Although many societies believe that they have evolved to a point where they accept differences and build off of individual perspectives, classism is still alive and well today. Many people view their class as the dominant class and look down on the other classes for a variety of reasons that may not include money.
One of the classes that is at the greatest risk because of classism is the American middle class.
The problem isn’t that people aren’t working hard. The issue is that wages have been stagnant for many classes for several years. The average middle class family is making about the same amount of money that they were 30 years ago! This is creating a gap in many countries where the poor are getting poorer, the rich are getting richer, and life is getting much more difficult for a majority of people.
Three Fast Facts About Classism to Consider
1. 61% of Americans state that they are usually or always living paycheck to paycheck, up from just 43% in 2007.
2. 83% of all US stocks are owned by households that fit into the top 1% income category according to US tax returns of the wealthy class.
3. Two thirds of all income growth that occurred between 2001-2007 went to the wealthy class.
Takeaway: Classism works in both directions. The wealthy class that peers down their nose at the poorer classes in disdain is just like the poor class that peers up at the wealthy class and looks at their spending habits in disdain. The issue is somewhat self-inflicted, however, as more than one third of Americans contribute nothing to their retirement savings. It did used to be that hard work and consistency could build up any dream, especially in the US. That doesn’t always seem to be the case these days, however, so it is easy to see what classism rates are increasing.
What Is Causing Modern Classism?
1. 43% of Americans have managed to save less than $10,000 for retirement, accounting for all age demographics.
2. 1 out of every 4 Americans who planned to retire have decided to postpone their plans for at least one more year because of finances.
3. Only the top 5% of income levels in the US have earned enough to match the rise in housing costs that has occurred in the last 4 decades.
4. Banking institutions own more of the net worth of residential housing in the United States than all of the individual home owners put together.
5. The average ration of an executive’s paycheck compared to the average worker’s paycheck has reached a maximum of 500 to 1. This means for every $1 the average worker earns, the business executive earns $500.
6. The bottom 50% of earners have less than 1% of the nation’s wealth.
7. The average federal worker for the US government earns up to 60% more than the average worker in the private sector.
Takeaway: Classism takes many different forms. It doesn’t always have to be the middle class vs. the wealthy class or the poor against the rich. It can be fast food workers against state workers or even state workers against federal workers. Whenever there is a perceived level of unfairness in income when all other things are equal, then there is a potential classism conflict that can continue to grow until the circumstances behind that inequality are fixed. The bottom line is basically this: people today are discontent and they feel that others in a different class are suppressing them in some way.
What Could Be Done To Stop Classism?
1. In the US, the average time it takes to find a new job is almost 36 months. By reducing this time by eliminating the “lean and mean” philosophies that sprang up in the Great Recession, more people could get off of unemployment rolls and working to improve their lives.
2. The top 1% of US households own more than double the amount of corporate wealth than just 15 years ago – where is that money actually going?
3. 40% of Americans are employed in service industry positions that have naturally lower salaries, yet have no means of being able to find employment elsewhere – even with multiple advanced degrees.
4. More than 40 million Americans have been on food stamps in the past 4 years, despite economic numbers growing – this means economic numbers are only growing in specific classes and not all classes. Promoting growth in the service industry could increase opportunities and this would naturally decrease classism.
5. If an American household earns $34,000, then they are in the top 1% of world earners, yet this wage is not enough to pay for basic housing and grocery needs in a number of communities. Keeping costs fair and eliminating over-inflated margins would help money stretch further.
6. 1 out of 5 children in the US are living below the poverty line right now, which is the highest rate in over 20 years.
7. The top 10% of American earners have 50% of the nation’s total income.
Takeaway: There’s a big push for $15 per hour wages, but that will simply eliminate the middle class even more who isn’t earning minimum wage. The reason why the US minimum wage was created was to guarantee livable wages for all, but this goal hasn’t lived up to expectations in recent years. The issue isn’t necessarily one of work, but one of acceptable business practices. When it becomes ok for people to essentially commit wage discrimination for their own personal benefit, then the natural result is classism. That creates reverse classism as a response and a negative spiral that ultimately creates separation. Until that can be stopped, classism will continue to rage onwards and upwards unchecked as fewer people get the opportunities they believe they deserve.
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