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Thread: How often do American's change class

  1. #1 How often do American's change class 
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    I was wondering if anyone knew of anyone actually tracking information on how often people actually change from lower class to middle class or upper class? or how often they go the other way?

    historically, up to the industrial revolution, changing classes was supposed to be a rather rare thing. If you were born a farmer you pretty much stayed a farmer, if your dad was a merchant you bought ans sold stuff too.

    But with all the talk of class warfare and 'attacks on the middle class' I'm wondering is the middle class actually shrinking? What little research I've done makes it look like at least in the USA, the middle class is pretty large, and seems to be making a lot of money. So how often do middle class people become poor? and how often do they move up to rich? And how do you decide who is poor, who is well off, and who id rich?

    After all, a peasant from the 12th century would thing ALL of us live in incredible ease and luxury. I don't know a single person so poor they don't have a tv, a radio, enough food to get fat. The exception is street people and even they often have these things, just no shelter (which sucks, there should be NO people out on the street. I mean open up one of the closed military bases and put them up in barracks, for god's sake! sorry for the aside)

    Carthagenian


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  3. #2  
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    There are numbers for this in "After the New Economy" by Doug Henwood. I forget what they are, but I recall a couple of things about it:
    1 - the US has fallen behind most other developed countries in terms of upward mobility. (Only Russia is worse.)
    2 - There's as much downward mobility as upward mobility.

    As far as the middle class making a lot of money, well, we're making about as much as we did 25 years ago, adjusted for inflation, while the top 1% of the US is making considerably more now. The economic structure is starting to look more like a feudal economy.

    Sure, even poor people are better off now than in the 12th century -- I should hope so. But "ease and luxury" is overstating it. Many people live paycheck to paycheck, with no real job security, both spouses working outside the home.... 45 million with no medical insurance.... Lose your job or get sick, and the "enough food to get fat" has to be purchased with credit cards at high interest rates. (There was no usury in the 12th century.) Then you have to refinance your house to pull out the equity to make the credit card payments....

    Sure, there was no medical insurance for anyone in the 12th century, lol, but shouldn't the standard of comparison be how things could be, if the class warfare of the "Reagan Revolution" was ended?


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  4. #3 Re: How often do American's change class 
    Forum Bachelors Degree charles brough's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carthagenian
    I was wondering if anyone knew of anyone actually tracking information on how often people actually change from lower class to middle class or upper class? or how often they go the other way?
    From long experience I can say with certainty that you never change class. I was raised middle class. I married into the upper class and loved it, but in my ways and thinking, I always remained middle class. It was my middle class stabiliity that was so important to my upper class spouse. Later on, I spent eight months in travel and got deeply involved with very poor people in the South. It was hard to really come to understand how they thought. In the motor home park, my neighbor and his woman lived in a van. Their toilet was 250 feet away in the main building. They got water out of the outside faucet and elecrity for their tv through one of the vehicle's broken windows. Neither of them had most of their teeth, being in their 40s. Those that were left were not brushed. They had been forced to leave where they were before because the bars would no longer let them in.

    For me, getting along with them was a real task because I thought and behaved so differently. To me, they seemed so unpredictable. They had big differences from me in manners. When he peed close to my door, what was I to say? I said nothing but managed to get across subtly later that he was too close to my door! Relating to them was complex and difficult.

    Income has nothing to do with what class you are in. Most "celebraties" are borderline white trash. They do not know how to handle wealth and status. Essential to class is honor, reliability and integrity. No matter how much money you might have, if you lack those, you are not upper class.

    charles, http://humanpurpose.simplenet.com
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  5. #4 Re: How often do American's change class 
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    Quote Originally Posted by charles brough
    Quote Originally Posted by Carthagenian
    I was wondering if anyone knew of anyone actually tracking information on how often people actually change from lower class to middle class or upper class? or how often they go the other way?
    From long experience I can say with certainty that you never change class. I was raised middle class. I married into the upper class and loved it, but in my ways and thinking, I always remained middle class. It was my middle class stabiliity that was so important to my upper class spouse. Later on, I spent eight months in travel and got deeply involved with very poor people in the South. It was hard to really come to understand how they thought. In the motor home park, my neighbor and his woman lived in a van. Their toilet was 250 feet away in the main building. They got water out of the outside faucet and elecrity for their tv through one of the vehicle's broken windows. Neither of them had most of their teeth, being in their 40s. Those that were left were not brushed. They had been forced to leave where they were before because the bars would no longer let them in.

    For me, getting along with them was a real task because I thought and behaved so differently. To me, they seemed so unpredictable. They had big differences from me in manners. When he peed close to my door, what was I to say? I said nothing but managed to get across subtly later that he was too close to my door! Relating to them was complex and difficult.

