For definitions of “class” and “classism” we turn to a trusted organization, Class Action. Betsy Leondar-Wright, opens her book Class Matters with this definition:
Class is a relative status in terms of income, wealth, power, education and/or position.
According to Leondar-Wright, “Class in the US is a confusing and slippery topic. The definition that makes sense to one person may not make sense to another.” Leondar-Wright continues, “The U.S. has no hard and fast divisions between class groups. Income and wealth are both on spectrums, and most of us move a little up or down the spectrums during our lifetimes. Some people grow up in one class and live as adults in another. For immigrants, there’s another layer of confusion, as their class status in their country of origin is often different from their class status in the U.S.”
According to Class Action, “it may be useful for understanding class dynamics to cluster people” into groups. Class action lists the following groups: working class, lower middle class, professional middle class, low income or poor, and owning class. To simplify, we have listed five class categories but encourage you to go to the website : classism.org for more detailed descriptions.
- Ruling Class: A subset of the Owning Class who have so much wealth and power that they can lobby politicians, own media outlets, and heavily influence how we see and understand ourselves in our society.
- Owning Class: Those that have substantial money to invest which yields so much extra income that they don’t have to work to pay for basic necessities.
- Middle Class: Generally college-educated, salaried professionals and managers with varied assets and property ownership but not to the same extent as the Owning class.
- Working Class: Those with little or no higher education, modest incomes, little to no savings, rent their apartment/ home, and are employed in occupations in which they have little control in the workplace and are at the lower rung of the pay scale.
- Poverty Class: A subset of the working class who chronically can’t get income sufficient to cover all their basic needs and may need to rely on public assistance.