Sociology Index


The term social class is used in many ways in sociology. Social class implies a group of individuals sharing a common situation within a social structure. In land based economies, class structures are based on individual's relationship to the ownership and control of land. Social class may refer to groups of individuals with a shared characteristic relevant in some socio-economic status measurement like individuals earning a particular sum in a year. Social class then has a statistical meaning rather than being defined by social relationships. Social class is used in discussing social structure and sociologists rely on the concept of status in which individuals within a class can be seen as having quite differentiated social situations.

A social class is a group of people that have similar social status.

Karl Marx distinguished four classes in capitalist societies:

a bourgeoisie class who own and control the means of production,

a petite Bourgeoisie of small business and professionals,

a proletariat of wage workers and

a lumpenproletariat of people in poverty and social disorganization.

Class consciousness is associated with the development of a ‘class-for-itself’ where individuals within the class unite to pursue their shared interests.

The concept assumes that there is an objective ‘class interest’ of which its members are unaware.

When divisions between social classes become obvious it is difficult for individuals to change their social class because status is shaped by their class location.

This is a useful concept in avoiding the simplistic view that the ‘corporate class’ is a necessarily unified group.

A class of individuals conscious of sharing a common social situation and who unite to pursue common interests.

A social class composed of individuals who objectively share class membership.

Social Class Abstracts

Social Classes in Classical and Marxist Political Economy. - John Milios - Abstract - The notion social class attains a well-defined theoretical content in the works of the classical political economists, who defined classes on the basis of the specific income form that each category of people (class) obtains. This approach to class constitutes a first form of a "friendly merger" between political economy and sociology. When combined with the classical labor value theory, it has led to a theory of class exploitation of the laboring class by the capitalist class.

Social Class and the Spirit of Capitalism - Matthias Doepke, Fabrizio Zilibotti, Journal of the European Economic Association. Abstract: One of the key social transformations that accompanied the British Industrial Revolution was the economic decline of the aristocracy. Standard theories of wealth inequality cannot explain why the aristocrats, in spite of their superior wealth and education, failed to be the main protagonists and beneficiaries of industrialization. We discuss recent research based on a model of endogenous preferences that is consistent with the demise of aristocracy.

Relationship of Gender, Self-Esteem, Social Class, and Racial Identity to Depression in Blacks - Maria B. Munford, Journal of Black Psychology, Vol. 20, No. 2, 157-174 (1994). Abstract. Previous research has indicated that depression, the most common mental illness, can be related to suchfactors as gender, self-esteem, social class, and racial identity. Results showed that higher levels of depression were associated with lower levels of self-esteem. No significant gender differences were found in levels of self-esteem and depression, and no significant social class differences were found in levels of depression.

Lifestyle and Social Class. Mark Tomlinson
ESRC Centre for Research on Innovation and Competition, Devonshire House, University of Manchester. European Sociological Review 19:97-111 (2003)
Abstract. Using data on health and lifestyles the paper attempts to show that it is possible to identify distinct niches of behaviour in British society in the 1980s and 1990s. The analysis uses categorical data techniques on the 1985 Health and Lifestyles Survey and 1992 follow-up survey to first show the clustering of behavioral patterns, and secondly to show that these clusterings tend to be strongly associated with traditional social categories such as social class and gender.

Globalisation, Youth Expectations and Social Class: The Case of Sri Lanka
Angela W. Little, University of London - Institute of Education
Ricardo Sabatas, Centre for International Education.
Abstract: Whether economic globalisation is associated with a narrowing or a widening of the social class gap between the education and occupation expectations of Sri Lankan youth is examined through a test of four hypotheses.

Migration and Endogamy According to Social Class: France, 1803–1986.
International Review of Social History (2005), 50:219-246 Cambridge University Press.
Abstract: Does intra-national migration matter for partner choice? A number of conflicting hypotheses on the effects of migration on the likelihood of endogamy according to social class of origin are formulated and tested on the French historical record over the past two centuries.

The Cultures of Social Class and Religious Educational Practice
Katherine Turpin - Religious Education, Volume 104, Issue 3 May 2009 , pages 315 - 331
Abstract: Although social class impacts the assumptions, values, and normative practices of Religious Education, the lack of public discourse on class diminishes awareness of and critical reflection on this impact. This article describes social class as a largely unarticulated and embodied performance of identity inflected through hierarchical practices of race, gender, and commodity consumption. The author provides examples of the impact of social class bias on the practice of Religious Education in the context of youth ministry.

Ethnic and social class factors in residential segregation: some implications for dispersal
T R Lee - Environment and Planning 5(4) 477 – 490
Abstract. Although the social class characteristics of coloured immigrants in Britain are clearly defined, and while social class groups within the majority population display distinctive spatial patterns, very little recognition of the role of social class has been incorporated into studies of immigrant concentration and dispersal. This paper seeks to evaluate the spatial constraints on the dispersal of West Indians in London which are imposed by social class segregation within the wider population.

