Social Question

talljasperman's avatar

Is it money that determines your social class? If so what are the levels and amounts for each?

Asked by talljasperman (21827points) May 31st, 2010

like lower, middle, and upper class..

or upper-lower, or middle middle

What are the indicatiors for Canada and America?

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19 Answers

YARNLADY's avatar

In the U. S. there is no specific “social class”. There may be a de-facto division between “have” and “have not”, but only because those with more money have more leisure time, and the ability to pursue expensive hobbies, and others do not.

SmashTheState's avatar

Money is only a symptom of social class. I recall seeing an interview with a billionaire who had gone bankrupt. The reporter asked him how it felt to be poor, and the man burst out in delighted laughter at her naivete. He explained that it made absolutely no difference to his lifestyle. He still had all his homes, all his cars, all his yachts. The fact that a bunch of zeroes had disappeared from his bank statements made not the slightest difference to him. He explained that he knew many people who would, without a second’s hesitation loan him a few tens of millions to tide him over until things got back on track.

I am a professional homelessness activist and advocate, and I can tell you from personal experience that being poor is about more than money. We knew from anecdotal experience, for example, that a lot of people living on the street come from group homes and foster care. When we finally had a chance to start doing some polling and looking at the hard numbers, we were amazed to discover that the majority of people on the street came from such backgrounds, despite making up only a miniscule percentage of the general population. Of course it makes perfect sense, for exactly the opposite reason that the billionaire in my first example will never be poor. The rich man is surrounded by people who will support him come hell or high water. The person thrown out on the street at the age of 16 from foster care is only a single accident or missed rent payment from homelessness; she or he has no family, no close friends, no business acquaintanced to whom to go when things go sour. You fall behind a single month on your rent and that’s it—game over.

So no, social class, strictly speaking, isn’t about money. It’s about access to resources, resources meaning not just goods, but social connections to people with money and position. And since those who are born with wealth tend to acquire these connections as a matter of course, it becomes self-perpetuating.

lillycoyote's avatar

@YARNLADY If you think the U.S. is classless society, think again.

YARNLADY's avatar

@lillycoyote I didn’t say that, I said there is no ‘specific’ social class. You cannot point at any individual and say ‘that person is a member of the A class or the B class and will never be anything else.

lillycoyote's avatar

@YARNLADY Then I misunderstood. There certainly is class mobility in the U.S.

reverie's avatar

No, I don’t believe that money determines social class. If it did, we wouldn’t have derogatory terms like “nouveau riche”. There is so much more to it than that, and I believe that being broke and being poor aren’t the same thing.

I’m afraid I can’t really comment on the situation in the USA and Canada. However, if you are interested in this topic and its application to the UK, I would whole-heartedly recommend the book Watching the English by Kate Fox . It’s very easy to read and humourously written, but it’s also very true – the author makes some really excellent and accurate observations that distinguish the various classes in the UK.

Cruiser's avatar

I think it depends on where you live here in the US. Gold coast living you need millions just to get a crappy condo with parking. Out in rural farm areas if you earn over $100,000 a year you are living pretty high on the hog.

CaptainHarley's avatar

We all need to learn to “not want.” I could easily have bought a $200,000 – $400,000 home, leaving my wife with a massive mortgage to pay off after I die. Instead, we opted to accept the gift of an old, very beat-up, 80-foot mobile home from her mother. We tore out the walls, ceilings and floors and rebuilt almost the entire thing. It’s pleanty big for the two of us and looks great, both inside and out. No mortgage, all electric ( so I can run everything with a generator in event of emergency ), inexpensive to keep up, energy efficient due to the insulation we put in, and a very acceptable place to live.

Coloma's avatar

I also think that there are many who play the status role that are barely hanging on, but…the Mercedes is all that matters. I have seen $100k cars parked in the driveways of crappy homes time and again.

I am not rich by any means but am comfortable in the moment inspite of the hits I have taken with the economy this past few years, I have my future concerns but live simply, yet well.

People have their priorities and they are vastly different.

One person has to have the status symbol car, another the house and the car, another will spend 15k on cosmetic procedures to enhance their dwindling shelf life. lol

Designer clothing, expensive purses and perfumes.


My thing is good food, having a nest egg to skim off of during the lean times, and occasional travel.

I’d never spend my cash on cosmetic surgery or a status symbol car or a $300 purse.

I agree with @CaptainHarley

I want for nothing and I want nothing at this time, and thats a good feeling.

Hows that Cheryl Crow song go…It’s not about having what you want, it’s about wanting what you have. Thats the key to happiness regardless.

gailcalled's avatar

No one has mentioned higher education. Usually, the better educated folks get white collar jobs and, I would guess, go to theater, concerts of classical music, dance, independent movies, read more sophisticated books and support the arts and the charities that really do good.

Note that I qualified this statement. Bring on the rebuttals.

When I sit on the grass at the Tanglewood summer concerts, there is a look about the crowd (and the picnics they bring). It seems different, but what do I know, from the audience at monster truck rallies and stock car racing.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Race plays a role as well – people (wrongfully) assume that people of color can’t be rich or that’s not the first thing they think about.

nicobanks's avatar

Class in North America is too complicated to be about income alone. Yes, we can look at annual income and say “lower-middle” or “middle-middle” or “upper-upper” and so on, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. And we can say we have mobility – these aren’t castes, we’re talking about – but that doesn’t tell the whole story, either.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

@gailcalled Has got it exactly right. Money can’t buy cultivated tastes and good manners. Money can buy a good education if one qualifies for it intellectually. To those of the true upper class, the nouveau riche stand out like a pig at a wedding. Their donations to the proper causes are accepted, but they rarely fit in socially.

lifeflame's avatar

I’ve just been teaching my students “Pygmalion”, Bernard Shaw’s play about a flower girl learns to change her speech and manners in order to fit into upper class society. It’s lead to interesting discussions about what the class divisions in Hong Kong are.

gailcalled's avatar

“Look at her, a prisoner of the gutters
Condemned by every syllable she utters.
By right she should be taken out and hung,
For the cold-blooded murder of the English tongue.”

(My Fair Lady, by Lermer and Loewe, adapted from Pygmalion.)

talljasperman's avatar

So Bill-Gates is Upper-Upper…and a homeless person is lower-lower(except when he’s educated and has hope)... who’s middle-middle

CaptainHarley's avatar

With the advent of neurologically based testing, the possibility for a true “Meritocracy” will exist. Advancement will be based primarily on mental accuity, and payscales will reflect that. Small businesses and start-ups will probably continue to exist outside the Meritocracy’s structure, but jobs in government and the larger businesses will operate almost exclusively as merit-based systems. Cronyism and “the good-ole-boy networks” will die a hard death, but systems based either exclusively or primarily on then will be unable to compete. I, for one, will not be sad to see them go.

talljasperman's avatar

@CaptainHarley I wonder how much money to fudge the numbers for the Mental Accuity test…It sounds like the movie GATTACA

CaptainHarley's avatar


I LOVED that movie! The triumph of the human spirit despite oppressive labels and social isolation.

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