Social Mobility

Forrest Gump coined the phrase “Life is like a box of chocolates” from the movie Forrest Gump, released in 1994. In 2001, I am putting a spin on it in terms I understand: The M&M class structure. Growing up, red candies were the most coveted of all the candy-covered chocolate treats. Once the Mars Chocolate Company introduced the blue M&M in 96, in became instantly popular. Even though they were not around as long as the others, they still took over the throne as the ruling upper class in the M&M world. The orange and green were a step down in the upper-middle and lower middle classes respectively. Last, and definitely least, were the yellow and brown ones: The lower class candies that no one cared about and had no fair chance of making it big.

M&M’s serve as a parallel to what it is like to live in America and many other countries alike. There are many different social classes in America: The primary upper class, which have the most influence and power of all the classes. Then there are the corporate and working middle-classes. Thirdly there is the lower class. Upon being labeled within that specific group it is particularly difficult to move up the socioeconomic ladder, and obviously achievable to move down it. Once in a while, people can make leaps and bounds up the ladder (though it’s quite unlikely). A one famous television theme song depicts: “Movin’ on up.” The purpose of the research in this paper is to define these classes, explain what seems to be the reason mobility it is so difficult throughout these classes, and how and why these classes are formed.
For the purpose of this paper it is important to properly define exactly what a socioeconomic class structure is. One definition that has been accepted more often than, according to Parkin is that class is a concept that allows us to organize our differences by grouping things or people in categories based on their resemblance, or non-resemblance to each other in accordance with a certain criteria (4). We are free to choose whatever criteria we like. Class is not a new subject. Social and economic groups have been around since man has been dominating the earth. In medieval and roman times right through until the industrial, status was defined by to how much land a person owned. Nevertheless, classes are made to categorize people: whether it is how much land a person owns or how big their SUV is. In a sociological outlook: to understand society and its patterns. Therefore the different classes must also be explained.
Donald Trump; Bill Gates; Sean “P. Diddy” Combs? All well known names, yes, but they are all very influential and very well off. The three are also in a very exclusive club: Upper class, i.e. Doctors, successful entertainers, politicians and successful “Dot-com’ers”. Only about 2% of the American population are comprised in this group (Breiger 200). Indeed, these people are the cream of the crop when it comes to material success. What makes this class of social elites so untouchable to others? Could it be their scholastic achievements? If so, how could a Harvard dropout such as Bill Gates be the richest man on earth? How about growing up in a privileged home? Maybe, but Puff Daddy’s childhood was less than privileged. How did he do it? There is no specific way one can or cannot attain so much success.
The lower class is the one that seems to be the hardest to get out of. For one reason or another it seems that once a person or family is in this position it is hard pressed for them to find a way out of this position, more than likely the least desirable class of them all. This class is mostly comprised of single parents, welfare recipients, and minorities, with jobs in manual laborers and. Is this a trend? In some cases it is the reason people approve or disapprove the access into a certain positions and social groups.
Ah yes! The ever-growing population of that warm, wholesome, “middle of the road group: The middle class. Ever so comfortable, yet everyone is trying to get out of there and into the upper class. The middle class is a special class in which there are classes inside the class: Intra-classes (Parkin 7). However they are solidified into two major groups: the working middle class and the corporate middle class. The working middle class is mostly comprised of labors and middlemen in the industries and companies, such as singles moving up in a company and those making around $46,000 – 70’000 a year, as well as the very legs America stands on (postal workers, mechanics, etc.). Then there is the corporate class, the directors of certain companies and supervisors. These are the people that look over the workers themselves, wish they were the next step up, but can’t quite get there.
There is the question of how the classes are formed. To figure out why there are classes, one must know that social classes are like groups or teams striving for one goal or reward. In other words the people on the teams are like representatives on each team, and each team only want the best players and representatives on the team, but everyone on the team doesn’t want to let everyone in on the prize that they are trying to collect. So they use a strategy called social closure. Parkin describes this as a form of competitive social action designed to maximize the collective claims to a prizes or rewards (4). In essence, the reward is financial or political success. As a collective, the higher class strives to limit those into their circle to give themselves of since of well-being. As a result of this the ones that are not let into the inner circle (outsiders) also use these strategies themselves. Thus creating more status classes.

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With the strategy of exclusion at work throughout the classes are forced into a categories know as “negatively privileged status groups” (Parkin 4). When things are put into this group others do what they can to keep them out. One method is the usage of credentialism – The reliance upon examination with certificates as a means of controlling entry to valued positions in the division of labor so that the elite can hire only the elite. Also categorizing them doing what they can to keep them below the status- i.e. race, religion, heritage, and geographical origin. One example is in Canada, where Canadians in Quebec look down on other Canadians. They even wanting to declare themselves as a separate country. In America 65% of minorities live in poor neighborhoods and ghettos. These ghettos have low jobs resources and poor educations systems, leaving people in these groups unable to escape these conditions; leaving them socially immobilized in a class-oriented establishment.

In conclusion, the general theme of social classification is that not everyone is willing to share a piece of the pie. As a result people do thing such as limiting access to the prize and giving others the disadvantage. That is why people tend to stay in the social class hey were raised in.


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