Marger introduces us into the US class system by his own definition that “it refers to groupings of people with approximately similar income and occupation.” (pg 16, 22-24) This also can take into effect that most people of the same class grow up in the same neighborhoods and attend much of the same schools. The three social characteristics—income, occupation, and education—are referred to as socioeconomic status; which is an individual’s or group’s position within a hierarchical social structure. This also includes a place of residence and where that residence is located.
Different sociologist have different views on which amount of income is the dividing line in the six-part model of class. This model includes upper, upper-middle, lower-middle, working, working poor, and underclass.
The upper class, also referred to as the Capitalist class, derives a majority of their wealth from returns on their investments on properties as well as stocks and bonds. They also attend the most prestigious schools throughout their life. “The upper class represents a very tiny percentage of the general class structure, no more than 1 percent.” (pg 57, 36-37) There aren’t a lot of people in this part of class structure, but all their wealth combined is more than the rest of the classes put together.
Not so different from the upper class, the upper-middle class comprises about 20 percent of the United States. Most people work for the government, corporations, in medicine, education and are employed in other positions that are important in society. “The upper-middle class has expanded more than any other during the last several decades as the occupational structure of the society has changed.” (pg 59, 35-36) This happened because there is such a greater diversity in the types of jobs that are available today as opposed to in the past.
The lower-middle class is composed of government employees, non-retail service workers, and small-business owners. This class is what is observed then as “middle America” because they hold salaries close to society’s median. This class would not survive without a steady job.
The working class holds jobs from skilled workers to retail sales clerks. High school diploma and some college is the primary amount of education received. Most work on hourly wages.
The working poor is part of the working class but is poor. They receive low pay and most are unable to rise above the poverty line. Most don’t advance beyond high school and some don’t even finish.
The underclass remains in constant poverty and is dependent on government welfare. Most are not working and citizens in classes above them would assume that they are undeserving because of their situation. They show no hope of improving status and therefore will remain as they are while living in the inter-city areas.
The United States never had an aristocratic authority and was therefore comprised of middle class to begin with, such as farmer and entrepreneurs. Since the middle class is comprised of upper-middle, lower-middle, and working class, it has a wide range of salaries. This causes debate over what salary belongs a part of the upper class and which is should be part of the poor.
First the industrial society grew and created more middle-class jobs. Afterwards the post-industrial society arrived which brought about service and information jobs. Now there are managerial jobs that still qualify a person to be middle class. These have definitely expanded this class thoroughly over time and have made each sub-class more defined. Our society is undergoing a total economic reconstruction while we are changing from a manufacturing based economy to a service-based economy. Now because of technological advances and globalization our middle class is shrinking.
Social class affects Americans today because it creates standards in which to live with upper class being the ultimate goal for most people. I’ve never met a person who said they didn’t want to be ultra-rich. The upper class has the money to help support the decisions of this country, making it more of a capitalist class. The underclass affects our economy because everyone else who works to pays taxes to the government which in turn is handed out to the poor for their survival. There can’t be one without the other. If each person earned the same salary, under a different position, then every one would be equal. There would then be an entire global economic shift, but no one would want to lose pay though. If every one became rich, then money would be worthless.
Marger, Martin. Social Inequality: Patterns and Processes. New York: McGraw-Hill.