    Income has nothing to do with what class you are in. Most "celebraties" are borderline white trash. They do not know how to handle wealth and status. Essential to class is honor, reliability and integrity. No matter how much money you might have, if you lack those, you are not upper class.

    charles, http://humanpurpose.simplenet.com
    Ok, good comment, and interesting, but completely not what I was asking about. What I'm trying to find out is how often people change their economic status, not so much how low class people pee next to your door. I know people tend to have the same values they grew up with, so when they change class they tend to still act the same way. But people DO change from living in an apartment to owning their own home to living in a mansion, and people do go from living in a mansion and to living in a broken down van and stealing power for their tv. I'd just like to know how often they change and what trends there are over the last decade or maybe the last century.

    And about your low class neighbors, they didn't pee on your doorstep or have to move because they were poor, or because they were some how culturally disadvantaged, they were drunks. Drunks don't have manners, drunks don't care about hygiene, and drunks get kicked out of bars when they cause trouble. That wasn't a class difference, that was a septic addiction. That ISN'T typical of poor southerners, its typical of drug addicts though.

    But still, you are an example of what I'm talking about, you married into the upperclass, and though you didn't adopt their manner or values, you did in fact become upperclass. I'm wondering if any grad student somewhere actually crunched any numbers, or did a study. It seems that people trumpet about 'war on the middle class' and how its shrinking, I just wondered if there were actual studies one way or the other, or if people are as usual pulling stuff out of their as...out of thin air.
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  6. #5  
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    [quote="IBrakeForTrees"]
    ...

    Sure, even poor people are better off now than in the 12th century -- I should hope so. But "ease and luxury" is overstating it. Many people live paycheck to paycheck, with no real job security, both spouses working outside the home.... 45 million with no medical insurance.... Lose your job or get sick, and the "enough food to get fat" has to be purchased with credit cards at high interest rates. (There was no usury in the 12th century.) Then you have to refinance your house to pull out the equity to make the credit card payments....

    ...

    quote]

    Thanks for the reference, I'll see if I can find it. Sounds like it has more or less what I was looking for.

    But I wanted to comment on the conditions you seem to think are symptoms of class warfare. Ever increasing income is not the benchmark of advancing civilization. While it may be true that our middle class is roughly at the same income adjusted for inflation, as we had 25 years ago, that standard of living is incredibly high compaired to almost any third world economy and even compaired to a hundred years ago. For example farmers have ALWAYS lived crop to crop, never knowing if the future would be secure. No one ever has job security. Living paycheck to paycheck is not a problem of income, but of money management. People don't HAVE to spend every penny of every paycheck, they just DO it. AT least in the US they do. Other contries manage to save money while having far lower incomes (I'm thinking of China mostly here). And if you lose your job or get sick, there ARE safety nets in place, such as Disability and Unemployement. They may not be perfect, but they ARE there. As to both parents working, again, both parents always worked. Just one of them didn't get paid and was told she didn't really work. The difference now is that both work outside the home as you said, but the main problem with that is that children don't see their parents as often and I agree this is a problem. But it doesn't compair to the problems of a coal miners family from the 19th century who worked 70 to 80 hours in a mine, and his wife did odd jobs on the side and who had 10 kids not two, and who could only buy from the company store not walmart, who not only didn't have health insurance, but even if he had the money didn't have access to the top or middle levels of contemporary health services. And none of them would be fat, because there simply wasn;t enough money for any overeating at all. The modern poor have a great deal of leasure, free entertainment, abundant cheap food (you may not like eating rice, but you can live on it indefinitely for less than a dolar a day, and there are food stamps as well), free education, and at least a rudamentary safety net if everything falls apart for them. so yes, in this country even the poor do indeed live in ease and luxury.

    I know the rich have more, but the rich having more isn't an attack on the poor, or on the middle class. It doesn't mean something is wrong in america, it just means that some people have MORE ease and luxury than others (oh the horror!). No life isn't totally fair, but people DO go from being dirt poor to being well off, and from being well off to being wealthy. I know it happens the other way around too. But don't think that just because someone else is better off than you are, that somehow they have hurt you, or that you are doing badly yourself. There has been class warefare in the past and will continute to be class warefare in the future, but at least right now, right here, it isn't the desperate struggle to thrive and survive it has been in the past, now it is more like a game played by bored and spoiled people who feel that there should be more in their lives and think that more they need is more stuff, more money, and more relative status.

    If you have air, water, food, shelter, entertaiment, education, and safety, you don't need more stuff in your life. At about that point in the hierarchy of needs (did I spell that right?), what you need isn't more stuff, it starts to be more spiritual and mystical. And most people think that means status, they want it because someone else has it, not because they need it.

