Social Stratification Perspective of the Lower Classes

The lower classes can be defined strictly by income that is less than the average or even the exact middle of the national or societal income level. But there is more to existing as a member of a social class structure than low income. Otherwise, the only perspective that would matter would be the perspective that comes from having no money!

A retired college professor or celebrity might make a much lower income due to major disability, early retirement or from other causes, but will still have the life experience, education and even the interpersonal contacts of a person from any of the higher social classes.

The lower classes are often mistakenly viewed as limited in life experience, opportunities, educations and even ability to travel beyond an established neighborhood because of lack of funds. But depending on where and how they live, the financial lower classes can live very rich lives and can be exceedingly knowledgable and satisfied.

A rural resident will have opportunities to live off of nature by growing food, fishing or hunting. They can make, trade, sell and barter goods, produce and services and can generally expect to have the support of neighbors, local authorities and the rural community as a whole.  A highly skilled web designer or technical writer or other person who can use the internet to work from home can make enough income to pay for needed services, living comfortably on much less money than is required for urban or suburban life.

From a rural perspective, closeness to nature, living with fewer restrictions and rules, family ties, generational presence, priceless knowledge and education and contributions to and from the community as well as a closer knit community will lead to less perception of lowered class and income level.

In surburban areas, it is much harder to make it as a lower class individual because of the lack of access to transportation, apartment housing, stores, and community or government support. Suburban living generally calls for owning one’s own transportation and being able to drive to jobs, stores and to just about anything that is needed outside of the home.

 In many cases, living with family or in shared housing with shared resources is the only option for those with lower incomes to live in suburban areas, unless the areas include subsidized housing, public transport and service agencies that are more accessible than normally found outside of cities.

The suburban poor, especially the elderly often have transport and social work programs and can have food, housing subsidies and other programs available to them. But family, especially caregivers often provide periodic support and help with problems. Adult children who move home with their parents can constitute a significant number of unemployed or insufficiently employed individuals who live with private subsidy, at least for housing and food.

Each type of person will have a differing perspective on life, money, what constitutes satisfaction and what constitutes a goal in life, making it hard to find any one perspective that would be generalizable.

The urban poor can live in neighborhoods that have highly concentrated generational or long standing social groups and systems. There are far more housing options, given the apartment, transient hotel and other options in urban areas. There might be a “hundred  block” life history, where residents may have never travelled any farther from their homes, except on very rare or special occasions.

With the concentration of activity that urban areas allow, any work, family, friends, schools and other opportunities can easily be concentrated into a very small area that can be covered on foot or by public transport, wheras suburban and rural poor may have to drive for hundreds of miles a week just to deal with work, shopping, socializing, entertainment and school issues.

But urban, suburban or rural low income does not mean that the lower and lowest classes have no experience with national and even international travel and living. Military active duty and dependent status has, for generations, given soldiers and their families the opportunity to travel to and live in places across the globe.

America is becoming a country where it is not difficult for the poor and low income to migrate for thousands of miles and to establish life somewhere new and under the same government support systems that are available everywhere else. Family and friends may sponsor everything from brief vacations to extended stays for a variety of reasons. The language will be the same from state to state, as will most requirements for getting a job and for getting services.

Thus, no one perspective can be attributed to any individual or group among the lower classes. This is because the lower classes, these days can be as populated by people who have generational poverty as they are populated by individuals who have long term unemployment, who come from moneyed classes, who have substance abuse, medical or mental health issues, or who are retired, either as planned or from some other cause.