How Social Class Differences Affect Students' Experience of University
Journal of Further and Higher Education, Volume 28, Number 4, 2004 , pp. 407-421(15). - Routledge, part of the Taylor & Francis Group
Abstract: The present paper outlines the experiences reported by students from different social class backgrounds who have recently graduated from university. Students from manual skilled and partly skilled backgrounds were classed as disadvantaged, while students from professional or intermediate backgrounds were classed as advantaged. There were no social class differences in ratings of teaching quality and all students reported high levels of financial concern.

Social class differences in social support among older adults
N Krause and E Borawski-Clark, Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, University of Michigan, School of Public Health. - The Gerontologist, Vol 35, Issue 4 498-508
The purpose of this study is to test for social class differences in social support among older adults. Data on a comprehensive range of social support measures provided by a nationwide sample of elderly people suggests that social class differences emerge when measures of contact with friends, support provided to others, and satisfaction with support are examined.

The influence of social class background on childhood sport involvement.
Hasbrook, C. A.
Abstract: Two theoretical constructs of social class: life chances-economic opportunity set; and life-styles-social psychological opportunity set were operationalized within the context of sport participation and tested to determine how well they explain the social class/sport participation linkage.

Embodying social class - The link between poverty, income inequality and health
Stephen M. Rose, Stephanie Hatzenbuehler, School of Social Work at the University of New England
International Social Work, Vol. 52, No. 4, 459-471 (2009)
Abstract: Poverty, income inequality and the inequitable distribution of health invariably co-occur. The strength of the relationship between wealth and health holds even in countries with universal health care.

The relationship between social class and childrearing behaviors: parents' perspective taking and value orientations
Dekovic, Maja, Gerris, Jan R.M., Janssens, Jan M.A.M.
National Council of Family Relations, Journal of Marriage and the Family
Abstract: Researchers developed a model to give insight into the relationship between social class and parenting behaviors. The study revealed that parental perspective mediates between social class and childrearing behavior whilst also influencing parental value orientation.

Social Class Influences on Black American Ideological Beliefs from 1980 to 2003 (Poster)
Destin, Mesmin. and Griffin, Tiffany - Paper presented at the annual meeting of the ISPP 31st Annual Scientific Meeting.
Abstract: Social class differences in the ideological orientations of Black Americans have been examined empirically over the past fifty years (e.g., Frazier, 1957; Hwang, Fitzpatrick, & Helms, 1998; Kilson, 1983; Pettigrew, 1981; Wilson, 1978). Together these analyses suggest that the qualitatively different experiences of relatively high and low socio-economic status Black Americans over the last quarter of the 20th century may have contributed to a growing significance of social class in demarcating different ideological positions among the population.

Social Class and Undergraduate Degree Subject in the UK
Massimiliano Bratti, University degli Studi di Milano - DEAS; Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)
Abstract: Although past research has found strong social class effects on the decision to undertake higher education in the UK, there is only sparse empirical work investigating social class influences on the choice of degree subject at the undergraduate level. Using Universities' Statistical Record data for the period 1981-1991, we find no social class effect on students' undergraduate degree subjects enrolled.

Reducing Racial And Social-Class Inequalities In Health: The Need For A New Approach
S. Leonard Syme - Health Affairs, 27, no. 2 (2008): 456-459
It is well known that people in racial and ethnic minority groups and in lower social-class positions have higher morbidity and mortality rates from virtually every disease.

Inequalities in health related to social class in women: What is the effect of the measure used
BORRELL, Carme; ROHLFS, Izabella; ARTAZCOZ, Lucia and MUNTANER, Carles.
Gaceta Sanitaria, Gac Sanit [online]. 2004, vol.18, suppl.2, pp. 75-82.
Abstract: Classical theories of social stratification share the assumption that the family is the unit of stratification, using the man's occupation as a measure of social class. These theories were criticized by feminism, which claimed that women were not visible in class analysis. The present article aims firstly to review measurement of women's social class, secondly to review studies on the impact of different measures of social class on inequalities in health among women.

Social class in childhood and general health in adulthood: questionnaire study of contribution of psychological attributes
Hans Bosma, senior researcher, H Dike van de Mheen, senior researcher, Johan P Mackenbach, professor.
Erasmus University Rotterdam, Department of Public Health
Objective: To determine the contribution of psychological attributes (personality characteristics and coping styles) to the association between social class in childhood and adult health among men and women.
Conclusions: A higher prevalence of negative personality profiles and adverse coping styles in subjects who grew up in lower social classes explains part of the association between social class in childhood and adult health. This finding underlines the importance of psychological mechanisms in the examination of the negative effects of adverse socioeconomic conditions in childhood.

Social Class and Ageing Bodies: Understanding Physical Activity in Later Life
Alex Dumasa and Suzanne Labergeb - Social Theory & Health (2005) 3, 183–205.
Abstract: In most Western societies, chronic illness is an increasingly important health issue among older populations. A major finding was that although dispositions towards physical activity differed greatly between the two groups during youth and adulthood, they tended to be more alike in the later phase of life. Pierre Bourdieu's theory was useful both in understanding how social class and age are important structuring principles of health behaviour in later life, and in conceptualizing the shifting effects of structural inequalities on health dispositions in life.

