Class Matters

Class Matters


$16.20 $18.00 Save 10% Current price is $16.2, Original price is $18. You Save 10%.
View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Wednesday, November 20


The acclaimed New York Times series on social class in America—and its implications for the way we live our lives

We Americans have long thought of ourselves as unburdened by class distinctions. We have no hereditary aristocracy or landed gentry, and even the poorest among us feel that they can become rich through education, hard work, or sheer gumption. And yet social class remains a powerful force in American life.

In Class Matters, a team of New York Times reporters explores the ways in which class—defined as a combination of income, education, wealth, and occupation—influences destiny in a society that likes to think of itself as a land of opportunity. We meet individuals in Kentucky and Chicago who have used education to lift themselves out of poverty and others in Virginia and Washington whose lack of education holds them back. We meet an upper-middle-class family in Georgia who moves to a different town every few years, and the newly rich in Nantucket whose mega-mansions have driven out the longstanding residents. And we see how class disparities manifest themselves at the doctor's office and at the marriage altar.

For anyone concerned about the future of the American dream, Class Matters is truly essential reading.

"Class Matters is a beautifully reported, deeply disturbing, portrait of a society bent out of shape by harsh inequalities. Read it and see how you fit into the problem or—better yet—the solution!"

—Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed and Bait and Switch

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780805080551
Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 11/28/2006
Edition description: REV
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 158,263
Product dimensions: 5.47(w) x 8.19(h) x 0.78(d)

About the Author

The New York Times team comprises Anthony DePalma, Timothy Egan, Geraldine Fabrikant, Laurie Goodstein, David Cay Johnston, Peter T. Kilborn, David D. Kirkpatrick, David Leonhardt, Tamar Lewin, Charles McGrath, Janny Scott, Jennifer Steinhauer, and Isabel Wilkerson. Bill Keller is the executive editor of The New York Times.

Class Matters also includes essays by Christopher Buckley, Diane McWhorter,

Richard Price, David Levering Lewis, and Linda Chavez, about their encounters with class when they were growing up.

Read an Excerpt

CLASS MATTERS (Chapter One)1. Shadowy Lines That Still Divide

Janny Scott and David Leonhardt

Four faces of social class in America today. Top, Erma Goulart, Mauric Mitchell. Bottom, Steve Schoenech, Barbara Freeborn. Their comments are on the page at left. (Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times)

There was a time when Americans thought they understood class. The upper crust vacationed in Europe and worshiped an Episcopal God. The middle class drove Ford Fairlanes, settled the San Fernando Valley and enlisted as company men. The working class belonged to the AFL-CIO, voted Democratic and did not take cruises to the Caribbean.

Today, the country has gone a long way toward an appearance of classlessness. Americans of all sorts are awash in luxuries that would have dazzled their grandparents. Social diversity has erased many of the old markers. It has become harder to read people’s status in the clothes they wear, the cars they drive, the votes they cast, the god they worship, the color of their skin. The contours of class have blurred; some say they have disappeared.

But class is still a powerful force in American life. Over the past three decades, it has come to play a greater, not lesser, role in important ways. At a time when education matters more than ever, success in school remains linked tightly to class. At a time when the country is increasingly integrated racially, the rich are isolating themselves more and more. At a time of extraordinary advances in medicine, class differences in health and life span are wide and appear to be widening.

And new research on mobility, the movement of families up and down the economic ladder, shows there is far less of it than economists once thought and less than most people believe. In fact, mobility, which once buoyed the working lives of Americans as it rose in the decades after World War II, has lately flattened out or possibly even declined, many researchers say.

Mobility is the promise that lies at the heart of the American dream. It is supposed to take the sting out of the widening gulf between the have-mores and the have-nots. There are poor and rich in the United States, of course, the argument goes; but as long as one can become the other, as long as there is something close to equality of opportunity, the differences between them do not add up to class barriers.

In the spring of 2005, The New York Times published a series of articles on class in America, a dimension of the national experience that tends to go unexamined, if acknowledged at all. With class now seeming more elusive than ever, the articles take stock of its influence in the lives of individuals: a lawyer who rose out of an impoverished Kentucky hollow; an unemployed metal worker in Spokane, Washington, regretting his decision to skip college; a multi-millionaire in Nantucket, Massachusetts, musing over the cachet of his two-hundred–foot yacht.

