Classism can be defined as an attitude, action, or institutional structure that subordinates or limits a person of their low socioeconomic status. While this definition is correct, it does not explain the complexity of the issue or its interconnections with other societal factors. Classism is a form of discrimination closely linked with issues of poverty, racism, and schooling.
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Complexity and Connections
Classism is not a problem that exists in a vacuum. Classism does not result in just a negative attitude towards the poor but many issues like racism, sexism, lack of social programs, and even the creation of harmful legislation. This reality makes classism a compound issue in society. Negative classist ideas at their core dehumanize people who are on the lower socioeconomic level, while often disregarding the issues that put them in this situation in the first place (Greenleaf, Ratts, & Song, 2016).
Poor people often cannot afford higher education, while public schools in poorer districts have trouble finding qualified teachers and providing the same curriculum level. Public schools are underfunded and cannot afford to provide the latest textbooks and technology to the students. This fact results in stereotyping of graduates from these schools and possible discrimination during the job application. Children from low-income families can be the target of bullying from children of richer families. Also, low-income families sometimes cannot afford to be involved in their children’s school activities due to their busy work schedules (Reay, 2014).
People living in poverty are the primary target of classism. They are often stereotyped as being “lazy” or “unmotivated.” But the reality is to the contrary. Due to the lack of jobs that pay a living wage, people in poverty often work multiple jobs to survive. The wage gap between classes is so large that poor people sometimes make less in a year than a person of a higher class makes in a day (Greenleaf, Ratts, & Song, 2016).
Racism is another factor affected by classism. People of an ethnic minority are historically discriminated against not only in the United States but also in other parts of the world. While some issues of inequality have been addressed, the problem of institutional racism is still alive. Ethnic neighborhoods often receive less law enforcement leading to a rise in violence. This violence not only perpetuates negative stereotypes but also prevents people from achieving a higher socioeconomic status (Haugen, 2015). As mentioned earlier, schools in poor communities receive less funding making it harder for ethnic minorities to educate properly. These issues create false perceptions of ethnic people as uneducated criminals, which feeds into racist and classist stereotypes (Haney-Lopez, 2015).
Classism has a unique effect on the lives of women. Instead of discriminating against women by their socioeconomic position, classist views often undermine women because of their gender. Although it is a primary issue of sexism, lack of access to higher-level jobs and positions prevented women from achieving the same economic status as men. Even if women are promoted to a leadership position, they can still be affected by the wage gap between sexes, which creates a lower status (Card, Cardoso, & Kline, 2015).
Classism is not an issue that affects just a small sector of the population. It is a complex and interconnected problem. In recent years, it has become more prominent with the rise of conservative government views, and it is hard to see it subsiding anytime soon. To facilitate justice in society, the issue of classism needs to be studied. Perhaps viable solutions are on the horizon.
Card, D., Cardoso, A., & Kline, P. (2015). Bargaining, sorting, and the gender wage gap: Quantifying the impact of firms on the relative pay of women. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 131(2), 633-686. Web.
Greenleaf, A., Ratts, M., & Song, S. (2016). Rediscovering classism: The humanist vision for economic justice. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 56(6), 646-664. Web.
Haney-Lopez, I. (2015). Dog whistle politics. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Haugen, G. (2015). Gary Haugen: The hidden reason for poverty the world needs to address now. Web.
Reay, D. (2014). Inequality, poverty, education: A political economy of school exclusion. Subjectivity, 7(3), 316-319. Web.