Social Class in Modern America: Successful Vs. Struggling

July 20, 2023
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A concept that has endured over generations in the United States is the stratification of society. Historically, things were straightforward, and a simple three-tier model prevailed, encompassing the upper class, the middle class, and the working class. However, contemporary America faces a contentious debate surrounding social class, with multiple conflicting definitions and disagreements about its very existence. The pivotal question that arises pertains to whether American society still remains class-oriented or if it is progressing towards classlessness and meritocracy. Regrettably, not all individuals in the United States are presented with equal opportunities for success due to the hierarchical ranking within social classes. This structure leads to inequality, with certain individuals attaining higher status and standards of living compared to others.

Class Division in America

Scott and Leonhardt argue that class mobility opportunities have not changed significantly in the present day. Recent studies on mobility indicate that the chances of ascending the ladder of success for the middle and lower classes are far fewer than previously believed. The prospect of moving from the working class to the upper echelons has become increasingly improbable and impractical. Consequently, the concept of the "American dream" has turned into a myth, with its core meaning obscured for the present generation.

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The underlying tenet of the "American dream" suggests that the United States operates as a meritocracy, where one's class is based on achievements and self-success. Membership in a specific social class hinges on one's career accomplishments and educational attainment. Scott and Leonhardt's article highlights education as a key component of meritocracy. Wealthier parents have distinct advantages over their less affluent counterparts, as they can invest more in their children's education, leading to greater opportunities. While parental education significantly influences a child's achievements, financial resources and affluence also exert a substantial impact. Family stability is another factor that affects meritocracy, as better-educated couples tend to instill values and provide early guidance, which plays a pivotal role in academic and professional success. The elite in America raise their children to be worthy of their inherited status, success, and wealth, whereas those without access to education must rely on alternative means for career advancement. However, despite the advantages bestowed upon elite families compared to lower classes, America maintains the belief that newcomers can ascend to the elite ranks through creativity, persistence, and talent.

The three classes – upper, middle, and working classes – have now become highly diverse in terms of lifestyle, wealth, and culture, leading some to argue that the American society is moving towards classlessness. Nevertheless, sociologists contend that inequalities persist in various aspects of life, indicating that class distinctions are still present in modern society. The affluent continue to enjoy superior access to healthcare and education, while others remain underprivileged. This disparity grants wealthy families an advantageous edge over other social classes in American society. Despite the advancements in modernization, technological changes, and globalization that have improved the living standards of the current generation, they have not brought an end to social class distinctions. The breadth of diversity has made these social groups so vast and intricate that any statements regarding a social class should be understood as broad generalizations. Class differences also extend to health outcomes, with individuals in the upper class experiencing longer and healthier lives than those in the middle class, who fare better than their lower-class counterparts. Clearly, social class plays a pivotal role in shaping the lives of the American people.


In conclusion, while different studies and research may present diverse theories about class in America, it is evident that class remains an unavoidable factor in the lives and society of Americans. It has been and will continue to be a critical component in the advancement and education of U.S. society.

Today, the social class landscape in modern America is immensely complex and somewhat misleading. It can no longer be accurately judged or evaluated based on outdated and traditional concepts of class division. Although the lines separating society may appear blurry or obscure nowadays, their influence on the fabric of society is stronger than ever. It is only becoming slightly more challenging for society to interpret its role.

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