Scott_and_Leonardt-NYT-Class_in_America-Shadowy_Lines_That_Still_Divide

Scott_and_Leonardt-NYT-Class_in_America-Shadowy_Lines_That_Still_Divide

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May 15, 2005 Class in America: Shadowy Lines That Still Divide By JANNY SCOTT and DAVID LEONHARDT There was a time when Americans thought they understood class. The upper crust vacationed in Europe and worshiped an Episcopal God. The middle class drove Ford Fairlanes, settled the San Fernando Valley and enlisted as company men. The working class belonged to the A.F.L.- C.I.O., voted Democratic and did not take cruises to the Caribbean. Today, the country has gone a long way toward an appearance of classlessness. Americans of all sorts are awash in luxuries that would have dazzled their grandparents. Social diversity has erased many of the old markers. It has become harder to read people's status in the clothes they wear, the cars they drive, the votes they cast, the god they worship, the color of their skin. The contours of class have blurred; some say they have disappeared. But class is still a powerful force in American life. Over the past three decades, it has come to play a greater, not lesser, role in important ways. At a time when education matters more than ever, success in school remains linked tightly to class. At a time when the country is increasingly integrated racially, the rich are isolating themselves more and more. At a time of extraordinary advances in medicine, class differences in health and lifespan are wide and appear to be widening. And new research on mobility, the movement of families up and down the economic ladder, shows there is far less of it than economists once thought and less than most people believe. [ Click here for more information on income mobility. ] In fact, mobility, which once buoyed the working lives of Americans as it rose in the decades after World War II, has lately flattened out or possibly even declined, many researchers say. 1
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Mobility is the promise that lies at the heart of the American dream. It is supposed to take the sting out of the widening gulf between the have- mores and the have-nots. There are poor and rich in the United States, of course, the argument goes; but as long as one can become the other, as long as there is something close to equality of opportunity, the differences between them do not add up to class barriers. Over the next three weeks, The Times will publish a series of articles on class in America, a dimension of the national experience that tends to go unexamined, if acknowledged at all. With class now seeming more elusive than ever, the articles take stock of its influence in the lives of individuals: a lawyer who rose out of an impoverished Kentucky hollow; an unemployed metal worker in Spokane, Wash., regretting his decision to skip college; a multimillionaire in Nantucket, Mass., musing over the cachet of his 200-foot yacht. The series does not purport to be all-inclusive or the last word on class.
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Scott_and_Leonardt-NYT-Class_in_America-Shadowy_Lines_That_Still_Divide

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