Social classes are like invisible layers that divide people based on their income, education, occupation, wealth, and social status. By including these divisions, we gain the knowledge about society functions and how society function work, how opportunities are distributed, and how individuals’ life experiences are shaped.
Definition of Social Class
Social class refers to the categorization of people into groups based on shared economic, social, and cultural characteristics. These groups often define one’s position and opportunities in society.
Horton and Hunt said that “A social class is defined as a stratum of people of similar position in the social status continuum.”
MacIver and Page said that, “A social class is any portion of a community marked off from the rest by social status.”
Karl Marx said that “Class, is the collection of people who have equal mode of wealth and have obviously same livelihood.”
CH. Persell said that “Class refers to persons who share similar social state and similar level of wealth and income.”
Barton and Hunt said that “A social class is a stratum of people of similar social position.”
According to Giddens said that “A class is a large-scale grouping of people who share common economic resources, which strongly influence the type of lifestyle they are able to lead”.
In agrarian societies, there were generally two social classes: a small but wealthy class consisting of landlords and landowners, and a larger but poorer class consisting of farmers and skilled individuals.
In industrial societies, the classification of social classes became more complex, with three or more classes, and their division is not very strict, primarily based on the level of income.
Modern economists and sociologists generally divide societies into three classes: upper class, middle class, and lower class.
What are the Five Social Classes?
In today’s world, we can easily identify five main social classes:
Upper Class: This group comprises the wealthiest individuals who have substantial financial resources and influence over society. Annual income of more than ₹10 lakhs (approximately US$125,000).
Upper-Middle Class: Members of this class enjoy a comfortable lifestyle, often with advanced degrees and professional careers. Annual income of ₹5 lakhs to ₹10 lakhs (approximately US$62,500 to US$125,000).
Middle Class: The middle class includes a wide range of people with middle incomes, often holding jobs in education, healthcare, or skilled trades. Annual income of ₹2.5 lakhs to ₹5 lakhs (approximately US$31,250 to US$62,500).
Working Class: These individuals engage in manual or blue-collar labor and may struggle financially. Annual income of ₹1 lakh to ₹2.5 lakhs (approximately US$12,500 to US$31,250).
Lower Class: The lower class consists of those with the fewest resources, often facing poverty and limited opportunities. Annual income of less than ₹1 lakh (approximately US$12,500).
Factors Influencing Social Class
- Income: The amount of money one earns is a key factor in determining their social class. Higher incomes generally lead to a higher class status.
- Education: Education plays a vital role in social mobility. Access to quality education can elevate individuals to higher social classes.
- Occupation: The type of job a person holds significantly impacts their social class. Professions like doctors and lawyers tend to be associated with higher classes.
- Wealth: Accumulated assets, such as property and investments, contribute to one’s social class.
- Social Status: Social connections, family background, and prestige within one’s community also play a part in determining social class.
Social Class Examples
- High-Profile Figures in Different Social Classes: Examining celebrities, politicians, and public figures can illustrate how social class influences their lives and opportunities.
- Business Tycoons and their Social Class Background: Analyzing the rise of entrepreneurs and business leaders can provide insights into social mobility.
Impact on Career Choices
Social class can shape the career paths people choose. For example, those from affluent backgrounds may pursue careers in arts or academia, while working-class individuals may opt for vocational trades.
Influence on Consumer Behavior
People’s social class often influences their purchasing decisions. For instance, upper-class individuals may buy luxury goods, while working-class individuals priorities essential needs.
Examples of Social Mobility
- Rags to Riches Stories: Inspirational tales of individuals who have moved from lower to higher social classes through hard work and determination.
- Downward Mobility Cases: Instances where individuals or families have experienced a decline in social class due to economic hardships or other factors.