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One sociological perspective distinguishes the classes, in part, according to their relative power and control over their lives. The upper class not only have power and control over their own lives but also their social status gives them power and control over others’ lives. The middle class doesn’t generally control other strata of society, but its members do exert control over their own lives. In contrast, the lower class has little control over their work or lives. Below, we will explore the major divisions of U.S. social class and their key subcategories.

Upper class

A luxurious house and grounds.
Members of the upper class can afford to live, work, and play in exclusive places designed for luxury and comfort. (Photo courtesy of PrimeImageMedia.com/flickr)

The upper class is considered the top, and only the powerful elite get to see the view from there. In the United States, people with extreme wealth make up 1 percent of the population, and they own one-third of the country’s wealth (Beeghley 2008).

Money provides not just access to material goods, but also access to a lot of power. As corporate leaders, members of the upper class make decisions that affect the job status of millions of people. As media owners, they influence the collective identity of the nation. They run the major network television stations, radio broadcasts, newspapers, magazines, publishing houses, and sports franchises. As board members of the most influential colleges and universities, they influence cultural attitudes and values. As philanthropists, they establish foundations to support social causes they believe in. As campaign contributors, they sway politicians and fund campaigns, sometimes to protect their own economic interests.

U.S. society has historically distinguished between “old money” (inherited wealth passed from one generation to the next) and “new money” (wealth you have earned and built yourself). While both types may have equal net worth, they have traditionally held different social standings. People of old money, firmly situated in the upper class for generations, have held high prestige. Their families have socialized them to know the customs, norms, and expectations that come with wealth. Often, the very wealthy don’t work for wages. Some study business or become lawyers in order to manage the family fortune. Others, such as Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian, capitalize on being a rich socialite and transform that into celebrity status, flaunting a wealthy lifestyle.

However, new-money members of the upper class are not oriented to the customs and mores of the elite. They haven’t gone to the most exclusive schools. They have not established old-money social ties. People with new money might flaunt their wealth, buying sports cars and mansions, but they might still exhibit behaviors attributed to the middle and lower classes.

The middle class

A group of women are shown talking and eating.
These members of a club likely consider themselves middle class. (Photo courtesy of United Way Canada-Centraide Canada/flickr)

Many people consider themselves middle class, but there are differing ideas about what that means. People with annual incomes of $150,000 call themselves middle class, as do people who annually earn $30,000. That helps explain why, in the United States, the middle class is broken into upper and lower subcategories.

