Social Class & Poverty in the US: Crash Course Sociology #24



social class in America can be hard to talk about and not just because you may find it awkward to discuss whose poor and who's rich or who has more power and who has less as sociologists the difficulty for us is in pinning down exactly what we mean by social class there isn't just one definition of it and the definition you use will depend on what society you're interested in if we go by Marx's definition we have two classes the bushwa Z who own the means of production and the proletariat who do the labor but this might be too simplistic for our world if you own a small store and you work there which category do you belong in your day-to-day life probably looks more like that of a retail employee than that of a CEO but Marx would put you in the bush huazi because you own a business and hire workers so let's try another definition one that's more in the tradition of our old friend Max Weber his theories were more about what kinds of opportunities a person's class gives them the owner of a big company has different opportunities than the owner of a small shop but they'll both have different resources available to them than someone who manages an office or somebody who works at a factory so in this case a social class can be defined as a group that's fairly similar in terms of income education power and prestige in society and we can use this definition to better understand the social classes that make up society in the United States and it can help us to answer some of the questions they raise like is there more than one kind of upper-class how can the middle class fit everyone who thinks they belong in it and what does poverty in America really look like broadly speaking American society can be split into five social classes upper class upper middle class average middle class working class and lower class the upper class consists essentially of the capitalist and Marxist system this is the top of the income and wealth distribution those who are in at least $250,000 a year and control much of the country's wealth and as we learned last week money talks this group tends to wield a lot of political and social power but within the upper class there are subclasses that distinguish by and large between old money and new money the upper upper class includes those who derive their wealth from inheritance rather than work people in this class may have jobs but usually they take on more honorary positions such as board members or heading up philanthropic organizations but there's also a large part of the upper class food wealth came from work most of those that we think of as wealthy the Bill Gates Oprah Winfrey's and Kanye West's of the world fall into this group after upper-class comes the middle class remember a while back when we talked about how almost every American thinks that their middle class that's way too many people to fit into the middle which is why sociologists split the mid range of the income distribution into three groups upper middle-class families typically have incomes between 115,000 and $250,000 per year and make up about 15% of income earners about two-thirds of the adults here have college degrees and many have postgraduate degrees it's almost a given that their kids will attend college when they grow up adults in this sector tend to have jobs that are considered prestigious doctors lawyers engineers and the like their families typically own homes and good school districts and are able to afford luxuries like travel and multiple vehicles and it may not surprise you to learn that they're wealthy at least compared to most Americans this group is likely to have wealth from their home strong 401ks and financial investments now families in these so-called average middle-class make between 50,000 and $115,000 and make up about 35% of income earners keep in mind the median family income in the u.s. is seventy thousand seven hundred dollars so families in this grape still tend to own their own homes but the mortgages might be more cumbersome and they have some wealth usually tied up in their home or a modest retirement savings account about half of this group is college-educated though they're more likely to have attended public universities than private schools and average middle-class jobs are typically so called white-collar jobs think office workers teachers and middle managers in contrast most blue-collar workers or whose work is primarily based in manual labor fall in the lower middle class about 30% of Americans are in this category with incomes ranging from about 25 to $50,000 a year lower middle class families are less likely to own their own homes and typically hold little to no wealth the most defining feature of this social class is the type of jobs that are associated with it namely manual labor which is why it's often referred to as the working-class factory work construction manufacturing maintenance work all of these jobs generally fall under working class occupations and while some working-class jobs require technical skills they don't usually require a college education it's important to note that working-class jobs are more sensitive to how the economy is doing because these jobs tend to be built around making stuff when a recession hits factories need fewer workers to meet demands or the plants owners might decide that it's cheaper to use machines rather than workers to produce their goods and just as vulnerable to economic downturns if not more so is the lower class lower class Americans are blue-collar workers at the bottom of the income distribution they make less than $25,000 a year and tend to work hourly jobs at our part time with unpredictable schedules and no benefits like health insurance or pensions about 20% of Americans or the bottom quintile fall into this group the majority of these families don't own their own homes and are more likely to live in neighborhoods with higher rates of poverty lower quality school districts and higher crime rates in contrast to an upper middle-class family whose children are likely to go to college only 9% of the children born in the bottom income quartile complete a four-year college degree and the lower class also includes many Americans who are living in poverty the US government sets an income benchmark called the federal poverty level a special that's used in part to determine who's eligible for public assistance programs like food stamps or help with healthcare as of 2017 the federal poverty level for a family of four is twenty four thousand six hundred dollars and thirteen point five percent of Americans live in households below that the government arrives at this figure by estimating the minimum annual pre-tax income that's needed to pay food shelter transportation and clothing costs for a given household size of course what's poor in the United States won't be the same as in another country the u.s. federal poverty line is a measure of relative poverty based on a standard of living in the u.s. relative poverty is used to describe a lack of resources compared to others who have more but absolute poverty is a lack of resources that threatens durable to survive the federal poverty level gives us an indicator for which Americans have the fewest resources and lets us examine trends in groups that are the most economically vulnerable for example groups that can't work like children the severely disabled in the frail elderly are particularly vulnerable to poverty but many working Americans are vulnerable to poverty to twelve percent of working age adults and poverty work full-time and another 29 percent work part-time these are the working poor you can see how it's quite possible to work full-time and still live in poverty when you do the math the federal minimum wage in the United States is $7.25 per hour a 40-hour workweek for 50 weeks a year would net an income of fourteen thousand five hundred dollars which is well below the poverty line for a family of four it's hard enough to pull yourself out of poverty on a low-wage income which is partly why more than half of families in poverty are headed by single mothers higher rates of poverty among women known as the feminization of poverty is related to the increasing number of women who are raising children on their own and who work low wage jobs but in addition to gender you can also look at poverty by race contrary to popular belief most poor Americans are not black in fact two-thirds of the poor in the US are white black Americans are however more likely to be poor than white Americans twenty four point one percent of black Americans who make up about 13% of the total American population we're living in poverty in 2015 compared that to eleven point six percent of white Americans will make up about 77 percent of the total population now the causes of poverty are many and it's not easy to understand why some groups are more vulnerable than others America likes to think of itself as a nation that values self-reliance where anyone can succeed and this view is partly why some argue that poverty is the result of an individual's own failings or of certain cultural attitudes one of the most famous proponents of this idea was Daniel Patrick Moynihan former US senator ambassador to the United Nations and by trade associate us the report he wrote while Secretary of Labor in the Kennedy administration known as the Moynihan report blamed high rates of poverty among African Americans not on a lack of Economic Opportunity but on cultural factors in the black community like high rates of birth outside of marriage by contrast American sociologist William Julius Wilson who you might remember from episode 7 has provided a counter to this idea Wilson is documented how black Americans are much more likely to face institutional barriers to achieving economic success and are more likely to live in areas where jobs are scarce he argues that in order to understand poverty we have to look at wider economic and social structure as well as the history and culture of racism in the West next week we'll talk more about how social class structures affect how Americans live their lives but for now you learned about the five different social classes in the United States the upper class the upper-middle class the average middle class the working class and the lower class and we discussed what poverty looks like in the United States crash course sociology is filmed in the doctor Cheryl C Kinney studio in Missoula Montana and it's made with the help of all of these nice people our animation team is thought cafe and crash course is made with Adobe Creative Cloud if you'd like to keep crash course free for everyone forever you can support the series at patreon a crowdfunding platform that allows you to support the content you love speaking of patreon we'd like to thank all of our patrons in general and would like to specifically thank our headmaster of learning Ben Holden Crowther 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Comments
  1. Median household income is around 57k; is that different than, as you stated, median "family" income (which you said was 70k?)?

