Class stratification Utilizing a Spectrum Based Analysis

Rendering of a Social Network

We have all heard the terms poor, middle class, and rich, or some variant of those terms. They are descriptions of position in a socio-economic system. Yet, how accurate are these descriptors? Even the most well defined methodology of class identification is limited to basic measurements of income and wealth, which are wholly inadequate measures. A new model for class stratification in the American socio-economic system is a necessary step forward in evaluating the condition of individuals within the system.


There are three primary stratum in commonly used socio-economic models of class stratification in American society: lower, middle, and upper class. Position within these strata are determined by factors such as income, net worth, and to some extent, type of worth. These three strata are often subdivided. Gilbert, 2002, William Thompson & Joseph Hickey, 2005, and Leonard Beeghley, 2004 offer some ways in which these divisions can be decided. Gilbert utilizes the type of work performed and the level of education obtained; the other two include estimates of income in their divisions. While an imperfectly functioning market can be split into three broad categories, these categories do not always tell the whole story.

False Classifications

Now one might wonder, what kind of decisions do we make based on the perceived location of certain individuals within the system? Well, as has become quite apparent with recent media attention, we very often make emotional judgments based the status of individuals. We may even view someone who is perceived to be in a higher division with envy. Tax policy is also affected by these divisions. It might seem reasonable to assume that someone within the upper divisions could handle a greater tax burden than can those in lower divisions, and perhaps to some extent, that is true.

  • Tom

    I am 67 years old, have a GED and some college that I picked up after I was 30. However, at the time I left home I was fully capable of building a house from scratch, complete with electrical and sewage systems. In the Army, my last 4 years (of 10) were finished as a facility Engineer. However, the point is that I already knew the fine points before the Army started to try to teach me. Today, even at 67, I doubt very much that I could not make sure my family survive even if the economy fell flat. I started life in a house with no electricity, I was taught to cure meat at an early age, because I had never heard of a refrigerator until I was 11 years old. And that was “hear”, for I was 14 before I lived in a house with one.
    As for food, I can’t remember any time when I didn’t have plenty, although I did see some slim times in those days.

    • Kir (Politicoid)

      Skills and lifestyle decisions play at least as a large a part in your quality of life as income, don’t they? That is another possible factor I should consider when looking at class stratification.