real wage losses (P60-191 3).
Also divorces, births out of wedlock, and the increasing age at first marriage have led to a shift away from married couple households and toward single parent household, which typically have lower incomes. What Was Learned Just like H. Gans in his “The Uses Of Poverty”, this student too thought it would be impossible to find the positive functions of poverty. Without the poor, who would do the “dirty work”? Such as field working or truck farming. Gans explains an interesting function of poverty which is that the poor help keep the rich busy. Society uses the poor as beneficiaries of charity affairs.
One more example outlined by Gans is, since the poor are powerless they absorb the costs of change and growth in American society. They are pushed out of their neighborhood to make room for progress which includes express ways, hospitals, and universities. The poor are important in their own ways. The poor pick the tomatoes that the rich eat. Even though the rich may eat organic tomatoes, both chew and swallow tomatoes in the same way. This student acknowledges that there are indeed distinct social classes; however each class has its own distinct and important role in society.
Critique of Class Structure Like a cast system, J. Rawls explains that most Americans raised at the top or bottom are likely to stay there as adults. The graph in the power point lessons shows a small deviation however the majority of society tends to stay in the class which they were born into. Of course social class in the United States does not compare to India’s cast system because in the United States, there is much much more opportunity to better your situation. Another eye opening aspect of this project was B. Ehrenreich’s book.
It was interesting to see how the low paid jobs which are considered “unskilled” actually require a lot of skill. Even the lowest paid job, requires exhausting mental and muscular effort. As D. Weinberg said, what if food stamps and welfare checks were added into the definition of income? If the definition of income was broadened, would any of the class percentages change? The way our society is divided there are some negative aspects such as: Poor neighborhoods have run down schools unlike upper class neighborhoods, whose schools have well maintained lawns and graffiti free walls.
Also these underclass neighborhoods are high in crime. Until only recently have poorer neighborhoods in Miami held farmers markets and book fairs. In this student’s ideal society, most of society would be middle class, leaving political agendas and the running of huge corporations up to the super rich. This student feels badly about assigning some people to the underclass of this “ideal” society, but she understands now that the poor play an essential part of a healthy society.
Between the facts provided in the various power point lessons and the additional reading assigned, one is able to formulate their own opinion about society in the United States and its different class divisions. This paper has described this student’s informed opinion regarding the class structure in the United States in terms of social class. The seven key terms, super rich, wealthy, upper middle class, lower middle class, working class, the working poor, and the underclass have been explained, and additional readings have been discussed.
All of this along with new knowledge regarding social class has enabled this student to critique the class structure in the United States. It is important that when studying or speaking with others about societal class division, that the speaker and listener keep an open mind. One can hope for equality for all, but as Dr. Armstead explains, total equality for all is impossible; however fairness for all is achievable. Citations Hunt, Elgin and Colander, David. (2011). Social Science: An Introduction to the Study of Society. 14th Edition. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon. www. trinity. edu/mkearl/strat. html www. census. gov
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