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Social Class

Large group of people who rank closely to one another in property, power, and prestige


Buildings, lands, animals, machinery, cars, stocks, bonds, businesses, furniture, jewelry, and bank accounts


The added up value of someone's property and subtract the person's debts; a person's net worth


A flow of money


The ability to get your way despite resistance

Power Elite

Refer to those who make the big decision in U.S. society


Respect or regard

Some jobs have been given higher prestige by people

1. They pay more 2. They require more education 3. They entail more abstract thought 4. They offer greater autonomy (independence, or self-direction); EX: physician has highest prestige and street sweeper has the lowest prestige

Status Consistent

Similar rank on all three dimensions of social class

Status Inconsistency

A mixture of high and low ranks


Position in a social group; Lenski analyzed that those who rank high in one dimension but lower on others want people to judge them on the basis of their highest status

Sociological Models of Social Class

Marx and Weber's models; Marx: 1. Capitalists 2. Workers 3. Inconsequential others

Erik Wright's modification of Marx's model of the social classes

1. Capitalists 2. Petty bourgeoisie 3. Managers 4. Workers


Business owners who employ many workers

Petty Bourgeoisie

Small business owners


Sell their own labor but also exercise authority over other employees


Sell their labor to others

The Capitalist Class

This tiny 1% is worth more than the entire bottom 90% of the country

The U.S. Social Class ladder

Kahl and Gilbert; 1. Capitalist- Prestigious university, investors and heirs, $1 mil+, 1% of pop. 2. Upper Middle-College or university, often with postgraduate study, professionals and upper managers, $125k+, 15% of pop. 3. Lower Middle-High school or college, often apprenticeship, semiprofessionals and lower managers, craftspeople, foremen, $60k, 34% of pop. 4. Working-High school, factory workers, clerical workers, low-paid retail sales, and craftspeople, $36k, 30% of pop. 5. Working Poor-Some high school, laborers, service workers, low-paid salespeople, $19k, 16% of pop. 6. Underclass-Some high school, unemployed and part-time, on welfare, under $12k, 4% of pop.

Consequences of Social Class

1. Physical Health 2. Mental Health 3. Family Life 4. Education 5. Religion 6. Politics 7. Crime and Criminal Justice

Physical Health

As you go up the social-class ladder, health increases

Mental Health

As you go up the social class ladder, stress is less and it doesn't have a good effect on mental health

Family Life

Social class affects choice of spouse, chances of getting divorced, and how we rear our children


Education increases as one goes up the social class ladder


Lower classes are attracted to more expressive worship services and louder music, while middle and upper classes prefer more "subdued" worship


People toward the bottom of the class structure are also less likely to be politically active-campaign for candidates or even to vote; Higher statuses are republicans and lower statuses are democrats

Crime and Criminal Justice

Lower classes are more involved in street crimes

Three Types of Social Mobility

1. Intergeneration Mobility 2. Upward Social Mobility 3. Downward Social mobility

Intergeneration Mobility

When grown children end up on a different rung of social class ladders than the one occupied by their parents

Upward social mobility

Going up on the social ladder

Downward social mobility

Going down on the social ladder

Structural Mobility

Refers to changes in society that allow large numbers of people to move up or down the class ladder

Exchange Mobility

Large numbers of people move up and down the social class ladder, but on balance, the proportions of the social classes remain about the same

Poverty Line

Determines who is poor or not; those thought to spend about 1/3 of income on food

Who Are the Poor?

Those in the southern states are the poorest in America; rural poverty is higher than national poverty


25% of African Americans and Native Americans are poor, but 41% of the poor are white because there are more of these types of people


1 out of every 4 people who drop out of high school is poor, but only 3 out of 100 people who finish college end up in poverty

Feminization of Poverty

Women average only 72% of what men earn; high divorce rates cause single mother homes

Old Age

The elderly are less likely than the general population to be poor

Culture of Poverty

The values and behaviors of the poor "make them fundamentally different than other Americans, and that these factors are largely responsible for their continued long-term poverty"

Children of Poverty

Children are more likely to live in poverty than are adults or the elderly

Why Are People Poor?

1. Social Structure: Denying some people access to education or the learning of job skills 2. Characteristics of individuals are assumed to contribute to poverty: laziness, lack of intelligence

Welfare Reform

The government would transform welfare recipients into self-supporting and hard-working citizens--and reduce welfare costs; Welfare system was reconstructed because some were on welfare too long or weren't looking for jobs

Horatio Alger Myth

One of the country's most popular authors in the 1800's; Wrote rags-to-riches stories that Americans can relate to; Encourages people to compete for higher positions, or reach for the highest star

What are the dynamics of poverty?

12% of poverty lasts longer than 5 years; 5% lasts up to 4 years; 8% lasts up to 3 years; 17% lasts up to 2 years; 59% lasts one year or less

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