The series does not purport to be all-inclusive or the last word on class. It offers no nifty formulas for pigeonholing people or decoding folkways and manners. Instead, it represents an inquiry into class as Americans encounter it: indistinct, ambiguous, the half-seen hand that upon closer examination holds some Americans down while giving others a boost.

The trends are broad and seemingly contradictory: the blurring of the landscape of class and the simultaneous hardening of certain class lines; the rise in standards of living while most people remain moored in their relative places.

Even as mobility seems to have stagnated, the ranks of the elite are opening. Today, anyone may have a shot at becoming a United States Supreme Court justice or a CEO, and there are more and more self-made billionaires. Only thirty-seven members of last year’s Forbes 400, a list of the richest Americans, inherited their wealth, down from almost two hundred in the mid-1980s.

So it appears that while it is easier for a few high achievers to scale the summits of wealth, for many others it has become harder to move up from one economic class to another. Americans are arguably more likely than they were thirty years ago to end up in the class into which they were born.

A paradox lies at the heart of this new American meritocracy. Merit has replaced the old system of inherited privilege, in which parents to the manner born handed down the manor to their children. But merit, it turns out, is at least partly class-based. Parents with money, education, and connections cultivate in their children the habits that the meritocracy rewards. When their children then succeed, their success is seen as earned.

The scramble to scoop up a house in the best school district, channel a child into the right preschool program or land the best medical specialist are all part of a quiet contest among social groups that the affluent and educated are winning in a rout.

“The old system of hereditary barriers and clubby barriers has pretty much vanished,” said Eric Wanner, president of the Russell Sage Foundation, a social science research group in New York City that has published a series of studies on the social effects of economic inequality.

In place of the old system, Wanner said, have arisen “new ways of transmitting advantage that are beginning to assert themselves.”

Faith in the System

Most Americans remain upbeat about their prospects for getting ahead. A recent New York Times poll on class found that 40 percent of Americans believed that the chance of moving up from one class to another had risen over the last thirty years, a period in which the new research shows that it has not. Thirty-five percent said it had not changed, and only 23 percent said it had dropped.

More Americans than twenty years ago believe it possible to start out poor, work hard, and become rich. They say hard work and a good education are more important to getting ahead than connections or a wealthy background.

“I think the system is as fair as you can make it,” Ernie Frazier, a sixty-five-year-old real estate investor in Houston, said in an interview after participating in the poll. “I don’t think life is necessarily fair. But if you persevere, you can overcome adversity. It has to do with a person’s willingness to work hard, and I think it’s always been that way.”

Most say their standard of living is better than their parents’ and imagine that their children will do better still. Even families making less than $30,000 a year subscribe to the American dream; more than half say they have achieved it or will do so.

But most do not see a level playing field. They say the very rich have too much power, and they favor the idea of class-based affirmative action to help those at the bottom. Even so, most say they oppose the government’s taxing the assets a person leaves at death.

“They call it the land of opportunity, and I don’t think that’s changed much,” said Diana Lackey, a sixty-year-old homemaker and wife of a retired contractor in Fulton, New York, near Syracuse. “Times are much, much harder with all the downsizing, but we’re still a wonderful country.”

The Attributes of Class

One difficulty in talking about class is that the word means different things to different people. Class is rank, it is tribe, it is culture and taste. It is attitudes and assumptions, a source of identity, a system of exclusion. To some, it is just money. It is an accident of birth that can influence the outcome of a life. Some Americans barely notice it; others feel its weight in powerful ways.

At its most basic, class is one way societies sort themselves out. Even societies built on the idea of eliminating class have had stark differences in rank. Classes are groups of people of similar economic and social position; people who, for that reason, may share political attitudes, lifestyles, consumption patterns, cultural interests, and opportunities to get ahead. Put ten people in a room and a pecking order soon emerges.

