The U.S. Should Stop Turning a
Blind Eye to Social Class
“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
Officially, a caste system like the one in
But there is little doubt the
Royal Line (Elite): This is the class of leisure wealth and all-star status. It’s where our CEOs, professional athletes, Hollywood actors, mainstream musicians, congressmen and senators reside. These are the people the rest of us write about, read about, watch on TV, and emulate in fashion and culture.
MacWealthy (Privileged): This is the class of well-educated professionals. These are where the lawyers, doctors, scientists, technologists, and consultants come from. These are the high-level business people who live in the MacMansions in our teaming suburbs.
White Fence (Middle): The unique thing about the
is our ability to delude ourselves. This is the class where the workers reside and all of them think they are in the middle class – no matter what they’re income level. This is where janitors, clerical workers, fire fighters, construction workers, craftsmen, retail salespeople, waitresses, line cooks, and garbage men fall. United States
Forgotten (Poor): The unemployed, drop-outs, illegal immigrants, and those who live below and around the poverty line reside here.
Other economists and sociologists divide
Not convinced that the
Here are the average household incomes for our classes: Royalty ($250,000 plus); MacWealthy ($77,500 to $250,000); White Fences ($30,000 to $77,500); and the Forgotten ($0 to $22,500).
Education obviously plays into the structure of the
The caste system in the
More evidence: poverty is increasing in the
Yet the taste for gourmet food in the
“In a world where people pay $4 a day for a Starbucks coffee, an expensive butter doesn’t seem that extravagant,” Andy Aron, CEO of Gourmet Garage, told TIME Magazine.
We’re living in an era when it’s common to see beggars lining up at stop lights with signs asking for change and where luxury hotels have added positions with names like Pet Concierge, Soap Steward, Running Companion and Fireplace Butler (patrons can choose different scented woods from a menu).
But perhaps our greatest problem with class in the
The Royalty and MacWealthy get better healthcare, better education, access to power brokers, treated better by police and government agencies, more financial incentives from banks and lenders, and, of course, better tickets to sporting events. They even get better tax breaks and get to sit on the sidelines during warfare.
Read our essay on the threat of bottled water