Re: [xmca] article on social class

From: Martin Packer (
Date: Sat May 06 2006 - 11:05:00 PDT

Mike, I tried to explore this in:

Packer, M. (2001). Changing classes: School reform and the new economy. New
York: Cambridge University Press.

On 5/6/06 10:29 AM, "Mike Cole" <> wrote:

> Thank you for putting the issue of class back before us, Steve.
> Contemporary confusions over the concept of class are sure evident in
> the review which I assume reflect the fuziness or unclarity in the books
> reviewed.
> Suppose you had one, accessible, book to recommend to xmca'ites about
> how to think about social class in the contemporary world, perhaps one that
> included people's relations to the means of production. What would you
> recommend?
> mike
> On 5/5/06, Steve Gabosch <> wrote:
>> I thought this review of books on class might be
>> of interest to some. The first book reviewed is
>> a compilation of articles on social class
>> published in the New York Times last year.
>> I don't happen to agree with the reviewers
>> conclusions about class, but I find some of his
>> observations and criticisms stimulating for further thought and research.
>> - Steve
>> Final paragraph of the review:
>> "Does it enhance our understanding to look for
>> classes in America? As has been seen, any group
>> we choose to call the "middle class" is so large
>> as to be of little analytical help. Nor do the
>> huge majority who are not rich qualify as a
>> class. Moreover, there remains a very well-paid
>> tier of corporate executives between them and the
>> truly rich. Yet, along with the increased
>> concentration of wealth, we are seeing millions
>> of Americans being laid off, settling for lower
>> paying jobs, losing health coverage, and watching
>> pensions evaporate. Economic inequality is
>> increasing, just as the millions who are born and
>> stay poor are not getting anything like a fair
>> chance to improve their situation. Victims of
>> outsourcing don't fit into a single class, nor do
>> the people who suffer most from living in a
>> society that is increasingly unequal and unjust.
>> To see these trends as matters of class does not
>> explain them. What is clear is that we have yet
>> to see any convincing ways of reversing them."
>> The New York Review of Books
>> Volume 53, Number 9 · May 25, 2006
>> Review
>> The Rich and Everyone Else
>> By Andrew Hacker
>> Class Matters
>> by correspondents of The New York Times, with an introduction by Bill
>> Keller
>> Times Books, 268 pp., $14.00 (paper)
>> Inequality Matters: The Growing Economic Divide
>> in America and Its Poisonous Consequences
>> edited by James Lardner and David A. Smith
>> Demos/New Press, 328 pp., $25.95
>> The Chosen: The Hidden History of Admission and
>> Exclusion at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton
>> by Jerome Karabel
>> Houghton Mifflin, 711 pp., $28.00
>> Forbes 400: The Richest People in America
>> 2005 Edition, 344 pp., $5.99
>> Individual Income Tax Returns
>> Internal Revenue Service, Publication 1304; available at
>> In their own ways, three of the books under
>> review­Class Matters, Inequality Matters, and The
>> Chosen­warn that social barriers in the US are
>> higher and economic inequality is more pronounced
>> than at any time in recent memory. All three
>> books also frame this issue by asserting or
>> implying that lines between classes are
>> hardening. While the term is widely used, class
>> has always resisted clear definition. We may talk
>> of the rich and poor, of people in the middle, of
>> blue- and white-collar workers, of haves and
>> have-nots, yet attempts to place most people in
>> an appropriate class have never been successful.
>> There is no clear agreement on the number of
>> classes, and how they should be defined. Indeed,
>> attempts at precision inevitably create problems.
>> For example, a 2004 study by the Annenberg Center
>> at the University of Pennsylvania defined the
>> middle class as everyone with incomes between
>> $25,000 and $75,000.[1] They make up half of all
>> households, and include all families on both
>> sides of the median family income of
>> approximately $50,000. But has a family making,
>> say, $28,000 really reached the middle class? One
>> with $95,000 might be called upper middle class;
>> but that would still seem to locate it in the
>> middle. Any attempt to set a floor or ceiling is
>> bound to raise questions like these.
