How is the United States stratified into socioeconomic levels?

How is the United States stratified into socioeconomic levels?

What determines upper class, middle class, working class, and poor?

The US Class System is an economic-based system in which mobility is based on economics. Unlike other systems such as caste systems, there is mobility within the class system. This movement is based on the acquisition of wealth which allows one to move from one class to another. The United States is a class system divided into upper class, middle class, working class, and poor. There are other factors which impact class other than wealth. Wealth is the primary determinate but there are other factors which bar entrance into higher classes.

Upper Class

The upper class is the highest social class composed of individuals who are rich or what is known as well-born. These individuals typically hold the most authority through politics and control large amounts of wealth and resources. Although entrance into this class can be accomplished through wealth, there are some instances where people meet with rejection despite their wealth because they are not born into this class. The reference sometimes heard in conversation; “old money” refers to family money usually associated with high status families such as the Kennedy family. While one might earn a lot of money and move into an area of aristocratic wealth, they may not be accepted. There are many class differences and social structures that support these divisions such as Blue Book Societies which keep track of socialites and debutantes. You cannot just join these groups, even if you have wealth.

Middle Class

The middle class are those individuals who are somewhere between the lower and upper classes. This class is the most controversial class because it is difficult to determine due to its subjective nature. Many people who are considered working class earn enough money to be considered middle class. There is also the complication of people who are working class who consider themselves to be middle class.

Working Class

The working class are those individuals who are working but have very low-paying jobs. These individuals have little economic security. This group also has few resources and is characterized by unemployment and living at the poverty line.

The poor are those individuals who are in need of assistance and typically do not have enough money or resources to take care of themselves. The poor are characterized by lack of financial opportunity, homelessness, living in squalor, etc… These individuals are incapable of taking care of themselves due to their circumstances.


Photo: 58th International Debutante Ball, 2012, New York City (Waldorf-Astoria Hotel) By Antondbe — Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0


Triola Vincent. Thu, Mar 25, 2021. How is the United States stratified into socioeconomic levels? Retrieved from

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