As societies become more complex a complex change came about. The social system elevated entire categories of people above others, providing one segment of the population with a disproportionate share of money, power and schooling. To a considerable degree, the class system in the United States rewards individual talent and effort. But, our class system also retains elements of a caste system; Ascribed status greatly influences what we become later in life.


Nothing affects social standings in the United States as much as our birth into a particular family, something, which we have no control over. Being born to privilege or poverty sets the stage for our future schooling, occupation and income. Research suggests that at least half of the richest individuals, those with hundreds of millions of dollars in wealth, received their fortunes primarily from inheritance. By the same token, the inheritance of poverty and the lack of opportunity that goes with it just as surely shape the future for those in need.

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People of both sexes are born into families at every social level. Yet, on average, women earn lower income, accumulate less wealth, enjoy lower occupational prestige, and place lower in some areas of educational achievement than men do. Households headed by women are ten times more likely to be poor than those headed by men. Women make $0.75 for every $1.00 that men make.


Race is strongly connected to social position in the United States. Overall, white people have higher occupational standing than African Americans, and they receive more schooling, especially at the college level and beyond. These differences are evident in median income: African American families earned $26,522 in 1998, which is just 59 percent of the $44,756 earned by white families. Higher income is a key reason that 77 percent of white families are more likely to own their own home, than black families, 49 percent.
Another reason for the racial disparity involves family patterns. African American families with children are three times more likely than their white counterparts to have only one parent in the home. Single-parenthood is a strong predictor of low family income.
Ethnicity, as well as race, shapes social stratification in the United States. Throughout our nations history, people of English ancestry controlled the most wealth and wielded the greatest power. The rapidly growing Latino population in the United States, by contrast, has long been relatively disadvantaged. In 1996,a median income Hispanic family was $26,179, which is 58 percent of the comparable figures for all white people.
Religion has a bearing on social standing in the United States. Among Protestant denominations, with which almost two-thirds of individuals identify in the U.S., Episcopalians and Presbyterians have significantly higher social standing, on average, than Lutherans and Baptists. Jewish people too, have high social standing, while Roman Catholics hold a more modest position.

Families in the upper class, 5 percent of the U.S. population, earn more than $100,000 annually and may even earn ten times that much. Many members of the upper class work as top corporate executives or senior government officials. Typically, upper class people attend the most expensive and highly regarded schools and colleges. Historically, though less so today, the upper class has been composted of white Anglo-Saxton Protestants (WASP). The upper class often describes as society or blue bloods, included less than 1 percent o the U.S. Population. Members of the upper class are set apart by their wealth and live in a world of exclusives neighborhoods. Women of the upper-upper class often maintain a full schedule of volunteer work for chartable organizations. Most upper class people actually fall into the lower-upper class. Lower0upers are the working rich who depend on earnings rather than inherited wealth as the primary source of their income. There are the new rich who can never savor the prestige enjoyed by this with rich and famous grandparents. For example the Rockefellers would tend to look down upon someone like Bill Gates. The American Dream has been to be successful enough to join the lower-upper class.
The color of money is the same for everyone, but black and white affluence differs in several respects. First, well-off people of African decent are not a rich as their white counterparts. Also, affluent people of color contend with social barriers that do no restrict whites. Even African Americans with the money to purchase a home, for example, may find that they are unwelcome as neighbors in certain neighborhoods.


Encompassing 40 to 45 percent of the U.S. population, the large middle class exerts a tremendous influence on U.S. culture. Television shows middle-class people, and most commercial advertising is directed toward these average consumers. The middle class contains for more racial and ethnic diversity that the upper class. The top half of this category is often termed the upper-middle class, based on above-average income in the range of $50,000 to $100,000. This income allows them to have a comfortable house in a fairly expensive area, several automobiles, and investments. Two-thirds of upper-middle class children receive a college education. The upper-middle class often plays an important role in local political affairs. The rest of the middle class fall close to the center of the U.S. class structure. People in the middle-class typically work in less prestigious white-collar occupations or in highly skilled blue-collar jobs. Household income is between $35,000 to $50,000 a year. Middle class men and women are likely to be high school graduates, but just four in ten young people at this class level attend college.


About one third of our population is working class. They have less income and little or no accumulated wealth. The blue-collar occupations of the working class produce a household income of between $15,000 and $35,000 a year, somewhat below the national average. About half the working class families own their homes, usually in less sought-after neighborhoods, and college is a goal that only about one-third of working class children realize.
The remaining twenty percent of our population make up the lower class. A lack of work and little income makes their lives unstable and insecure. 13.7 percent of the population is defined as poor. Working-poor are just barely better off, working at low-prestige jobs that provide minimal income. Barely half of people at this class level manage to complete high school, and only one in four ever reach the college level.


Today the burden of poverty falls most heavily on children. 20.5 percent of people under age eighteen were classified as poor. Two-thirds of all poor people are white; about 27 percent are African Americans. African Americans are about three times are likely as white people to be poor. The poverty gap between whites and minorities has remained essentially unchanged since 1975. Of the U.S. poor over age eighteen, 62.7 percent are women and 37.3 percent are men. Women who head households bear the brunt of poverty. Of all poor families, 54 percent are headed by women with no husband present, while just seven percent of poor families are headed by single men.


White people usually in a more privileged position to begin with, have been more upwardly mobile than Africans or Hispanics in recent decades. Women also tend to have less opportunity for upward mobility as well, since the majority of women tended toward clerical or service positions. These positions tend towards little advancements. When a marriage ends in divorce (as roughly as 50% do) women commonly experience a downward movement, with the loss of income and a host of benefits, including health care coverage and insurance benefits.
Social mobility is common in the United States. However there are only small changes from on generation to the next. Without an aristocracy, many people feel that they have a chance at the American Dream since Americans believe in the idea of All men are created equal statistics show, however, that not all men are created equal, but created unequal, especially minorities and women. Despite theses difficulties, there is home to climb the social ladder and be a part of the American Dream
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