Social Class Journals

Race & Class - A Journal for Black and Third World Liberation - Published on behalf of The Institute of Race Relations - A. Sivanandan, Hazel Waters Institute of Race Relations. Race & Class is the foremost English language journal on racism and imperialism in the world today.

Series: Journal of Social Issues - Psychological Meanings of Social Class in the Context of Education - Edited by: JOAN M OSTROVE and ELIZABETH COLE - ISBN: 9781405118842 
Description: This issue of JSI is an effort to engage psychologists in a critical study of social class; that is, a systematic, research-based literature focused on the exploration of the psychological meaning of social class to diverse groups of people. Because educational institutions both attempt to offer opportunity and often simultaneously reproduce existing class stratification, the context of education is an ideal stage on which to watch the dynamics and contradictions of class play out in both individual and social psychology. Focuses on understanding attitudes, beliefs and attributions about class. Brings attention to the implications of a critical psychology of social class for both educational policy and practice.

Books On Social Class

Psychological Meanings of Social Class in the Context of Education Book by Joan Ostrove, Elizabeth R. Cole, Joan M. Ostrove

The Old Social Classes and the Revolutionary Movements of Iraq : by Hanna Batatu

Class and Schools: Using Social, Economic, and Educational Reform to Close the Black-White Achievement Gap Richard Rothstein

How Class Works : Power and Social Movement Book by Stanley Aronowitz

New Working-class Studies Book by John Russo (Editor), Sherry Lee Linkon (Editor)

Talk That Counts: Age, Gender, and Social Class Differences in Discourse Ronald K. S. MacAulay

Social Inequality: Patterns and Processes Book by Martin Marger

Boston Against Busing: Race, Class, and Ethnicity in the 1960s and 1970s Book by Ronald P. Formisano

What's Class Got to Do With It?: American Society in the Twenty-First Century Book by Michael Zweig (Editor)

Structure of Social Stratification in the United States, The (4th Edition) Book by Leonard Beeghley

Revolution And Counterrevolution: Class Struggle In A Moscow Metal Factory Book by Kevin Murphy

Social Mobility In Europe Book by Richard Breen (Editor)

Experiencing Race, Class, and Gender in the United States Book by Roberta Fiske-Rusciano, Virginia Cyrus

Adolescent Lives in Transition: How Social Class Influences the Adjustment to Middle School Book by Donna Marie San Antonio

Youth Deviance in Japan: Class Reproduction of Non-Conformity Robert Stuart Yoder

The Parlour and the Suburb : Domestic Identities, Class, Femininity and Modernity Book by Judy Giles

The Failures of Integration: How Race and Class Are Undermining the American Dream Book by Sheryll Cashin

A Theory of Global Capitalism: Production, Class, and State in a Transnational World (Themes in Global Social Change) Book by William I. Robinson

Social Inequalities in Comparative Perspective Book by Fiona Devine (Editor), Mary C. Waters (Editor)

Harvard Works Because We Do Book by Studs Terkel (Foreword), Greg Halpern.

"Social Class in America" - Bob Millar, (1995).

The Invisible Americans", Families on the Fault Line, Lillian Rubin, (1995).

Working class experiences - "Shattered Dreams", Families on the Fault Line, Lillian Rubin, (1995).

Bartley, M., Carpenter, L., Dunnell, K., and Fitzpatrick, R. (1996) ‘Measuring Inequalities in Health: An Analysis of Mortality Patterns from Two Social Classifications’. Sociology of Health and Illness, 18: 455-475.

Breen, R. and Rottman, D. (1995) ‘Class Analysis and Class Theory’, Sociology, 29, 3: 453-473.

Bushnell, D. (1994) ‘Priority Rules for Imputing SEG and Social Class’, Mimeo. London: ONS Social Survey Division.

Elias, P. and McKnight, A. (1996) ‘Earnings, occupations and social classification. Paper prepared under Stage II of the ESRC Review of the Social Classification’. Coventry: Institute for Employment Research, University of Warwick.

Evans, G and Mills, C (forthcoming, 1997) ‘Identifying Class Structure: A latent class analysis of the criterion-related and construct validity of the Goldthorpe class schema’, The European Sociological Review.

Gallie, D. (1995) ‘Social Classifications and Employment’, paper presented at a workshop on Social Classifications, London Guildhall University, February 17.

Gallie, D. (1996) ‘New Technology and the Class Structure’, British Journal of Sociology, 47, 3:447-474.

Goldthorpe, J.H. (with C. Llewellyn) (1980) Social Mobility and Class Structure in Modern Britain. Oxford: Clarendon.

Marshall, G. (1997) Repositioning Class. London: Sage.

Marshall, G., Roberts, S. and Burgoyne, C. (1996) Social Class and Underclass in Britain and the USA, British Journal of Sociology, 47:1:22-44.

Marshall, G., Rose, D., Newby, H. and Vogler, C. (1988) Social Class in Modern Britain. London: Hutchinson.

Martin, J. (1996) ‘Classification of individual occupations by socio-economic group and social class based on occupations', Mimeo. London: ONS.