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Limiting Factors To Upward Social Mobility In America

2101 words - 8 pages

In the land of the “American Dream,” it is the common belief that there is a direct relationship between hard work and success. In this ideal prototype, those who put in long hours are bound for success and movement up the social ladder. Theoretically, one could be born into the “bottom of the food chain,” and with some hard work, rise into the realm of the social elite. As a testament to this global view of the United States, immigrants from all over the world have made the journey to the “land of opportunity” in hopes of better education, jobs, government, communities and lives for themselves and the generations following them. All of this is based on a system of social stratification – a guide to how successful one has been at achieving the American Dream. This evaluation of social class is based on many components, some of which are presented to people at birth, and not gained through hard work or money. The class system at play in the United States has become extremely complex – no longer adhering to the basic class values of our forefathers. Those trying to move up in the class system of America are often caught emulating the behaviors of the rich and famous, but this does not necessarily make them higher class. Many people think that there is a checklist to fill on their way up in the class system, but there is more to being upper class than just talking the talk or having the right credentials.
One way to look at class is with the model developed by Janny Scott and David Leonhardt in their article, “Shadowy Lines That Still Divide,” in The New York Times. They state that “[o]ne way to think of a person’s position in society is to imagine a hand of cards. Everyone is dealt four cards, one from each suit: education, income, occupation and wealth, the four commonly used criteria for gauging class” (Scott and Leonhardt 27). Relying on these four criteria, a basic understanding of a person’s predicted class can be built. While this model works fine for providing an elementary level of understanding, it must be acknowledged that a person could rate well on this scale and still be in a different class than those scoring similarly – there are many more benchmarks of class than those mentioned in Scott and Leonhardt’s system. While this system could be considered an oversimplification of the many parts that shape class in America, it is a fine starting point for examining the most commonly observed markers of social class.
In Scott and Leonhardt’s model, one of the main components to class is education. When evaluating the education of a person, their scale ranges from persons with no schooling, then moves on to those who have graduated from high school, with the highest level of education belonging to persons who have received doctorate degrees. Focusing on education, a doctorate degree gives the greatest probability to be in a higher class, while those with no completed education must rely completely on other means of advancement. In an...

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