When societies were simpler, the class landscape was easier to read. Marx divided nineteenth-century societies into just two classes; Max Weber added a few more. As societies grew increasingly complex, the old classes became more heterogeneous. As some sociologists and marketing consultants see it, the commonly accepted big three—the upper, middle, and working classes—have broken down into dozens of microclasses, defined by occupations or lifestyles.

A few sociologists go so far as to say that social complexity has made the concept of class meaningless. Conventional big classes have become so diverse—in income, lifestyle, political views—that they have ceased to be classes at all, said Paul W. Kingston, a professor of sociology at the University of Virginia. To him, American society is a “ladder with lots and lots of rungs.”

“There is not one decisive break saying that the people below this all have this common experience,” Kingston said. “Each step is equal-sized. Sure, for the people higher up this ladder, their kids are more apt to get more education, better health insurance. But that doesn’t mean there are classes.”

Many other researchers disagree. “Class awareness and the class language is receding at the very moment that class has reorganized American society,” said Michael Hout, a professor of sociology at the University of California, Berkeley. “I find these ‘end of class’ discussions naïve and ironic, because we are at a time of booming inequality and this massive reorganization of where we live and how we feel, even in the dynamics of our politics. Yet people say, ‘Well, the era of class is over.’”

One 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. Face cards in a few categories may land a player in the upper middle class. At first, a person’s class is his parents’ class. Later, he may pick up a new hand of his own; it is likely to resemble that of his parents, but not always.

Bill Clinton traded in a hand of low cards with the help of a college education and a Rhodes scholarship and emerged decades later with four face cards. Bill Gates, who started off squarely in the upper middle class, made a fortune without finishing college, drawing three aces.

Many Americans say that they too have moved up the nation’s class ladder. In the Times poll, 45 percent of respondents said they were in a higher class than when they grew up, while just 16 percent said they were in a lower one. Over all, 1 percent described themselves as upper class, 15 percent as upper middle class, 42 percent as middle, 35 percent as working, and 7 percent as lower.

“I grew up very poor and so did my husband,” said Wanda Brown, the fifty-eight-year-old wife of a retired planner for the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard who lives in Puyallup, Washington, near Tacoma. “We’re not rich but we are comfortable and we are middle class and our son is better off than we are.”

The American Ideal

The original exemplar of American social mobility was almost certainly Benjamin Franklin, one of seventeen children of a candle maker. About twenty years ago, when researchers first began to study mobility in a rigorous way, Franklin seemed representative of a truly fluid society, in which the rags-to-riches trajectory was the readily achievable ideal, just as the nation’s self-image promised.

In a 1987 speech, Gary S. Becker, a University of Chicago economist who would later win a Nobel Prize, summed up the research by saying that mobility in the United States was so high that very little advantage was passed down from one generation to the next. In fact, researchers seemed to agree that the grandchildren of privilege and of poverty would be on nearly equal footing.

If that had been the case, the rise in income inequality beginning in the mid-1970s should not have been all that worrisome. The wealthy might have looked as if they were pulling way ahead, but if families were moving in and out of poverty and prosperity all the time, how much did the gap between the top and bottom matter?

But the initial mobility studies were flawed, economists now say. Some studies relied on children’s fuzzy recollections of their parents’ income. Others compared single years of income, which fluctuate considerably. Still others misread the normal progress people make as they advance in their careers, like from young lawyer to senior partner, as social mobility.

The new studies of mobility, which methodically track peoples’ earnings over decades, have found far less movement. The economic advantage once believed to last only two or three generations is now believed to last closer to five. Mobility happens, just not as rapidly as was once thought.

“We all know stories of poor families in which the next generation did much better,” said Gary Solon, a University of Michigan economist who is a leading mobility researcher. “It isn’t that poor families have no chance.”

But in the past, Solon added, “people would say, ‘Don’t worry about inequality. The offspring of the poor have chances as good as the chances of the offspring of the rich.’ Well, that’s not true. It’s not respectable in scholarly circles anymore to make that argument.”

One study, by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, found that fewer families moved from one quintile, or fifth, of the income ladder to another during the 1980s than during the 1970s and that still fewer moved in the 1990s than in the 1980s. A study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics also found that mobility declined from the 1980s to the 1990s.

