Class in America

England is a classed based society and having recently read Kate Fox’s brilliant book titled: Watching the English I am becoming more aware of all the nuisances in this sort of society. So it has been interesting to read the recent articles published by the New York Times on class in America. As the articles make plainly clear, ones class in American society is based on education, occupation, income and wealth. In addition, it is possible to move up the class ladder. Oh sure there is tension between old and new money, but being Nuevo rich is not such a bad thing. In fact, people are admired for their hard work which leads to amassing new wealth. Here in England, class has more to do with ones upbringing. So you could be fitly rich but without the proper upbringing, you would still be considered middle or even lower class. At the same time, you could be poor but if your family is part of the aristocracy, you would be considered upper class. Personally, I think a class based society that hold people back is not sensible — as such, if I had to choose, I’m all for the American version of upward mobility.

4 Comments
  1. If you think USA is a utopia, consider this:
    There is virtually no government responsibility for medical care, and most people can’t afford to
    fully take proper advantage of what IS available
    without having to worry about the costs.
    The leading cause of legitimate bankrupcies in USA are the medical bills. There have been well over a MILLION bankrupcies every year for a long time
    now. At the same time that the governement here is doing nothing to regulate or shore up the medical system here, they have voted to stop
    almost all bankrupcies, and only allow debtors
    to reorganize their debt. Many will probably never pay it off, and perhaps resort to not working as a means of avoiding having their pay docked to pay off the creditors.
    A lot of things are great about the U.S. including the possible social mobility that you speak about. Yet we have many many children going to bed hungry, and many families that live in ppoverty.
    There are many thousands of homes in Florida that have never been repaired from last year’s hurricanes, and the insurance companies are either pulling out of Florida or cruelly raising their premiums in double digits every year.
    I have seen houses where the insurance companies refused to pay for repairs and are still in total disrepair.
    No it is not all rosy here. The weather can be great at times, the people are generally friendly
    and yes, SOME people move up in “class,” but it is not always as easy as you may think.
    Me? I started at the top and I am working my way down!!

  2. (I won’t be hurt if you don’t accept this ‘meow’ for posting, Ursula, as it is a bit of a rant. I just hate it when people spew off by pulling numbers and rhetoric out of a hat and then scurry into the night without being brave enough to identify themselves.)
    I’m clear that Ursula wasn’t commenting on the superiority of the American way of life in every aspect, so I’m not sure why the comment is so venomous. I’d reply directly, but there is no valid email address….hhhmmmm….
    The numbers “no one” cites come from a study done by Harvard in 2001. They interviewed 931 people out of 1.4 million total filers and half of the 931 filed for bankruptcy due to medical costs. This is the way it was determined that half of all bankruptcy filers filed due to medical costs. http://content.healthaffairs.org/cgi/content/full/hlthaff.w5.63/DC1
    As the article points out “Bankrupt” is not synonymous with “broke.” Several other factors are also in play, but I’ll leave that to the article.
    Seventy-five percent of the people that filed for bankruptcy (and it is spelled bankruptcy) had medical insurance and most were middle class. “Lower” classes get free medical care in the form of state health programs and hospitals must treat people regardless of insurance availablity. The government has enough control over my life, they certainly don’t need more in the form of their version of acceptable health care providers. The issue lies with private insurance companies, not the government’s unwillingness to take more of my money and provide more free care to someone else. They already do this through our state system in Massachusetts and it doesn’t work. Universal health care is available in Canada as they have a socialist system. It’s paid by taxes and sitting in a waiting room for 5 hours to see a doctor is not unusual. People from Canada routinely travel to the US to see doctors. More money going into their pockets, better doctors, etc, etc – it’s a vicious cycle. Also, universal coverage would have to be better than what I am currently paying for privately. I can’t imagine what that would cost me in taxes – and add to my taxes for the uninsured on top of it.
    Children go to bed hungry in every country in the world, yet the US spends more money than any country to feed them. People live in poverty in every country in the world, yet the US spends more money than any other country to provide for them. We will never have a country in which everyone is provided for by the government and I wouldn’t want them to have that much control. A capitalist society leaves large holes that you must fill yourself, which brings us back to our class system.
    It’s far from perfect, but I’m glad I live here and not in India or Nigeria or even Brazil.

  3. I never said America was Utopia. Heck if it was, I wouldn’t have moved to London. Having said that, my reasons for leaving had nothing to do with my own standard of living there. But if you must know, I was leading a very middle class life in Chicago. Some would even say upper middle class based on my education and income. This is a vast difference from my childhood. And that was my point in even mentioninng these series of articles by the New York Times. Had I been living in London as a child, I’m not sure that I would have achieved so much. So despite the fact that I have moved away, I am very much pro American. Particularly since I was able to achieve the American dream in such a short time. Had my immigrant family moved to England instead of America, I’m not so sure it would have been easy. So my point is, that despite all its flaws, I really like the fact that American society rewards those who play by the rules and work hard. That cannot be said for other countries like India, England, etc. that are really class conscious and as far as I’m concerned, that’s really unfortunate.

  4. Hi Ursula
    I’ve enjoyed reading through your blog for a dated but funny insight into the English class system you should check out Nobless Oblige (sp?) by Nancy Mitford.

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