>> In Inequality Matters, James Lardner speaks of
>> America's "growing class divide." Yet he never
>> identifies the classes that are being divided. If
>> he means, as I think he does, those who are
>> well-to-do and those who are not, then who and
>> how many are in each group? The IRS reports, for
>> example, that 356,140 taxpayers declared incomes
>> of between $500,000 and $999,999 on their 2003
>> returns. Where should someone receiving, say, a
>> $650,000 salary be assigned? Earning $12,500 a
>> week before taxes should provide a lawyer a
>> comfortable living, but does it place her with
>> the rich? Then what about her nonworking cousin,
>> who happens to have exactly the same income, but
>> in his case it consists of the proceeds from a $12 million inheritance?
>> Problems like these are evident very early in
>> Class Matters, which republishes a series of
>> fourteen articles that appeared in The New York
>> Times last year. They report on a broad range of
>> men and women who were willing to talk candidly
>> about themselves. We meet old and new
>> millionaires on Nantucket, a laid-off manager and
>> another who fears he may be fired, and a Chicago
>> mother of five pulling herself out of poverty. No
>> claims are made that they are a cross-section or
>> random sample of Americans. Still, we are
>> introduced to people most Times readers would
>> probably never meet. Apart from the few at the
>> top and the bottom, the reporters do not try to
>> identify their subjects by class. Even so, the
>> book shows how the lives they lead are shaped by where they stand in
>> society.
>> The opening chapter skirts the issue by saying
>> "class is rank, it is tribe, it is culture and
>> taste." Class is said to be expressed in varying
>> "attitudes and assumptions," and there are
>> "dozens of microclasses, defined by occupations
>> or lifestyles." America's class system, insofar
>> as it has one, is a "ladder with lots and lots of
>> rungs." Here alone, I count nine words that
>> supposedly define class, and we haven't even got
>> to income, wealth, or power. Elsewhere, we hear
>> that class produces "different views of gift
>> giving, vacations, food, child rearing." Yet
>> another chapter observes that we can no longer
>> use dress to tell where people stand, since nearly everyone wears jeans.
>> While I find that assigning Americans to classes
>> occasionally makes sense, other classifications
>> often are more informative. For example, the gap
>> between the rich and everyone else isn't
>> necessarily a class divide. And while we may talk
>> about a middle class, or a working class, these
>> strike me more as phrases people use casually in
>> conversation then as rigorous categories. Thus we
>> may hear debates over whether a truckdriver and a
>> college librarian who both earn $65,000 should be put in the same class.
>> 1.
>> In Inequality Matters, a collection of excellent
>> papers from a conference held at New York
>> University in 2004, a recurring thesis is that
>> the welfare state has been turned on its head.
>> Indeed, the meaning of the term "redistribution"
>> has changed. It used to mean taxing the
>> better-off to assist society's less fortunate.
>> Today the flow is in the reverse direction. David
>> Williams and James Lardner, writing on health,
>> show how Medicare beneficiaries get better
>> treatment than those on Medicaid, for example.
>> Tamara Draut reveals that more subsidized
>> financial aid now goes to suburban students who
>> can afford expensive SAT courses. And David Cay
>> Johnston shows how tax rates have been lowered
>> even for families with incomes of $200 million.
>> For Bill Moyers, the central fact of our time is
>> "a gap between rich and poor that is greater than
>> it has been in half a century."
>> There is no question that the rich have been
>> getting richer, especially in recent years. Yet
>> what wasn't generally predicted is that the
>> numbers of such people have been growing, with
>> more of them better-off than in the recent past.
>> Table A draws on several sources that highlight
>> these changes. The most recent figures are from
>> 2003 through 2005, and can be compared with similar data from the early
>> 1980s.
>> More Billionaires. Each year, Forbes magazine
>> lists the men and women it identifies as the 400
>> richest Americans. While no one can say for sure
>> who has how much, Forbes has reliable informants
>> and its estimates have a plausible ring. To get
>> on its first list, which came out in 1982, one
>> needed the equivalent of $200 million in current
>> dollars. By 2005, it took $900 million to be
>> listed, more than a fourfold increase. Thanks to
>> this higher standard, only forty-five on the
>> original list would have made its latest version.