The incomes of brothers born around 1960 have followed a more similar path than the incomes of brothers born in the late 1940s, researchers at the Chicago Federal Reserve and the University of California, Berkeley, have found. Whatever children inherit from their parents—habits, skills, genes, contacts, money—seems to matter more today.

Studies on mobility over generations are notoriously difficult, because they require researchers to match the earnings records of parents with those of their children. Some economists consider the findings of the new studies murky; it cannot be definitively shown that mobility has fallen during the last generation, they say, only that it has not risen. The data will probably not be conclusive for years.

Nor do people agree on the implications. Liberals say the findings are evidence of the need for better early-education and antipoverty programs to try to redress an imbalance in opportunities. Conservatives tend to assert that mobility remains quite high, even if it has tailed off a little.

But there is broad consensus about what an optimal range of mobility is. It should be high enough for fluid movement between economic levels but not so high that success is barely tied to achievement and seemingly random, economists on both the right and left say.

As Phillip Swagel, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, put it, “We want to give people all the opportunities they want. We want to remove the barriers to upward mobility.”

Yet there should remain an incentive for parents to cultivate their children. “Most people are working very hard to transmit their advantages to their children,” said David I. Levine, a Berkeley economist and mobility researcher. “And that’s quite a good thing.”

One surprising finding about mobility is that it is not higher in the United States than in Britain or France. It is lower here than in Canada and some Scandinavian countries but not as low as in developing countries like Brazil, where escape from poverty is so difficult that the lower class is all but frozen in place.

Those comparisons may seem hard to believe. Britain and France had hereditary nobilities; Britain still has a queen. The founding document of the United States proclaims all men to be created equal. The American economy has also grown more quickly than Europe’s in recent decades, leaving an impression of boundless opportunity.

But the United States differs from Europe in ways that can gum up the mobility machine. Because income inequality is greater here, there is a wider disparity between what rich and poor parents can invest in their children. Perhaps as a result, a child’s economic background is a better predictor of school performance in the United States than in Denmark, the Netherlands, or France, one study found.

“Being born in the elite in the U.S. gives you a constellation of privileges that very few people in the world have ever experienced,” Levine said. “Being born poor in the U.S. gives you disadvantages unlike anything in Western Europe and Japan and Canada.”

Blurring the Landscape

Why does it appear that class is fading as a force in American life?

For one thing, it is harder to read position in possessions. Factories in China and elsewhere churn out picture-taking cellphones and other luxuries that are now affordable to almost everyone. Federal deregulation has done the same for plane tickets and long-distance phone calls. Banks, more confident about measuring risk, now extend credit to low-in-come families, so that owning a home or driving a new car is no longer evidence that someone is middle class.

The economic changes making material goods cheaper have forced businesses to seek out new opportunities so that they now market to groups they once ignored. Cruise ships, years ago a symbol of the high life, have become the oceangoing equivalent of the Jersey Shore. BMW produces a cheaper model with the same insignia. Martha Stewart sells chenille jacquard drapery and scallop-embossed ceramic dinnerware at Kmart.

“The level of material comfort in this country is numbing,” said Paul Bellew, executive director for market and industry analysis at General Motors. “You can make a case that the upper half lives as well as the upper 5 percent did fifty years ago.”

Like consumption patterns, class alignments in politics have become jumbled. In the 1950s, professionals were reliably Republican; today they lean Democratic. Meanwhile, skilled labor has gone from being heavily Democratic to almost evenly split.

People in both parties have attributed the shift to the rise of social issues, like gun control and same-sex marriage, which have tilted many working-class voters rightward and upper-income voters toward the left. But increasing affluence plays an important role, too. When there is not only a chicken, but an organic, free-range chicken, in every pot, the traditional economic appeal to the working class can sound off-key.

Religious affiliation, too, is no longer the reliable class marker it once was. The growing economic power of the South has helped lift evangelical Christians into the middle and upper middle classes, just as earlier generations of Roman Catholics moved up in the mid-twentieth century. It is no longer necessary to switch one’s church membership to Episcopal or Presbyterian as proof that one has arrived.

