Welcome! In this bulletin, we will be discussing the topic of Classism. You’ll be able to find sections including definitions involving classism, history, videos, articles/handouts, statistics, and questions to ponder.


Class: Relative social rank in terms of income, wealth, education, occupational status and/or power.

Classism: The institutional, cultural and individual set of practices and beliefs that assign differential value to people according to their socioeconomic class; and an economic system that creates excessive inequality and causes basic human needs to go unmet.

Status: Social status can be understood as the degree of honor or prestige attached to one’s position in society.

Ruling Class: The stratum of people who hold positions of power in major institutions of the society.

Owning Class/Rich: The stratum of families who own income-producing assets sufficient to make paid employment unnecessary.

Upper-Middle Class: The portion of the middle class with higher incomes due to professional jobs and/or investment income.

Middle Class: The stratum of families for whom breadwinners’ higher education and/ or specialized skills brings higher income and more security than working class people have.

Lower-Middle Class: The portion of the middle class with lower and less stable incomes due to lower-skilled or unstable employment.

Working Class: The stratum of families whose income depends on hourly wages for labor, or on other non-managerial work or very small business activity that doesn’t require higher education.

Poverty Class: The stratum of families with incomes persistently insufficient to meet basic human needs.

Cultural Capital: The forms of knowledge, skill, education, any advantages a person has that give her or him a higher status in society.

Social Capital: Resources based on group membership, relationships, networks of influence and support.

Internalized Classism: Acceptance and justification of classism by working-class and poor people, such as feelings of inferiority to higher-class people, hostility and blame toward other working-class or poor people, and beliefs that classist institutions/policies are fair are all examples of internalized subordination. Feelings of superiority to people lower on the class spectrum than oneself, a sense of entitlement, rationalizations of classist policies and institutions on the part of middle class and people on the upper end of the class spectrum are examples of internalized domination. Both internalized subordination and internalized dominance are manifestations of internalized classism.

Class Privilege: One of the many tangible or intangible unearned advantages of higher-class status, such as personal contacts with employers, good childhood health care, inherited money, speaking the same dialect and accent as people with institutional power.

Definitions were provided from Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice
Edited by Maurianne Adams, Lee Anne Bell, Pat Griffin, © Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice, 
Second Edition, Routledge, 2007


Video Gallery

Classism and Poverty in America’s Schools

Where Welfare Goes

Wealth Inequality in America

Does money make you mean?

Poor Deaf Kid – Poverty: Not a Choice

Whites Aren’t Affected by Racism But Are Victims of Classism

Dr Seuss’ The Sneetches

More Information


  • 61% of Americans “always or usually” live paycheck to paycheck.The bottom 50% of income earners own less than 1% of America’s wealth.
  • Conversely, the average CEO earns 380 times more than those in the lowest 20% income bracket.
  • The top 10% of families — those who had at least $942,000 — held 76% of total wealth
  • 70% of state and 58 of federal prisoners had been incarcerated while receiving an income of $2000 or less a month.
  • In 2004, 28% of state and federal prisoners were unemployed within a month of their incarceration.
  • Medical research has shown that those growing up in impoverished neighborhoods have a higher probability of abusing alcohol in their future.
  • 4% of those reliant on welfare exhibit drug dependence, with a further 21% having been exposed to illicit narcotics within the past year.
  • The 2011 Census found that 1 in 2 U.S. citizens were either poor, homeless, or qualified as low income.
  • The average income had increased 200% in value whereas the value is -26% for minimum wage earners

Sources: ’22 Statistics That Prove That the Middle Class is Being Systematically Wiped Out’ by Michael Snyder, ‘Wealth Inequality in America’, Statistics on Prison Population Rates – P.A.P. Blog, Center for Urban Epidemiologic Studies, ‘11 Charts That Show Income Inequality Isn’t Getting Better Anytime Soon’ by Dave Gilson and Edwin Rios


  • What role do you think economic disparity plays in the school environment?
  • When were you first aware of class differences? What were the messages you received about people who different socio-economic backgrounds than your family? 
  • What would our society look like if there was no poverty? What can we do to make this happen here in the United States?
  • What can you do to level the playing fields so that ALL our young people learn in a similar environment?


Your Assumptions About Welfare Recipients Are Wrong

Classism Keeps the Poor Jobless

Classism in Fashion

Book: The Sneetches by Dr. Seuss

Classism for Adults

Anti-Capitalism and Intersectionality: Race Class Gender Meet-Up


Class Action