    Still, I think universal health care would be nice, if someone can come up with a way to do it that doesn't result in universally POOR healthcare or serious damage to the economy which supports us all.
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  7. #6  
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    Carthagenian, I don't disagree with you that people are better off in the US than in 3rd world countries. But:

    1 - The US, in general, is no longer progressing. While we're still #1 right now, in 20 years we'll be #2, and in 50 years we'll likely be at the bottom of the pack. This is avoidable, but not if we rest on our laurels and think everything will be hunky-dory now till forever, as free-trade religionists tell me.

    2 - Economic class warfare is when one class tries to get what the other class has. There is a Neo-Victorian way of thinking right now among the top 1% that the bottom 50% of the country only exists to be exploited. E.g., Circuit City laying off workers because they "make too much", while the CEO gets $3M in salary and bonuses, plus stock options. And, of course, the stock went up when he did that, so he made money on the layoff.

    3 - Other countries have a much better safety net than we do. That includes pretty much every country in Western & Central Europe. We used to be able to justify our lack of a safety net by saying that it made us more productive, but Europe now has a higher rate of GDP increase than we do.

    4 - Living paycheck to paycheck can, in some cases, be a problem with money management. But if you check the statistics at sites like responsiblelending.org you'll find that the bottom 60% of the population has seen an average 12% rise in income over the past 2 decades, but a 50-70% rise in expenses. That's not a problem of money management. How can people save when they keep falling further behind?

    5 - The hidden problem with both spouses earning a paycheck is that if one gets laid off, or seriously ill, income is seriously reduced. Often reduced enough so that plastic has to be used for everyday expenses. There's a link to the Plastic Safety Net on the site I mentioned previously.

    6 - There used to be waaay more job security than there is now. A fairly good-sized percentage of the population were able to get pensions because they had put in 30 years with one company. That's almost unheard of these days.

    Anyway, if your rebuttal is: "So what? People have enough to live on." Well, one of the problems with being a liberal is seeing how things can be better. :-)
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  8. #7  
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    Quote Originally Posted by IBrakeForTrees
    Europe now has a higher rate of GDP increase than we do
    As a whole yes, this is mainly down to eastern Europe, there are many individual country's inside Europe that don't.

    ---------------

    I don't think there is any statistical information on the change of peoples social status, but i believe that as a country become richer or is in high rate of economical growth the middle class grows bigger, and when a country becomes poorer the main bulk of the middle class moves down to working class with a handful of them moving up to become upper class.
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  9. #8  
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    "As a whole yes, this is mainly down to eastern Europe, there are many individual country's inside Europe that don't. "

    Actually, I had meant Western & Central Europe. Eastern Europe isn't actually doing that well. Scandinavia is doing very well, Spain is vastly improved, Germany finally seems to have overcome the absorption of the DDR, UK very well, etc. You can see this in the value of the Euro, which is up about 30% vs the dollar over the last 3 years or so. (Something like that -- I haven't checked the numbers lately.)

    Just coincidentally, I just saw a report on the expected increase in household wealth over the next 10 years. It was done for each of the G7 countries. For the U.S., the number of households worth $100K+ rises 55000 to 73000, or about 33%. Households worth $1M+ rise 101%, to 19500. Households worth $3M+ rise 178%, to 5400.

    I haven't read the full report yet. It's at www.barclayswealth.com.

    Draw your own conclusions.

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  10. #9  
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    Oops, let me fix something in my last post -- hit return too fast. Those household numbers are in thousands, and the wealth is an "aggregate" number, which I believe includes real estate.
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  11. #10 Re: How often do American's change class 
    Forum Bachelors Degree charles brough's Avatar
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    """"" Drunks don't have manners, drunks don't care about hygiene, and drunks get kicked out of bars when they cause trouble. That wasn't a class difference, that was a septic addiction. That ISN'T typical of poor southerners, its typical of drug addicts though.

    But still, you are an example of what I'm talking about, you married into the upperclass, and though you didn't adopt their manner or values, you did in fact become upperclass"""

    Some of the most sophisticated, well mannered and educated people of all classes are alcoholics and their friends do not even know it. These are people who start drinking late in the afternoon and drink all evening until they have to be helped to bed. The man who peed neary my door is crude and classless when sober as well.

    I suggest that people in the social sciences keep in mind that there are people who have "class" and there are people who have no "class." The word has a very different meaning when used to classify different incomes. When we refer only to the income classification, it would be better if we say so.

    I changed into an upper income braket and an upper class without,myself, ceasing to be, by nature, middle clalss. My income later was low enough not to have to file a tax return so I was lower income class inter-reacting with poor people, but still middle class in makeup.

    charles, http://humanpurpose.simplenet.com
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