“You go to Charlotte, North Carolina, and the Baptists are the establishment,” said Mark A. Chaves, a sociologist at the University of Arizona. “To imagine that for reasons of respectability, if you lived in North Carolina, you would want to be a Presbyterian rather than a Baptist doesn’t play anymore.”

The once tight connection between race and class has weakened, too, as many African-Americans have moved into the middle and upper middle classes. Diversity of all sorts—racial, ethnic and gender—has complicated the class picture. And high rates of immigration and immigrant success stories seem to hammer home the point: The rules of advancement have changed.

The American elite, too, is more diverse than it was. The number of corporate chief executives who went to Ivy League colleges has dropped over the past fifteen years. There are many more Catholics, Jews, and Mormons in the Senate than there were a generation or two ago. Because of the economic earthquakes of the last few decades, a small but growing number of people have shot to the top.

“Anything that creates turbulence creates the opportunity for people to get rich,” said Christopher S. Jencks, a professor of social policy at Harvard. “But that isn’t necessarily a big influence on the 99 percent of people who are not entrepreneurs.”

These success stories reinforce perceptions of mobility, as does cultural mythmaking in the form of television programs like American Idol and The Apprentice.

But beneath all that murkiness and flux, some of the same forces have deepened the hidden divisions of class. Globalization and technological change have shuttered factories, killing jobs that were once stepping-stones to the middle class. Now that manual labor can be done in developing countries for two dollars a day, skills and education have become more essential than ever.

This has helped produce the extraordinary jump in income inequality. The after-tax income of the top 1 percent of American households jumped 139 percent, to more than $700,000, from 1979 to 2001, according to the Congressional Budget Office, which adjusted its numbers to account for inflation. The income of the middle fifth rose by just 17 percent, to $43,700, and the income of the poorest fifth rose only 9 percent.

For most workers, the only time in the last three decades when the rise in hourly pay beat inflation was during the speculative bubble of the 1990s. Reduced pensions have made retirement less secure.

Clearly, a degree from a four-year college makes even more difference than it once did. More people are getting those degrees than did a generation ago, but class still plays a big role in determining who does or does not. At 250 of the most selective colleges in the country, the proportion of students from upper-income families has grown, not shrunk.

Some colleges, worried about the trend, are adopting programs to enroll more lower-income students. One is Amherst, whose president, Anthony W. Marx, explained: “If economic mobility continues to shut down, not only will we be losing the talent and leadership we need, but we will face a risk of a society of alienation and unhappiness. Even the most privileged among us will suffer the consequences of people not believing in the American dream.”

Class differences in health, too, are widening, recent research shows. Life expectancy has increased over all; but upper-middle-class Americans live longer and in better health than middle-class Americans, who live longer and in better health than those at the bottom.

Class plays an increased role, too, in determining where and with whom affluent Americans live. More than in the past, they tend to live apart from everyone else, cocooned in their exurban chateaus. Researchers who have studied census data from 1980, 1990, and 2000 say the isolation of the affluent has increased.

Family structure, too, differs increasingly along class lines. The educated and affluent are more likely than others to have their children while married. They have fewer children and have them later, when their earning power is high. On average, according to one study, college-educated women have their first child at age thirty, up from twenty-five in the early 1970s. The average age among women who have never gone to college has stayed at about twenty-two.

Those widening differences have left the educated and affluent in a superior position when it comes to investing in their children. “There is no reason to doubt the old saw that the most important decision you make is choosing your parents,” said Professor Levine, the Berkeley economist and mobility researcher. “While it’s always been important, it’s probably a little more important now.”

The benefits of the new meritocracy do come at a price. It once seemed that people worked hard and got rich in order to relax, but a new class marker in upper-income families is having at least one parent who works extremely long hours (and often boasts about it). In 1973, one study found, the highest-paid tenth of the country worked fewer hours than the bottom tenth. Today, those at the top work more.

In downtown Manhattan, black cars line up outside Goldman Sachs’s headquarters every weeknight around nine. Employees who work that late get a free ride home, and there are plenty of them. Until 1976, a limousine waited at 4:30 p.m. to ferry partners to Grand Central Terminal. But a new management team eliminated the late-afternoon limo to send a message: four thirty is the middle of the workday, not the end.

