Social class, or the way which society is divided based on our class and income, is an important part of how we socialize, as well as how we understand one another . Our income as adults can dictate who we will network with, who we will have access to, our education, and even our occupation. As children, our family’s social class can either hurt us or help us. We learn about social stratification, or how we are categorized, as well as the delegation of resources, as we learn what social class we are in based on our family and ourselves. As a part of the working class, and as a member of a family from the working class, I have spent my life experiencing social stratification and have socialized with members from many different social classes. It has given me a unique view on my own economic and social status in life.
After considering it, social class had had a relatively significant impact on my life. My life has been spent with my family living in the working class. There was a brief period wherein we almost exceeded the barrier between the working class and the middle class, based on Gilbert and Kahl’s model of social stratification . However, because both of my parents have always been involved in manual and clerical work, I have remained in working class. It gave me an appreciation for what my family has, and what we have earned. It also taught me how to work for something, rather than have it handed to me.
As a result of my family’s social class and subsequently my social class, I have not been afforded the same privileges as those in the upper-middle class or even the middle class. While it may not seem as though $30,000 worth of income in a household can make that much a difference in one person’s life, if can. For example, as an individual in a household considered a part of the working class, I can say today I am receiving an education outside of the Ivy League. This is a direct result of my family’s income. While I perhaps possess the intellect, I do not possess the money to attend such an institution.
Furthermore, being a part of the working class allows me to examine society through a different lens than those from the middle class, or the working poor. While there are various differences in my income when compared to that of an individual from the working poor or the middle class, I am still able to associate with all individuals from almost every social class; access is not denied to me based on my class . In contrast, the working poor rarely have the opportunity to socialize with the upper-middle class. As such, because I am granted access to multiple classes, I am able to assess social structures through multiple lenses, as well as relate to several different social classes, despite my own background.
In sum, social stratification and social status can be important to one’s life. For me, it showed me the meaning of hard work, and appreciating what I have. Being a part of the working class afforded me the opportunity to socialize with many different social classes. In turn, this showed me how unfair stratification can be; I had access to many different members of social classes, while the working poor did not, and the upper-middle class had no interest. The social class of some I knew put them on the fast track to an easy life that was free of struggle, while others knew nothing but struggle. I am where I am in life, working hard for an education and a future in gainful employment because I know what hard work means, but also because I have begun to have a better understanding of social class and stratification. I want more for my children, and for myself.
Healey, J. F., & O'Brien, E. (2014). Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Class: The Sociology of Group Conflict and Change. Sacramento: SAGE Publications.
Parkin, F. (2013). The Social Analysis of Class Structure. New York: Routledge.