Professor Brian Powers
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Right now I will address the question
of selecting an informant for your study. What does
it mean to think about social class? That is a little
bit about what the Berger content for today is about.
What is important is how we really know what class
differences are. I have posted for you some income
intervals that are commonly used by the census to
divide the U.S. population into groups of five on the
basis of their family income. If you lined up the
heads of families in order of income, added up all
their incomes, and then divided that sum by fifths,
that would divide the U.S. income into five
The first quintile is up to $25,616. The second
quintile is up to $45,021. The third quintile is up to
$68,304. The fourth quintile is up to $103,000. If
you make more than that, you are in the top 20% of
the income earners in the United States. The top
five percent of all wage-earners in the United States
make over $184,000. This is simply lining everyone
up and taking fifths of them, an arithmetic measure
of inequality. This is a portrait: these numbers are
telling you a story about our society.
But as I said, people get very sensitive about
income. So you could ask them about their
occupations. However, it is no guesswork on your
part: you have to say
you know what quintile
or what social class you and your interviewee are in.
We live in a society where we like to keep
everything blurry, but the census tells us the truth.
Social structure and class tables.
resources I have put up social structure and class
tables. There are a lot of them from the census.
What shares of income do people get from
America? Let us take the people in the bottom 20%
and then add their income and see that in relation to
all the family income available. The bottom 20%
makes 4% of all the family income available. On
the other hand, the top 20% makes 48% of all the
available family income.
In 1947, the bottom 20% had 5% of the income. In
other hands, we got more unequal. The top 20% had
only 42% of the income. Remember how
stated inequality fluctuates? In America,
we tried to do something about our inequality. If
you look in some of the middle years, the bottom
20% had over 5% whereas the top 20% had around
40%. If you look around 1980, Ronald Reagan got
elected to office. Look at what happened to the
income at the top: it grew and grew. In the past two
decades, somebody has been pumping that income