>> The late Daniel Ludwig, a shipping magnate, led
>> in 1982 with $4 billion, again in today's
>> dollars. Last year, Bill Gates was first, with
>> $51 billion. Following him, there are another
>> forty-nine men and women who surpass the wealth
>> once amassed by Mr. Ludwig. It is easier to
>> become a billionaire in an era of hedge funds and
>> leveraged buyouts, while the founders of
>> electronics industries like Oracle, Google, and
>> Dell have become as rich as a Carnegie or a
>> Rockefeller in a fraction of the time.
>> More Millionaires. The Internal Revenue Service
>> issues reports showing how much taxpayers declare
>> as their annual income. These sums are
>> undoubtedly on the modest side, since they show
>> only what people choose to disclose, while much
>> of high-bracket income may be sheltered. Even so,
>> between 1981 and 2003, and adjusting for
>> inflation, the annual returns exceeding $1
>> million rose more than sevenfold as a proportion
>> of all 1040s. In 2003, the latest IRS figures,
>> fully 181,282 households admitted to making more
>> than $1 million a year, averaging $2,951,369.
>> Their share of all taxpayers' income has also
>> increased seven times since 1981, which must mean
>> the share going to the rest has declined. While
>> most millionaires list some kind of business or
>> professional income, these earnings amount to
>> only a third of their total. Much of their money
>> comes from inheritance and sales of property,
>> including stocks and bonds. Almost all are safely
>> rich, whether by their own efforts or
>> inheritance, in that they have enough to continue
>> to live well even without working.
>> Six-Figure Families. Each March, the Census
>> releases a report on the distribution of personal
>> income. In its 1982 survey, only 3 percent of all
>> families had incomes over $150,000, computed in
>> today's dollars. By 2004, its latest report, 8
>> percent of households had reached that level, and
>> most of those households have one earner making
>> at least $100,000. This group now absorbs 27
>> percent of aggregate personal income, against 11
>> percent in 1982. So as matters stand, the other
>> 92 percent of Americans receive 73 percent of the
>> pie. This upward flow of money is only partly the
>> result of tax cuts bestowed on the better-off.
>> More important is the fact that executives and
>> professionals are being given salaries, bonuses,
>> and other forms of compensation that are much more lavish than in the
>> past.
>> To return to the 400 richest Americans, perhaps
>> the most salient feature of the Forbes list is
>> its changing membership. At death, fortunes tend
>> to be divided, and most descendants don't inherit
>> enough to stay on the list. While the current 400
>> includes members of the Pritzker, Hearst, and
>> Walton families, they already have fifty-nine
>> children, most of whom will end up rich but much
>> less so than their parents. Back in 1982, the
>> list had thirteen Rockefellers and no fewer than
>> thirty-three du Ponts. By 2005, only two
>> Rockefellers remained, and all the du Ponts were
>> gone. Indeed, 1982 and 2005 come across as very
>> different eras. The earlier year was strong on
>> family scions; most of the places they once held
>> are now occupied by self-made men and women,
>> among them Oprah Winfrey, Margaret Whitman, and Martha Stewart.
>> To call the rich an "upper class" only tells us
>> that they have the most money, not about the
>> power they have, or their social influence. But
>> when it comes to the particulars, there are not
>> many signs that they share any traits other than
>> their money. "Rich individuals have no feelings
>> or purposes in common, no mutual traditions or
>> hopes," Alexis de Tocqueville observed of
>> Jacksonian America. "Though there are rich men,
>> the class of rich men does not exist." At this
>> point, we lack firm information on how much the
>> very rich are giving back to society. In overall
>> terms, the IRS reports that the 5,955 richest
>> taxpayers, whose annual incomes average $26.2
>> million, gave away a deductible 6.7 percent of
>> what they declared. Just how much more comes from
>> the thousands of family foundations is hard to
>> determine, since no one collates their annual
>> reports. At the same time, such high-tech
>> entrepreneurs as David Packard, William Hewlett,
>> and Michael Dell have become important supporters
>> of museums, orchestras, and a host of other
>> causes. The fund created by Bill and Melinda
>> Gates now gives away twice as much as Rockefeller, Carnegie, and Ford
>> combined.
