It has been over 50 years since Warner and Lunt (1941) conducted their classic study of social class in a New England town fictitiously labeled "Yankee City." The researchers asked the citizens of Yankee City to rate the social status of their fellow citizens on the following variables: whether their incomes were salary, commission, or dividend; birth and family genealogy; memberships in social organizations; kind and location of residence; moral standing. An analysis of these ratings revealed three major social classes — upper, middle, and lower, each with an upper and a lower subdivision. People in the upper-upper, lower-upper, and upper-middle classes were perceived as being above the common people; those in the lower-middle and upper-lower classes were the level of the common people; those in the lower-lower class were below the level of the common people. The upper-uppers were old, established families whose wealth was inherited, whereas the wealth of the lower-uppers had been acquired more recently (the nouveau riche ). The upper-middle class was made up of professionals and other financially solid, social-climbing citizens, and the lower-middle class was composed of small businessmen and some skilled workers. Semiskilled workers, small traders, and other steadily employed, poor-but-respectable people comprised the upper-lower class. And at the bottom, in the lower-lower class, were itinerants, migrants, and other "nonrespectable" people.
Was this article helpful?