We’ve all heard the phrase concerning how America was built on opportunity, giving anyone and everyone the chance to succeed; that people can rise from the slums and escape poverty with nothing more than an idea and a will. Media preys upon success stories such as these. For example, one may hear on the news how a homeless man started with only the shirt off his back worked his way to the top. Or maybe there’s a story in People Magazine on how a small business in a small town turned into a worldwide industry leader.
But are all of these stories giving a false sense of reality?
Gregory Mantsios, a respected college director and editor, wrote an essay in 2006 titled Class in America, which separates fact from fiction when it comes to economic opportunity in the United States. He touches on four common misconceptions regarding social classes in the U.S., as well as providing evidence for seven realities otherwise.
The author’s purpose is to bring to light a new look at how the economic spectrum really works in America.
The myths Mantsios describes come from false perceptions that the average citizen does not choose to challenge. These ideas are popular and hardly questioned. Social classes today are recognized as being somewhat old fashioned or a thing of the past. However, does this idea still hold true? Mantsios points out facts taken from studies that show the exact opposite. According to Mantsios, America has the largest distance in income level distribution compared to any other industrialized nation (308). He states, “Sixty percent of the American population holds less than 6 percent of the nation’s wealth” (308). He uses these two statistics, as well as many others, to make it difficult to argue that classes don’t exist.
Mantsios continues to flirt with the notion of nonexistent social classes, by questioning the statement regarding every American having the same opportunity to succeed at birth. Judging by the rules of the Constitution, this theory holds true; however, the article written by Mantsios continually attempts to separate theory from reality and takes this myth into question next. Does every American baby have a chance to one day make it big? Absolutely. Will every child have the same access to education, health care, inheritance, and business networks? No, and that is the point trying to be proven by him. According to Mantsios, the children raised with rich parents attend better schools, inherit more assets, and receive more opportunities to succeed than the children raised with parents in the middle or lower classes (314-316). Mantsios’ article succeeds in contradicting popular beliefs, but in addition to that provides statements about the true reality of class in America.
The article provides realities to a reader gives them a better idea about how to “revers[e] the current trends that further polarize us as a people and adapt policies and practices that narrow the gaps in income, wealth and privilege” (317). According to Mantsios race and gender also play a distinct role in the separation of the classes. Surveys have discovered that while white males have a 1 in 10 chance of being poor, black females look at 1 in 3 (317). Again this relates back to the idea of inequality in a seemingly equal country.
Mantsios’ article is an eye opener to the truth behind the American class system. There is clear evidence that supports Mantsios claims, the existence of social and economic classes, the reality of the middle class not having as much power as once thought, economic opportunity and health determined by upbringing, and the impact of race and gender in a nation that prides itself on equality. “We mistakenly hold a set of beliefs that obscure the reality of class differences and their impact on people’s lives” (306).
Mantsios, Gregory. “Class in America.” Rereading America. 8 Ed. Colombo, Gary. Cullen, Robert. Lisle, Bonnie. Boston: Beford/St. Martin’s, 2010. 304 – 319. Print. jhuper
You may also be interested in the following: gregory mantsios class in america, gregory mantsios, class in america gregory mantsios