>> 2.
>> Even as the relatively small group of rich people
>> is getting richer, Class Matters asserts that
>> social mobility in America has "flattened out,"
>> "stagnated," or even "declined" in recent years.
>> A chapter called "Fifteen Years on the Bottom
>> Rung," describes an immigrant mired in a mundane
>> job. Another, "No Degree, and No Way Back to the
>> Middle," tells of a laid-off manager whose
>> résumés are returned because he doesn't have a
>> college degree. Reports like these are by no
>> means rare. Still, we should ask if they reflect a growing trend.
>> How many people are moving upward, compared with
>> some periods in the past? In the decades
>> following World War II, millions of families
>> bought suburban homes and embarked on new lives.
>> Between 1953 and 1973, median income in constant
>> dollars grew by a remarkable 75 percent. For most
>> who gained, this was not the result of intense
>> personal struggle. It was more as if the growing
>> economy was a giant escalator lifting everyone
>> upward. A parallel trend in higher education came
>> with the GI Bill after World War II and continues
>> apace as more Americans graduate from college
>> each year. Among men and women in their early
>> thirties, 32 percent now have a bachelor's degree
>> or better, compared with 25 percent in 1980 and
>> 14 percent in 1970. These changes mean that
>> millions of young people are moving past their
>> par-ents, at least as measured by higher education.
>> But other indices suggest that the postwar
>> escalator has not been moving for quite a while.
>> Between 1982 and 2004, median earnings of fully
>> employed men grew by only 2.7 percent, which is
>> about as close to stagnation as one can get for a
>> twenty-two-year period. At the same time, women's
>> earnings rose by 25 percent, from 63 percent to
>> 77 percent of what men made. So if men as a group
>> weren't moving up, a lot of women were. This had
>> an impact on family income. Between 1982 and
>> 2004, family median incomes increased from
>> $43,913 to $54,061, a 23 percent increase in real
>> dollars, and at first glance a heartening sign.
>> But this growth was almost entirely the result of
>> the presence of additional earners, with more
>> wives turning to full-time work and contributing
>> more to the family total. In contrast, the median
>> income in families with a single breadwinner rose
>> only 6 percent in this period. So the rise in
>> family income of 23 percent came mainly from more
>> work by more members, the equivalent of running faster to keep in place.
>> True, median incomes only tell us about the
>> persons or families who happen to fall in the
>> exact middle. Even so, they remind us that when
>> the median barely improves, it means that for
>> most people who move ahead­and some plainly
>> have­there will be someone else who is falling
>> behind. As was noted earlier, from 1982 to 2004,
>> the fraction of families that rose to the
>> $150,000 tier grew almost threefold. Their
>> progress had to be paid for. And it was, by
>> households whose earnings declined. Among them
>> are the growing number of single mothers, who
>> tend to cluster at the bottom of the income
>> pyramid (median income: $23,428), whereas earlier
>> many of them would still be in two-spouse households (median: $50,867).
>> Mobility may also be analyzed by examining what
>> happens to specific men and women in the course
>> of their lives. One method draws on a sample of
>> parents and then keeps in touch with them until
>> their children have become adults. The best such
>> study I have seen was published last year by Tom
>> Hertz, an economist at American University, who
>> draws on a database that has tracked 6,273
>> families over thirty-two years.[2] As can be seen
>> in Table B, he compares the parents' economic
>> standing when the children were growing up with
>> how those offspring have fared on their own.
>> Hertz found, as might be expected, that many of
>> the children raised in the top fifth­some 38
>> percent­are still up there as adults, and the
>> same holds for many raised at the bottom. Yet of
>> those who began at the bottom, 58 percent climbed
>> up at least one tier and 34 percent moved up two
>> or more tiers. Since we know that few from the
>> bottom fifth get college degrees, it is striking
>> that as many as 18 percent of them end up in the
>> top two fifths. As for the children of the
>> best-off households: fully 62 percent of them
>> moved down, despite the advantages they had in their formative years.
