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THE AMERICAN DREAM The Role of Social Class in the “Pursuit of Happiness” AMERICAN DREAM Land of Opportunity Rags to Riches—Anyone can become rich, famous, powerful. Jobs and education available to all who want them. Meritocracy (rewards)=skill + effort.

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The american dream l.jpg

THE AMERICAN DREAM

The Role of Social Class in the

“Pursuit of Happiness”


American dream l.jpg
AMERICAN DREAM

  • Land of Opportunity

  • Rags to Riches—Anyone can become rich, famous, powerful.

  • Jobs and education available to all who want them.

  • Meritocracy (rewards)=skill + effort.

  • Through hard work, courage and determination one can achieve prosperity. Americans can live better than their parents did.


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“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the PURSUIT of Happiness”


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Social Mobility created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the

  • The movement of families up and down the economic ladder

  • 40% of incomes stayed at about the same level; 60% moved up or down.

  • Only 37 of America’s 400 wealthiest inherited their money from their family.


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Social Classes created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the

Social Stratification

The hierarchical distinctions between individuals or groups in societies.

The study of systematicinequality between groups of people


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What are the key features of social class? created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the

  • WEALTH

    • Valued possessions : cash, land, buildings, property

    • Income : money from employment, shares etc.

    • Tends to be intergenerational

  • POWER

    • Ability to carry out one’s will, even if opposed by others

    • Who has power???

  • PRESTIGE

    • Respect given to people with valued positions or resources


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Upper Class Facts created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the

Q. What % of Americans belong to the upper class?

  • 0.5%

  • Extent of wealth?

  • Top 1% owns more than one third of ALL net worth in the U.S.

  • 50% U.S. stocks, 60% bonds; corporations, property, inheritances; income mostly from investments not employment

  • Source of power?

  • Ownership of resources - money makes money

  • Economic power and political power intertwined

  • Source of prestige?

  • family name & resources (old: Rockefeller, Carnegie, Walton, Getty; new: Gates)


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Corporate Class Facts created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the

Q. What % of Americans?

  • 0.5%

  • Extent of wealth?

  • A lot, but not as much as the upper class

  • Usually not major owners of companies

  • median CEO salary $10.8 million

  • President of the U.S. $400,000 (why do it then??)

    Q. Source of power?

  • Heads of companies, government

    Q. Source of prestige?

  • Position of influence


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Middle Class created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the

The Cosby Show

America’s first black middle class TV family


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Middle Class Facts created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the

Q. What % of Americans?

  • 43%

    Q. Extent of wealth?

  • Some

  • Ownership—own home

  • Income—mid to high income

    • Engineer, $58,000

    • Teacher, $34,000

    • ALC Professor, ??

  • Source of power?

  • Limited within context of occupation

  • Source of prestige?

  • Some more than others, White collar job


  • Working class l.jpg
    Working Class created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the

    Photograph from a book


    Working class facts l.jpg
    Working Class Facts created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the

    Q. What % of Americans?

    • 43%

      Q. Extent of wealth?

    • Little

    • Ownership—little or no property

    • Income—mid to low

      • Factory worker, $24,000

      • Machine operator, $23,000

        Q. Source of power?

  • Limited, sometimes collective power through unions

    Q. Source of prestige?

  • Very little, Blue collar jobs


  • Lower class l.jpg
    Lower Class created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the

    Homeless man in New York - one of thousands


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    Lower Class Facts created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the

    Q. What % of Americans?

    • 13%

      Q. Extent of wealth?

    • Very little, usually none

    • Ownership: none

    • Income: low

      • Poverty rate in 2001: 9.9%

      • Only about 1/3 of poor get welfare

        Q. Source of power?

  • Limited to none

    Q. Source of prestige?

  • Limited to none


  • Inequality based on class l.jpg
    Inequality Based on Class created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the

    • Health—Higher class live longer (79.2 years vs. 74.7 years).

    • Crime—impoverished areas tend to have higher crime rates

    • Education—despite continued increases in financial aid, the proportion of higher class students at elite schools is increasing.

    • Families—higher class are more likely to have children while within marriage and at older ages.


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    Distribution of Wealth created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the


    Racial gaps in the labor market l.jpg
    Racial gaps in the labor market created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the


    Gender gaps in the labor market l.jpg
    Gender gaps in the labor market created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the

    • More men work full time than women, but comparing men and women who work:

      Median Income

      Male $29,458

      Female $18,957

      • For every dollar men make, women make 64 cents


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    Why does the gender gap exist? created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the

    • Education?

      • Women make up over 50% of students in college

        Men and Women with a BA (1999)

        Male $47,126

        Female $34,455

    • Men work more hours?

      • Women in full-time work earn less than men with the same educational qualification


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    Poverty rates and Gender created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the


    Revisiting the american dream l.jpg
    Revisiting the American Dream created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the

    • Land of Opportunity?

      • “rags to riches” or “the rich get rich?”

      • classes tend to reproduce themselves (e.g. occupational & wealth inheritance, legacy admits)

      • are all jobs open and equal for everyone?

      • clearly not

    • Social class is achieved or ascribed?

      • between 40 to 60% of parental income advantage passed on to children

    • A meritocracy?

      • barriers to channels of upward mobility (e.g. a good education)


    American a tale of two cities l.jpg
    American: A Tale of Two Cities created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the


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