Determinants of Social Class In the United States
The development of human society from being a hunter-gathering system to an agricultural society led to the emergence of inequality among individuals. This is manifested through the creation of private property that an agricultural society entails as it produces resources that are considered valuable for people. Thus, as a particular group of people accumulates more resources and private property than others, there also exists a group where resources are scarce and do not have private property to claim ownership to.
More popularly introduced as a concept in Karl Marx's theory of class conflict in the capitalist system, social class has indeed determined the course of human history as people tried to improve their lives in order to eradicate the perpetuation of oppression against those who belong to the lower classes by the elite class. Social class, particularly stratification, is ultimately determined by a variety of factors or determinants that prevail in the society. These determinants make up the basic demographics of the society, which include, among others, family life, education, religion, politics, and physical and mental health.
In this paper, the researcher argues that deprivation of the basic needs of people on each of these determinants illustrates the operation of social stratification, dividing the line among members of the society between those who are privileged and underprivileged. In the texts that follow, social class is demonstrated as the level of deprivation or provision of basic services that society provides for individuals, such as basic health services, nurturing of family relationships, attaining good education, and freedom to participate in a religion and political ideology of their choice. These indicators determine how social class is reflected when society provides or deprives an individual of these basic needs, wherein provision means the individual is a member of the higher social class, while those being deprived of these services belong to the lower class of the society.
The maintenance of strong family relationships is vital to the integration of the individual in his/her society. More often than not, wealth has to do with the survival of a family unit: those who are able to provide for their family's everyday needs tend to be more satisfied than those who have barely enough resources to keep their family members surviving everyday. The "tension" that emerges among family members as a result of poverty leads to the weakening of family ties. Parents may separate and seek divorce as their way of 'escaping' from this tension, while children may opt to run away from home to avoid their family problems. Thus, as a result of poverty, the family disintegrates, and this unfortunate reality is reflected in most of the families who belong to the lower social class. Since people do not have a stable source of income to rely on, family members spend few time together, which results to lack of cohesion and unity among them.
Another illustration of how social class influences an individual's life chances is through education. Evidently, society gives better chances and opportunities for financial security to an individual who has achieved higher education than those who were only to support themselves to go to high school, or worse, to grade school only. It is also apparent that most people who have attained higher educational attainment are those people who have the money to afford better formal education -- people who belong to the higher or elite class, and sometimes, those who belong to the middle class. It is not surprising, then, that the lower class become workers at a young age, and continues to be so until their adult…