When you hear "Social Classes," what do you think of?
Upper class: CEOs, doctors, lawyers, etc. Middle class: teachers, mechanics, accountants, etc. Lower class: fast food workers, janitors, etc.
Classes in the United States
Upper Class: People in the upper class in the United States are those that make more than $250,000 a year and are in the highest earning percentile. Their jobs usually involve high levels of education, experience and skill such as business executives, medical professionals and lawyers. Middle Class: People in the middle class in the United States make between $50,000 and $250,000 a year, and are in the middle earning percentile. These jobs can involve some level of education or experience, such as teachers, managers or sales representatives. Lower Class: People in the lower class in the United States make less than $50,000 a year and are in the lowest earning percentile. These jobs generally require minimal education, experience or skill such as cashiers, service industry workers, and laborers.
How do people's experiences in the upper, middle, and lower classes differ?
The wealthiest 1% of Americans hold nearly 40% of the nation’s total wealth, while the bottom 50% only holds 2.5% of the wealth. The average American in the upper class earns over $400,000 annually, while the average American in the lower class earns less than $20,000 annually. According to recent data, the highest paying jobs in the U.S. include anesthesiologists, surgeons, orthodontists, and oral and maxillofacial surgeons.
Did you know?
Brain break: Draw what you visualize life looking like for the Upper Class. Be sure to include material possessions.
Work together in pairs: What are some examples of how the upper, middle, and lower class in the USA are impacted differently by economic inequality - the struggle to climb the social ladder?
Individuals can experience upward or downward social mobility for a variety of reasons. Upward mobility refers to an increase—or upward shift—in social class. In the United States, people applaud the rags-to-riches achievements of celebrities like Oprah Winfrey or LeBron James. But the truth is that relative to the overall population, the number of people who rise from poverty to wealth is small. Still, upward mobility is not only about becoming rich and famous. In the United States, people who earn a degree, get a job promotion, or marry someone with a good income may move up socially. In contrast, downward mobility indicates a lowering of one’s social class. Some people move downward because of business setbacks, unemployment, or illness. Dropping out of school, losing a job, or getting a divorce may result in a loss of income or status and, therefore, downward social mobility.
A key vehicle for upward mobility is formal education. Regardless of the socioeconomic status of our parents, we are much more likely to end up in a high-paying job if we attain a college degree or, increasingly, a graduate or professional degree. Figure 1 “Education and Median Earnings of Year-Round, Full-Time Workers, 2020" vividly shows the difference that education makes for Americans’ median annual incomes.
Social Mobility (Cont.)
Shoot for the Moon! If you had to choose an Upper-Class job, what would it be? Show us in a DRAWING.