Social Class Anxiety

I’m curious about markers for social class in the United States.

What I am not talking about is money. I know there are rich and poor. I’m interested in figuring out behavior and cataloguing it as low class, middle class and upper class. I’m interested in zeroing in on behavior that indicates class anxiety.

I’m not curious what income level distinguishes lower class from middle class from upper class. I am curious about the behaviors that distinguish class, no matter how much money one has. Some behaviors and choices are low class even if they done by the filthy rich (I’m thinking about the trashy behavior of many rappers, rockers, actors, athletes, etc).

Class anxiety seems most pronounced at the boundaries between lower class and middle class and upper class.

Cathy Seipp was very interested in class. She talked about this woman in a trailer home who talked about her space for “crafts.”

Environmental causes and national parks and PBS and NPR and classical music seem to be the province of the middle and upper classes.

If you walk into a living room and it is oriented to the TV, that strikes me as low class. Not having a library (or a library card) strikes me as low class. Not having a passport strikes me as low class.

The working class seem obsessed with teaching their children to adhere to external standards while the middle class try to inculcate internal standards.

Not wanting to talk about class anxiety or class markers, what does that indicate? A desire not to appear vulgar? This strikes me as middle class. The lower class and the upper class are more cognizant and accept of the reality of social class.

Wikipedia says:

Parental views are the perhaps most essential factor in determining the socialization process which shapes new members of society.[5] The values and standards used in child rearing are commonly closely related to the parent’s occupational status.[2] Parents from the professional class tend to raise their children to become curious independent thinkers, while working class parents raise their children to have a more communal perspective with a strong respect for authority.[2] Middle class parents tend to emphasize internal standards and values while working class parents emphasize external values.[2] Sociologist Dennis Gilbert uses a list of values identified by Melvin Kohn to be typical of the professional middle and working class. Middle class parents values for their children and themselves included: “Consideration of Others, Self-Control, Curiosity, Happiness, Honesty, Tolerance of Nonconformity, Open to Innovation… Self-Direction.” This contrasted with surveyed working class individuals, who reported: “Manners, Obedience… Neatness, Cleanliness, Strong Punishment of Deviant Behavior, Stock to Old Ways, People not Trustworthy… Strict Leadership” as values for themselves and their children. There is a strong correlation between these values and the occupational activities of the respondents. The job characteristics of middle class respondents included: “Work Independently, Varied Tasks, Work with People or Data,” versus working class parents of reported “Close Supervision and Repetitive Work…”

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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