Questions & Answers

what are the consequences of schooling in view of norms of independence
Sitali Reply
social endurance
Olumide
what is the importance of durkhiem in sociology
Roselyn Reply
he analysis the role of human interaction and it's operation to explain, conceptualize and infer on social realities and the social representations.
Mary
what are the uses of culture
Folorunso Reply
Define society in relation to sociology
Tuxa Reply
society is a group of people who live same geographical area and has similar culture while sociology is the study society and how they interact.
yuusuf
origin of sociology
Ayshatrah
what is conflict theory, structural functionalism theory
Beene
what do sociologists study
Rachel Reply
The establishment; its economic system, education system, law, governance, society's behavior, society (in general), demographics, beliefs, cultures etc.
Leonard
aociologists study how society and people interact systematically and differencies of the world
yuusuf
they study group behaviour
owais
I have an assignment on sociology to interview people who have vulnerable diseases such as AIDS, Hepatitis, Cancer, Diabetes etc can someone advice me how to approach them because it's very difficult for me to do it
Mary Reply
Treat them with kindness like you would anyone else. No one likes to be treated with kid gloves - it's insulting and makes anyone feel marginalized. Do not approach them with piety (i.e., asking 'Are you okay?' with the slight head tilt). It's insulting and they will likely dismiss you immediately.
andi
treat them like you are a patient like also giving them motivational stories, play games with them
Great
sociological perspective
Davison Reply
When you are sick what should you do?You consult a physician likewise when the society is not functioning well what should the government do?Also consult a sociologist
Joseph Reply
hi where are you live mr joseph
Abdinasir
yes Abdinasir "in somalia"
yuusuf
and you
yuusuf
hy
nura
Hy is a for skin in Swedish.
Joakim
hi
yuusuf
Hi
Joakim
Hello everyone, who is from cameroon here because am tired with the 2 weeks ghost town here especially in North and South West region and I have not even done my sociology assignment I don't know were to start
Mary
hi everyone
Tariq
am new in this field I was given an assignment any one knows how to, need help
Davison
just give a tip of the assignment
Mary
Can you bring the assignment's question on board? if no than how one will know the assignment's question?
Emmanuel
who here for now?
Emmanuel
Is there anyone in here?
Emmanuel
how sociology affects in them adversity in age of globilization
mohamed
I leave in Nigeria
Joseph
hi
saad
Sociology affects people in many ways for instance, urban people's thought, life style, way of living is totally different than people live in rural areas. availability of Internet has impact on people because we spend leisure time with friends if we get time but now It's change due to internet.
saad
It depends on your geographic location, government, and what type of physician you are in need of. Always - regardless of where you reside - make certain that your doctor is aligned with an organization for physicians seeking higher ethical standards.
andi
hi Great from Zimbabwe ....and I'm new in this field
Great
Am a Nigeria
Olumide
hai
Machila
what is the relevance of sociology?
Love Reply
how conflict theory differs from functionalist theory in relation to education
kealeboga Reply
Education is a major social institution that helps transmit information, beliefs, and skills through formal training or teaching. Education plays a hug role across the world.
Timi
discuss how some symbolic interactionist theories view the family in relation to socialisation
kealeboga
how can counteract biases?
Hawa Reply
is so splendid
Aminu
hi
Aminu
how r u
Farhana
help me in my sociology questions
Farhana
yes
ali
hi sociologist society
yasir
what is social phenomena and it's nature
yasir
Hell am Ilham
Ilham
pls i want to understand dis course because my lecturer x not helping me at all he don't explain in details
Ilham
what do sociologists study?
Rachel Reply
define sociology of culture ?
Qamar
define sociology in culture ?
Qamar
Tell me how can I easily differentiate the methodology vs methods?
Rk Reply
hi
Praveen
Halo
Rk
hi
Hope
hallo how are you
Chilals
m fine nd u
ali
Good morning friends
Md
what is positivism anyone explain this
Amarkhan
The process of social change in the Caribbean society can not be analyzed using the major macro European paradigm as they ignore the caribbean's reality, to what extent is this statement true?
Keron Reply
True
Andrew
I am a PhD candidate and i am creating a Trinidad and Tobago 🇹🇹 centric model
Andrew
am a social work trainee.I want to thank you all for your questions and answers,they really useful to me. so thanks en keep it up
Fatoumatta
why is it true @Andrew
Keron
np. if u in trinidad i may fly home in a few weeks. provided i get a cheap flight for under 1000 us..lmao. you will do well i not worried. Be proud of your caribbean identity
Andrew
It is true because the theories and grounded in their culture.
Andrew
Think about it. If you sample is apples and my sample is 🍇 while the numbers may be the same the output would be different.
Andrew
forgive my fruit metaphor i love food
Andrew
Furthermore when you study Philosophy principles which are way higher than sociological principles you realize that the methodological assumptions (values) of various societies are different.
Andrew
Best FIT will always be better than Best PRACTICES! Create your own.
Andrew
are*
Andrew
It boils down to the demographics of your sample
Andrew
If you have to get a representative sample it must be representative of the Society aka the Population you sampling. Different Societal Structure different representative sample. hint hint. A British model can never be transferred to a Trinidad Society.
Andrew
this is a question for my sociology for project.... I need help
Keron
what is the caribbean's reality?
Keron
what is the Macro European Paradigm?
Keron
oh and Andrew I am from Jamaica
Keron
deconstruct the theme. Macro - large or big Caribbean Thinking (paradigm)
Andrew
just write why you think Jamaican thinking is better than England
Andrew
thats the crux of the question
Andrew
and the Caribbean's reality is?
Keron
sigh
Andrew
bro reality is relative
Andrew
the question demands u think
Andrew
how do u define Caribbean reality
Andrew
the music we listen, the food we eat, how we worship, our laws etc
Keron
What is psychology and discuss its major factors
Peace
explain in details five agents of sociology
Kaoma
Andrew what factors that makes people to stop socialising
Kaoma
I am not agree to data analysis and payment
Dipeshkumar Reply

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Source:  OpenStax, Introduction to sociology 2e. OpenStax CNX. Jan 20, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11762/1.6
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