The social structural position that groups hold relative to the economic, social, political, and cultural resources of society.
- Class determines the access different people have to these resources and puts groups in different positions of privilege and disadvantage.
- Each class has members with similar opportunities who tend to share a common way of life.
- Class also includes a cultural component in that class shapes language, dress, mannerisms, taste, and other preferences.
- Class is not just an attribute of individuals; it is a feature of society.
- Class is a structural phenomenon; it cannot be directly observed--nonetheless, you can "see" class through various displays that people project, often unintentionally, about their class status.
- Social class can be observed in the everyday habits and presentations of self that people project.
- Common objects, such as clothing and cars, can be ranked not only in terms of their economic value but also in terms of the status that various brands and labels carry—the interesting thing about social class is that a particular object may be quite ordinary, but with the right "label," it becomes a status symbol and thus becomes valuable.
A person's movement over time from one class to another.
Can be up or down, although the American dream emphasizes upward movement.
- Mobility can be either intergenerational, occurring between generations, as when a daughter rises above the class of her mother or father, or intragenerational, occurring within a generation, as when a person's class status changes as the result of business success (or disaster).
- Societies differ in the extent to which social mobility is permitted—some societies are based on closed class systems, in which movement from one class to another is virtually impossible.
- At the other extreme are open class systems, in which placement in the class system is based on individual achievement, not ascription—in open class systems, there are relatively loose class boundaries, high rates of class mobility, and weak perceptions of class difference.
- What mobility exists is typically short in distance, and some people actually drop to a lower status, referred to as downward social mobility.
- Those born at both the top and bottom end of the income ladder are very likely to remain there
- When mobility occurs, it is usually because of societal changes that create or restrict opportunities, including such changes as economic cycles, changes in the occupational structure, and demographic factors
- The social mobility that does exist is greatly influenced by education— social mobility is much more limited than the American dream of mobility suggests.
The monetary value of everything one actually owns.
- Wealth is calculated by adding all financial assets (stocks, bonds, property, insurance, savings, value of investments, and so on) and subtracting debts, resulting in one's net worth.
- Wealth is cumulative—its value tends to increase through investment.
- Wealth can also be passed on to the next generation, giving those who inherit wealth a considerable advantage in accumulating more resources.
- Race also influences the pattern of wealth distribution in the United States. For every dollar of wealth White Americans hold, Black Americans have only 26 cents
- Being able to draw on assets during times of economic stress means that families with some resources can better withstand difficult times than those without assets—even small assets, such as home ownership or a savings account, provide protection from crises such as increased rent, a health emergency, or unemployment.
Examines the process by which a minority becomes socially, economically, and culturally absorbed within the dominant society.
- To become fully fledged members of society, minority groups must adopt as much of the dominant society's culture as possible, particularly its language, mannerisms, and goals for success, and thus give up much of its own culture.
- Assimilation stands in contrast to racial cultural pluralism—the separate maintenance and persistence of one's culture, language, mannerisms, practices, art, and so on.
- Many Americans believe that with enough hard work and loyalty to the dominant White culture of the country, any minority can make it and thus "assimilate" into American society
- Assimilationists believe that to overcome adversity and oppression, minority people need only imitate the dominant White culture as much as possible—general assumption is that with each new generation, assimilation becomes more and more likely.
A social category of people who share a common culture—a common language or dialect, a common nationality, a common religion, and common norms, practices, customs, and history, etc.
- Ethnic groups have a consciousness of their common cultural bond—a "consciousness of kind."
- They do not only exist because of the common national or cultural origins of a group, they can also develop also because of their unique historical and social experiences—these experiences become the basis for the group's ethnic identity, meaning the definition the group has of itself as sharing a common cultural bond.
- Ethnic identification may grow stronger when groups face prejudice or hostility from other groups.
- Perceived or real threats and perceived competition from other groups may unite an ethnic group around common political and economic interests
- Ethnic unity can develop voluntarily, or it may be involuntarily imposed when more powerful groups exclude ethnic groups from certain residential areas, occupations, or social clubs—exclusionary practices strengthen ethnic identity