>> A story in Class Matters hints at a downward
>> future. In a socially mixed marriage, the mother
>> has a sizable trust fund and her new husband was
>> selling cars when they met. One of her own sons,
>> who has dropped in and out of college,
>> "fantasizes about opening a
>> brewery-cum-performance-space, traveling through
>> South America, or operating a sunset massage
>> cruise." However, he won't have an independent
>> income until his mother dies, and then there's a
>> brother to split the bequests in the will. Unless
>> he has talents that aren't now apparent, it seems
>> likely he will have a lower living standard as an adult than he did as a
>> child.
>> Using quintiles to track mobility also means, as
>> we have seen, that if someone new moves into the
>> top fifth, another person has to go down.
>> Therefore, Hertz is not only telling us how many
>> offspring have surpassed or fallen behind their
>> parents. In his overall analysis, for every
>> winner there is another loser. This also holds
>> for the Forbes list, since no more than 400 can
>> make the grade. Last year, there were forty-one
>> newcomers, displacing thirty-three whose net
>> worth didn't keep up, plus another eight who
>> died. By other measures, the increasing income of
>> one family doesn't mean the decline of another.
>> Still, as was seen, the $1 million tier is
>> getting rather crowded. In some circles now,
>> you're not really up there if you can't declare
>> $10 million a year (as 6,126 households did in 2003).
>> 3.
>> "In today's United States," Tamara Draut writes
>> in Inequality Matters, "a four-year degree has
>> become the all-but-official ticket to
>> middle-class security." As the four medians in
>> Table C show, each academic rung brings higher
>> pay. But medians (and averages) often mix
>> together people with varied characteristics. For
>> this reason, the table, by focusing on a more
>> homogeneous group­in this case white men who are
>> currently between the ages of forty-five and
>> fifty-four­ avoids disparities resulting from sex
>> and race and age. This group was also chosen
>> because most of them have been employed for
>> twenty to thirty years, so that we can compare
>> their current status with the educational level
>> they attained a generation earlier.
>> If college graduates are more apt to get better
>> first jobs, it is because established businesses
>> and professions have grown accustomed to asking
>> for degrees, which is also a convenient culling
>> device. (The dot-com world has shown that such
>> rules can profitably be broken, especially for
>> first-rate programmers.) But a first job, while
>> often important, is only a step in a career.
>> According to all the evidence I have seen,
>> promotions will soon be tied to performance, not
>> on whether the candidate once took Anthropology
>> 101. Still, the table confirms that many men who
>> are only high school graduates end up in the
>> bottom income third, which is probably where they started.
>> But I find it even more significant that more
>> than half of them have moved into the top two
>> thirds, with 17 percent now in the tier where
>> college graduates are expected to end up. On the
>> other hand, of these men in their forties and
>> fifties, 46 percent with bachelors' degrees and
>> 31 percent with graduate degrees haven't made it
>> to the top third. Table B, which traced how
>> children ended up, showed considerable downward
>> mobility. Table C tells a similar story, since it
>> says that while education generally correlates
>> with earnings, these benefits accrue far less
>> evenly than is generally believed.
>> One result is that many college graduates now
>> hold jobs that once required only a high school
>> diploma. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports
>> that 37 percent of flight attendants have
>> completed college, as have 35 percent of tour
>> escorts, 21 percent of embalmers, and 13 percent
>> of both security guards and casino dealers.[3]
>> All signs suggest that the number of graduates
>> will continue to grow, and many will end in
>> well-paying professions. There still seems to be
>> a strong demand for MBAs, of which 120,277 were
>> awarded last year, as well as 105,668 degrees in
>> engineering, and 151,690 in health-related
>> fields. But we cannot expect the economy will
>> automatically create better-paid positions to
>> match the cohort acquiring higher education. And
>> of course employers do not perceive all degrees
>> as equal. When résumés are read, it's thought
>> important not just whether the candidate attended college, but which one.