A Rags-to-Riches Faith

Will the trends that have reinforced class lines while papering over the distinctions persist?

The economic forces that caused jobs to migrate to low-wage countries are still active. The gaps in pay, education, and health have not become a major political issue. The slicing of society’s pie is more unequal than it used to be, but most Americans have a bigger piece than they or their parents once did. They appear to accept the trade-offs.

Faith in mobility, after all, has been consciously woven into the national self-image. Horatio Alger’s books have made his name synonymous with rags-to-riches success, but that was not his personal story. He was a second-generation Harvard man, who became a writer only after losing his Unitarian ministry because of allegations of sexual misconduct. Ben Franklin’s autobiography was punched up after his death to underscore his rise from obscurity.

The idea of fixed class positions, on the other hand, rubs many the wrong way. Americans have never been comfortable with the notion of a pecking order based on anything other than talent and hard work. Class contradicts their assumptions about the American dream, equal opportunity, and the reasons for their own successes and even failures. Americans, constitutionally optimistic, are disinclined to see themselves as stuck.

Blind optimism has its pitfalls. If opportunity is taken for granted, as something that will be there no matter what, then the country is less likely to do the hard work to make it happen. But defiant optimism has its strengths. Without confidence in the possibility of moving up, there would almost certainly be fewer success stories.

