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Class (social) facts for kids

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A social class (or, simply, class), as in class society, is a set of defined concepts in the social sciences and political theory centered on models of in which people are grouped into a set of social categories, the most common being the upper, middle, and lower classes.

The common three-stratum model

Today, concepts of social class often assume three general categories: a very wealthy and powerful upper class that owns and controls the means of production; a middle class of professional workers, small business owners, and low-level managers; and a lower class, who rely on low-paying wage jobs for their livelihood and often experience poverty.

Upper class

A symbolic image of three orders of feudal society in Europe prior to the French Revolution: The rural third estate carrying the clergy and the nobility.

The upper class is the social class composed of those who are rich, well-born, powerful, or a combination of those. They usually wield the greatest political power.

In some countries, wealth alone is sufficient to allow entry into the upper class. In others, only people who are born or marry into certain aristocratic bloodlines are considered members of the upper class, and those who gain great wealth through commercial activity are looked down upon by the aristocracy as nouveau riche. In the United Kingdom, for example, the upper classes are the aristocracy and royalty, with wealth playing a less important role in class status.

The upper class is generally contained within the richest one or two percent of the population. Members of the upper class are often born into it, and are distinguished by immense wealth which is passed from generation to generation in the form of estates.

Middle class

The middle class is the most contested of the three categories, the broad group of people in contemporary society who fall socio-economically between the lower and upper classes. One example of the contest of this term is that in the United States "middle class" is applied very broadly and includes people who would elsewhere be considered working class. Middle-class workers are sometimes called "white-collar workers".

Lower class

Camden NJ poverty
Camden NJ

In the United States the lowest stratum of the working class, the underclass, often lives in urban areas with low-quality civil services.

Lower class (occasionally described as working class) are those employed in low-paying wage jobs with very little economic security. The term "lower class" also refers to persons with low income.

There are usually four social classes that are described in America: the upper class, the middle class, the working class, and the lower class. The upper class typically earns above $250,000 per year; the middle class earns between $48,000 and $249,000 per year; the working class up to $48,000; and the lower class up generally receives a minimal income that is not enough to sustain themselves.

These large income gaps are thought to be one of several root causes of class warfare. While income is a large indicator of class, general wealth and accumulated assets plays a large role in class position because those things have value that can be exchanged for money and thus grant power.

A person's socioeconomic class has wide-ranging effects. It can impact the schools they are able to attend, their health, the jobs open to them, who they may marry, and their treatment by police and the courts.

Health and nutrition

A person's social class has a significant impact on their physical health, their ability to receive adequate medical care and nutrition, and their life expectancy.

Lower-class people experience a wide array of health problems as a result of their economic status. They are unable to use health care as often, and when they do it is of lower quality, even though they generally tend to experience a much higher rate of health issues. Additionally, poor people tend to work in much more hazardous conditions, yet generally have much less (if any) health insurance provided for them, as compared to middle- and upper-class workers.

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