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9.5A: Consequences of Social Class

  • Page ID
    8219
  • [ "article:topic" ]

    One’s position in the the social class hierarchy has far-reaching effects on their health, family life, education, etc.

     

    LEARNING OBJECTIVES

     

    Describe how socioeconomic status (SES) relates to the distributiuon of social opportunities and resources

     

    KEY TAKEAWAYS

    Key Points

     

    • While sociologists debate exactly how social classes are divided, there is substantial evidence that socioeconomic status is tied to tangible advantages and outcomes.
    • Social class in the United States is a controversial issue, with social scientists disagreeing over models, definitions, and even the basic question of whether or not distinct classes exist.
    • Many Americans believe in a simple three-class model that includes the rich or upper class, the middle class, and the poor or working class.

     

    Key Terms

     

    • hierarchy: Any group of objects ranked so that everyone but the topmost is subordinate to a specified group above it.
    • socioeconomic: Of or pertaining to social and economic factors.

    In the United States, a person’s social class has far-reaching consequences. Social class refers to the the grouping of individuals in a stratified hierarchy based on wealth, income, education, occupation, and social network (though other factors are sometimes considered). One’s position in the social class hierarchy may impact, for example, health, family life, education, religious affiliation, political participation, and experience with the criminal justice system.

    Social class in the United States is a controversial issue, with social scientists disagreeing over models, definitions, and even the basic question of whether or not distinct classes exist. Many Americans believe in a simple three-class model that includes the rich or upper class, the middle class, and the poor or working class. More complex models that have been proposed by social scientists describe as many as a dozen class levels. Regardless of which model of social classes used, it is clear that socioeconomic status (SES) is tied to particular opportunities and resources. Socioeconomic status refers to a person’s position in the social hierarchy and is determined by their income, wealth, occupational prestige, and educational attainment.

    While social class may be an amorphous and diffuse concept, with scholars disagreeing over its definition, tangible advantages are associated with high socioeconomic status. People in the highest SES bracket, generally referred to as the upper class, likely have better access to healthcare, marry people of higher social status, attend more prestigious schools, and are more influential in politics than people in the middle class or working class. People in the upper class are members of elite social networks, effectively meaning that they have access to people in powerful positions who have specialized knowledge. These social networks confer benefits ranging from advantages in seeking education and employment to leniency by police and the courts. Sociologists may dispute exactly how to model the distinctions between socioeconomic statuses, but the higher up the class hierarchy one is in America, the better health, educational, and professional outcomes one is likely to have.