CLASS MATTERS Copyright © 2005 by The New York Times Company

Table of Contents

Introduction by Bill Keller

Shadowy Lines That Still Divide by Janny Scott and David Leonhardt

Life at the Top in American Isn't Just Better, It's Longer by Janny Scott

A Marriage of Unequals by Tamar Lewin

Up from the Holler: Living in Two Worlds, at Home in Neither by Tamar Lewin

On a Christian Mission to the Top by Laurie Goodstein and David D. Kirkpatrick

The College Dropout Boom by David Leonhardt

No Degree, and No Way Back to the Middle by Timothy Egan

Fifteen Years on the Bottom Rung by Anthony DePalma

When the Joneses Wear Jeans by Jennifer Steinhauer

The Five-Bedroom, Six Figure Rootless Life by Peter T. Kilborn

Old Nantucket Warily Meets the New by Geraldine Fabrikant

Richest Are Leaving Even the Rich Far Behind by David Cay Johnston

In Fiction, a Long History of Fixation on the Social Gap by Charles McGrath

Angela Whitiker's Climb by Isabel Wilkerson

Encounters with Class

My Nanny Was a Dreadful Snob by Christopher Buckley

Downwardly Mobile in Birmingham by Diane McWhorter

From the Bronx to Cornell by Richard Price

At the Top of the Bottom in the Segregated South by David Levering Lewis

We Were Poor, but I Didn't Know It by Linda Chavez

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

Class Matters 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 25 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Class Matters was an interesting book. I thought it went into many different scenarios of how class works and how people see it. This book is a great eye opener for Americans to see how class does separate us from one another. Also I thought this book gave a good perspective from all of the classes in America. I think this book was a good choice to learn more about American society. Class Matters is a good read for people looking to understand class in America.
LouieCIII More than 1 year ago
Class Matters is a informative and interesting book to read. I find the book to be helpful in knowing how economic class affects health, political views, marriage, and future. It was shocking to see how people's lives can be dependant on income. I also liked the stories of people's lives in the working and lower class and how they powered through poverty to climb the income class. Class Matters is a good book to read and is helpful to understand how class works in theUnited States. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
i though the book was ok . i thought it was alot repetative but it dose have some good facts and advise on how to break the mobility factor. however it explaines the classificastion of class in society and itas too general. sure they are true and most peopl fit into this catagory but however it is up to that person if they want to move up in classes or even go down. its was an ok book , i did it for a school book report
KarenKD More than 1 year ago
Class Matters is an easy to read book compiling many articles from the collection of over a year's worth of research on class in America by a team of reporters from The New York Times. Class is a rank of economic and social position, and is a combination of income, education, wealth, and occupation. The book examines all of these points, as well as culture, race and immigration. Class has been researched and written about before, so there was doubt in the back of many of the reporter's minds that they would actually find anything new or exciting on which to publish. The authors were surprised at what they had uncovered in their research and became excited about the series. Families and individuals were interviewed and followed to truly understand their class standing, how they got there, and if they were able to improve or jump up in class. I found the individual stories and places examined to be extremely entertaining. I chose this book because I do not like spending time reading fiction novels, but would rather read something that involves research and truthful information to increase my knowledge base. This book covers various encounters with class at each level of the social class ladder. I would recommend this book as an easy and entertaining read with true facts and fascinating experiences, which will help make you more conscious of the needs and struggles of those around you.
indianajane on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Class Matters is a compilation of the work of a number of New York Times writers. It is composed of a number of stories, about different individuals, originally published in the Times. The stories were interesting, but I found many of the premises and conclusions questionable, including the underlying premise that most Americans think that this is a classless society. I would wager that most Americans recognize that there are social classes in America, as in all countries. It also seemed to me that too many times these writers confused class with income. Paul Fussell's Class is a better look at the subject.
mana_tominaga on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Class does indeed matter, particularly for access to health care and education. Essential reading for anyone who thinks that class disparities are a thing of the past in the US.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Class Matters is a very interesting collection of tellings of people with all kinds of different backgrounds. It looks well into the reality of how class may affect us and our daily lives, without many of us even knowing it. From describing the advantages an older wealthy man has in terms of being treated for a medical emergency in comparison to the disadvantages of a struggling woman with the same sort of emergency; to telling about the often much wished-for privilege of not having to work because one's spouse makes enough money to support the two and a family, all in a beautiful home located in an obviously wealthy community; to going into detail about the struggle a woman on welfare goes through to make it to the middle class — this book describes it all well to prove the point that Class Matters.
Lorena More than 1 year ago
I think the book was really interesting. It opened up the truths about class in American society and it helped me understand the way it effects people's lives. i enjoyed the fact that there was various stories told throughout the book because it helped me get a well rounded view. It was good food for thought and I recommend it.
Naomi Miller-Altuner More than 1 year ago
Through a combination of anecdotal and quantitative evidence, “Class Matters” examines the multifaceted challenges that class causes in America, and the way these issues manifest themselves. This book brings to light both the beneficial and detrimental consequences of an American Dream that appears to promise the opportunity for class mobility. The numerous journalists whose work is complied in this book, explore American views of class through the lens of a diverse array of individuals, whose financial circumstances have resulted in astonishingly contrasting realities, the effects of which are evident in so many aspects of life. Each chapter of this book introduces a new perspective in a very engaging way. Without tearing down the extravagance of the wealthy or preaching advice to the poor, these journalists provide a relatable commentary (that is buttered by facts) on intersections of class, gender, race, health, relationships, family life, and more. One chapter that stands out, compares the recoveries of three individuals in Manhattan who all have a heart attack. The upper class individual as well as the individual from the middle class have a significantly better and more manageable recovery than the immigrant woman from the working class. It is examples like these that illustrate the complexities of class and the ensuing difficulties that our society faces. This book prompts readers to examine the role class plays in their lives, and in the lives of those around them in a critical, realistic, and authentic way.