>> 4.
>> Jerome Karabel, a University of California
>> sociologist, has written an intriguing study of
>> how Harvard, Yale, and Princeton decided whom
>> they would admit throughout the twentieth
>> century. He describes the change from an emphasis
>> on family background and "manly character" to
>> academic excellence as shown by high grades and
>> test scores. Undoubtedly the biggest break with
>> the past is that The Three (as I will call them)
>> now have fewer white and male students than they
>> once did, as well as fewer Protestants and
>> products of boarding schools. Of Groton's
>> seventy-six graduating seniors last year, only
>> eleven made it to The Three. There was a time,
>> Karabel notes, when almost all would walk in. The
>> Three have also embraced affirmative action, and
>> now reserve about 15 percent of their places for
>> black and Hispanic undergraduates, even if their
>> academic records are somewhat below the norm.
>> Instead, credit is given for traits like
>> perseverance and commitment. Karabel doesn't say
>> if he feels this is akin to the way "manly
>> character" was used to favor earlier groups.
>> In recent years, The Three have admitted fewer
>> than 12 percent of their applicants, odds below
>> those at even honest casinos. This popularity is
>> readily explained. As Karabel puts it, a degree
>> from one of them is seen as a "ticket to
>> success." It's certainly true, as he says, that
>> their graduates "have always been heavily
>> overrepresented in the American elite," providing
>> seven of the last century's seventeen presidents.
>> Karabel's use of the phrase "American elite" is
>> telling, since he uses that term rather than,
>> say, "ruling class." Nor is this merely a
>> semantic matter. One can sensibly say that
>> America has rulers, whether political, economic,
>> or cultural, with power concentrated in large
>> organizations and institutions. But it need not
>> follow that those who hold this power constitute
>> a class. An important feature of an "elite" is
>> that it consists of individuals who hold
>> specified positions. The CEO of ExxonMobil
>> belongs, as do the secretary of state and the
>> president of Yale. How they perform may make a
>> difference, but they still owe their power to the chairs they occupy.
>> It's worth asking to what extent The Three are
>> supplying candidates for the positions that
>> count. A place where their degrees carry weight
>> is the legal profession. Among last year's
>> entering class at Harvard Law School, 395 were
>> from The Three, while their 1,267 classmates came
>> from 235 other colleges. Moreover, their
>> undergraduate degrees continue to make a
>> difference. In powerful firms, like New York's
>> Cravath, Swaine & Moore and Washington's
>> Covington & Burling, more than a third of those
>> picked as partners began at one of The Three.
>> But in other branches of work, The Three have
>> less cachet. Their graduates account for only
>> thirty-three CEOs of the top five hundred
>> corporations on Standard & Poor's list. So it may
>> be that four sheltered years are not the best
>> preparation for a corporate climb. Wall Street
>> now also draws from a broader pool, as do leading
>> medical and research centers. Most of The Three's
>> graduates on Forbes's richest list inherited
>> their wealth. By way of contrast, many who
>> amassed their own fortunes never attended or
>> didn't finish college, among them Steven Jobs,
>> Michael Dell, and Lawrence Ellison.
>> The Chosen closes with a brief coda entitled "The
>> Dark Side of Meritocracy." Today, The Three admit
>> students largely on their academic records, with
>> their SAT scores among the highest in the nation.
>> But Karabel cites the work of Michael Young, who
>> a half-century ago in The Rise of the Meritocracy
>> worried that a stratum based on merit was already
>> "on the way to becoming hereditary." Karabel has
>> the same concern, adding that The Three and a few
>> other colleges are creating "a 'new class' of
>> privileged credential holders possessing the
>> means to reproduce itself." I'm not so sure this
>> is happening. Harvard still admits about 40
>> percent of alumni offspring who apply, compared
>> with 11 percent from the general applicant pool.
>> Statistics like these have been used to argue
>> that inherited privilege is still strong.