  2. That is a common mistake when dealing with Marxist theory. Marx wouldn't call the owner of a small business a bourgeois, because he doesn't own the means of production. The owner of a small store is still subjected to the class that owns the means required to produce the cotton, the clothes and so on.
    Buying a cupcake truck and hiring two employees doesn't make you a capitalist. That's what the whole speech about the "entrepreneur" got wrong…

  3. I must have missed it, but is this talking about household income or individuals? Because if it’s the former, I find looking only at income is not the best way to assess social class. The video uses “person” as an individual and “families” interchangeably which makes some things unclear.

  4. When WW3 strikes all the money and social classes won't work. Give your life to Jesus before its too late and join the Heavenly class.

  5. The oppression and racism against black males not mentioned as usual. God will punish America for it's evil.

  6. This is a great unbiased view in general but I still have problem with the fact the upper class over 250k is split only in 2. This is a prob in the UK as well those who earn a few 100k are lumped in with those who earn a few 100m. There is actually a greater difference in these levels then there are of those who earn say 15-30k. Especially if it is a single earner receiving top level tax and no allowances, not even the basic 11k tax free

  7. Came to watch this video for information specifically on the title of this video. Now I want to know information on all those collectibles that ar the background of this video.

  8. You can have money and still lack or miss opportunities you otherwise are entitled to, for a vaerity of cultural & social reasons.
    Living near NYC around mostly: blacks, latinos, and european jews. It is clear that if you are black, society already has a negative idea of you, especially if you look like a hip hop artist. Furthermore, there are many race groups, and well, some race groups are more comfortable than others. Life is easier if you are white in the US, because it is easier to integrate with, well, the particular group of people that enslaved and took the land and resources from the grandparents of other groups, and so they generally have more resources at their disposal.

    If you take other peoples land today, then make and enforce a rule that says you cannot take anyones land, and called it a civil society, well now, your children are way more likely to end up on those top two tiers. The ones who had their land taken on the other hand, you are likely find their decendant in the bottom 2 tiers.

    Poor peole are just poor, because they just are, they don't try hard enough, or are they the decendants of victims of wars, slaverly & colonialism?

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