Alex95 More than 1 year ago
Class Matters was intersting. It opened my eyes to meny diffrent ideas. and i do no see how class does seoparate us form one another. This book also shared everyones perspective no just teh rich or poor but everyone was included. its easy to read, with all short stories and diffrent topics. im glad in mentions the american dream and im glad that i read this book 
gsharp4 More than 1 year ago
In article 2, Tamar Lewin analyzes three different cases of heart attacks/heart failure. One from the upper class, one from the middle class, and one from the lower class. The member from the upper class was given many different options and chances by his doctor. The member of the middle class was told that there was no need for a test. But, the member of the lower class was not helped at all. It was incredible to see how different each class is treated so differently. Money really does matter. The more money you have, the better doctors, schools, jobs, and luxuries will you have. The less money you have, the less qualified doctors, teachers, and lawyers you encountered. “Class Matters” really opened my eyes to the ways of the world. I now understand that the actions I make now, affect the rest of my life, and my future children’s lives. I found this book motivating, and made me want to do better in school because I now understand how important it is to follow in my parents’ footsteps and keep the family name in the upper class.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I bought this book on a whim while unable to sleep one night and enjoyed it immediately. The authors are all engaging and the variety of subtopics kept me interested throughout. I found myself returning to it again and again, and was sad when it was finished. It's the sort of read you'll keep referencing in conversation long after you've finished it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Class Matters was a quick read and opened my eyes to the factors in a pesons life that are affected by social economic classes. I couldn't put the book done once I got started because I wanted. It was shocking to read that the mother in law was emberrassed by her son in law due to his economic statsu and lack of money. From beginning to end you learn so much more about the different social economic classes in the American society.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Personally this book is an eye opener. It makes you think about others who are not financially well. I find it amazing how there are so many people in this world who feel socially pressured into buying expensive goods just to be able to fit with others.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thought Class Matters was a sneak peek into how we think about social class as a society. The reporters at The New York Times did an exceptional job at integrating their research and the stories of people they had come across or interviewed. The combination of story and research made you want to read more and also gave a new out look on how there has been a shift in social class. I think as a society we are on a slippery slope. We need to try and keep balance in our society between the hyper rich and the poverty stricken because otherwise we are going to slip down the hill.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book is composed of a set of different researchers that combined together their work and joined it for the New York Times. It is about social classes and how different people fit in them. Also how some find getting a college degree is their ticket to a better economic life in a upper class or at least in a better class range. It also gave the point that classes matter in all situations and how throughout the research they found all kinds of people trying to fit in to a social class and how much it mattered to them. It demonstrated that classes matter more than what people believe in America, so much that it is probably not going to change in the future and classes are still going to matter no matter what. This book is trying to point that classes should stop mattering in the way that it is now.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really easy to read could not stop reading it, i enjoyed it. it made me aware of class and how I can get move from class. It made me think of my future.
John_LaSalle More than 1 year ago
Class Matters uses a vast amount of data from NY Times polls, IRS, Census, and Treasury to form information based solutions. The statistics are presented through varied stories from around the U.S. which represent the data. College dropouts, illegal immigrants, the super rich, and many other economic/social classes are depicted using real life stories. Data is given humanity. Good for students looking for a trustworthy book for an English, sociology, history, or psychology class.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a really insightful book where the reader learns how everytime the social classes people belong to seem to become more undistinguishable. It deals a lot about the struggles of people trying to move up the social ladder and staying there incorporating the idea of "The American Dream." It is a relief to hear stories about people who do end up moving social classes but their struggle still continues to act appropriately to the pertinent class.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Class Matters does a good job of displaying how classes have such an impact on our society today. It gives examples on both ends of the spectrum of how we are affected by the drastic lines that our classes are divided by. It proves that class is a large part of our society today, and that education really does pave the way for the other aspects that make up our class sytem. Class Matters gives us a reality check in showing us that it is not a hop, skip, and a jump into the next higher class system. If it was, our world would be borring. Class Matters is a great book if you live in a place where you are isolated from these different class systems. I do think the book may have been a bit redundant at times with the point it was trying to get at, but it gave great evidence that this indeed is how our society functions today. I recommend this book be read by everyone so that people can become more educated on the reality of our diverse social classes.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
La posición de una persona en la sociedad es muy importante en los Estados Unidos porque no solo define nuestras posibilidades al adquirir algo pero también ayuda a determinar nuestra salud. El tema sobre si continúan a existir clases sociales en los Estados Unidos es muy controversial, porque existen varias divisiones en clase lo cual causa que sea casi imposible determinar a cual clase pertenece una persona. Hasta la clase rica tiene muchas subdivisiones porque existe el dinero viejo y el nuevo de una familia lo cual cambia las costumbres de la sociedad. El libro constantemente enfatiza como es muy difícil subir a una posición alta en la sociedad cuando no existe ningún nivel de educación aunque no es imposible. Class Matters demuestra ambos lados del espectro porque vemos como una persona que inmigró de Grecia obtiene el sueno Americano y el inmigrante de México no puede superarse en un transcurso de 15 anos.