>> However, even at Harvard, half of the applicants
>> with legacies are turned down. The University of
>> Pennsylvania rejects 59 percent, while Swarthmore
>> rejects 64 percent, and Princeton 65 percent.[4]
>> We all know that the children of accomplished
>> parents often don't inherit their talents. They
>> can be sent to expensive schools and receive
>> extra tutoring, but these investments don't
>> always bring the wished-for results. Among
>> students whose parents make over $100,000 a year,
>> fully 59 percent scored less than 600 in the
>> mathematics section of the SAT and 65 percent
>> scored under that figure on the verbal part. Yet
>> Yale admits fewer than 4 percent who have scores
>> at this level. Since facts like these are widely
>> known, many offspring of successful families
>> don't even bother to apply, and students with
>> more modest social origins are admitted.
>> Would changed admissions policies alter the
>> makeup of America's elite? Karabel shows how The
>> Three during much of the last century curtailed
>> Jewish enrollment, and he explains why the
>> policies had to be changed, as Jews became more
>> established in American life, including the
>> academic world, and their exclusion was damaging
>> both to the quality of scholarship and to the
>> universities' economic future. Curiously, he says
>> relatively little about the upsurge in Asian
>> enrollments, which provide strong evidence that
>> high school grades and test scores are more decisive than ever.
>> And the advent of coeducation at Yale and
>> Princeton, as well as Harvard's admission of more
>> women, means that The Three admit 1,168 fewer men
>> now than they did in 1970. Thus 1,168 men will go
>> through life without a credential they might have
>> had in an earlier generation.[5] Indeed, The
>> Three now enroll 1,581 more women than in 1970.
>> If their degrees will also become Karabel's
>> "ticket to success," as he calls them, then the
>> topmost reaches of America's elite should show
>> more women and fewer men. (In fact, two leading
>> American CEOs who went to Princeton are Margaret
>> Whitman of eBay and Avon's Andrea Jung.) Still,
>> to reach the heights in practically any field
>> today calls for a round-the-clock commitment. So
>> we will have to see what women from The Three are
>> doing when they reach, say, their late thirties.
>> If more than a few decide to give up demanding
>> careers, the men they once displaced as
>> undergraduates, and who had to go to less
>> celebrated colleges, may find they have a second
>> chance to reach these top rungs.
>> Does it enhance our understanding to look for
>> classes in America? As has been seen, any group
>> we choose to call the "middle class" is so large
>> as to be of little analytical help. Nor do the
>> huge majority who are not rich qualify as a
>> class. Moreover, there remains a very well-paid
>> tier of corporate executives between them and the
>> truly rich. Yet, along with the increased
>> concentration of wealth, we are seeing millions
>> of Americans being laid off, settling for lower
>> paying jobs, losing health coverage, and watching
>> pensions evaporate. Economic inequality is
>> increasing, just as the millions who are born and
>> stay poor are not getting anything like a fair
>> chance to improve their situation. Victims of
>> outsourcing don't fit into a single class, nor do
>> the people who suffer most from living in a
>> society that is increasingly unequal and unjust.
>> To see these trends as matters of class does not
>> explain them. What is clear is that we have yet
>> to see any convincing ways of reversing them.
>> Notes
>> [1] See
>> [2] Tom Hertz, "Rags, Riches, and Race: The
>> Intergenerational Economic Mobility of Black and
>> White Families in the United States," in Unequal
>> Chances: Family Background and Economic Success,
>> edited by Samuel Bowles, Herbert Gintis, and
>> Melissa Osborne Groves(Russell Sage
>> Foundation/Princeton University Press, 2005).
>> [3] Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational
>> Outlook Quarterly (Winter 2004–2005), p. 4.
>> [4] "Entrenched Affirmative Action for Whites in
>> College Admissions," The Journal of Blacks in
>> Higher Education,No. 40 (Summer 2003), p. 27.
>> [5] True, these men can go to Dartmouth or
>> Williams. But taken together, the twelve most
>> selective schools have approximately 7,500 fewer
>> male students compared with 1970.
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>> site. The cover date of the next issue of The New
>> York Review of Books will be June 8, 2006.
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