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 All societies have been arranged hierarchically  The U.S. is no exception  More uneven in wealth distribution than most industrialized capitalist.

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Presentation on theme: " All societies have been arranged hierarchically  The U.S. is no exception  More uneven in wealth distribution than most industrialized capitalist."— Presentation transcript:


2  All societies have been arranged hierarchically  The U.S. is no exception  More uneven in wealth distribution than most industrialized capitalist societies, but not as much so as developing nations  Historical trend toward less economic stratification was reversed beginning in the 1980s


4 Source: Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, "Income Inequality in the United States, 1913-1998," Quarterly Journal of Economics, 118(1), 2003. Updated to 2005 at

5 Based on U.S. Census Data


7  Social class includes more than income or place within the economic system  Education  Taste/culture  Manners (breeding)  Religion  Preferences  Race and gender  Residence

8  Largely denied by U.S. culture  “Classless society”  “The belief that the United States is a classless society or, alternatively, that most Americans are “middle class” persists... despite pervasive socioeconomic stratification”  (Bullock, Wyche and Williams, 2001)

9  “ It is impossible to understand people's behavior...without the concept of social stratification, because class position has a pervasive influence on almost everything...the clothes we wear...the television shows we watch...the colors we paint our homes in and the names we give our pets... Our position in the social hierarchy affects our health, happiness, and even how long we will live. ”  William Thompson, Joseph Hickey, Society in Focus, 2005

10  Two flavors:  Analysis of news, documentary, political pundits, etc. in non-fictional content areas  Looking for bias, falsehoods, etc.  Analysis of entertainment media  Looking for ideological, mythical presentations of the world

11  Portrayals of characters who represent a given class  Do the behaviors/attitudes of the character ‘explain’ a position of subordination or superordination?  Do plots, settings, etc. indicate system openness or structure?

12  Stereotypes are ‘ideal’ characterizations of a member of some identified group  Though often based in some ‘reality’ they are often exaggerated and may be distorted (often in a negative fashion)

13  Although we are used to thinking of stereotypes in terms of race and gender, stereotypes exist for all ‘groups’ including class  Blue Collar  Hillbilly  Redneck  White trash




17  They can blind observers to the individual variation among members of the ‘group’  False and potentially demeaning expectations when interacting with individuals  They impact intergroup interactions and even may become self-fulfilling  They justify social inequality of treatment and/or public policy that relates to groups  Blaming the victim

18 Upper classMiddle class/ Upper middle class Working class Lower class Amount of representation Above population levels Below population levels NewsBusiness interests, commentary Professionals, expertise in science, medicine Industrial conflict, crime Crime EntertainmentPowerful criminals, Lifestyles, reality Lawyer shows, family dramas, sitcoms, medical shows Cops, reality TV, sitcoms Criminals, Daytime talk

19 “The prototypical working-class male is incompetent and ineffectual, often a buffoon, well- intentioned but dumb. In almost all working-class series, the male is flawed, some more than others.... He fails in his role as a father and husband, is lovable but not respected.” Butsch, Social Class and Television in Encyclopedia of Television

20  Violent  Brutish  Unintelligent  Prone to hair-brained schemes to get ahead  Focused on cars, sports, sex  Racist/Xenophobic  Politically right-wing  Sexist  Lacking in taste and sophistication  Noble  Loyal  Self-sacrificing  Strong-willed




24 ABC’s The Middle

25  Working-class wives are depicted “as exceeding the bounds of their feminine status, being more intelligent, rational, and sensible than their husbands.... Working-class men are de-masculinized by depicting them as child-like; their wives act as mothers.... These results indicate the importance of accounting for class along with gender.” Butsch, Social Class and Television in Encyclopedia of Television



28  Working-class singles tend to be oversexed, loud and lacking in tact or sophistication  They exhibit extreme gender-role emphasis as good- ol’-boys or redneck women, etc.




32  The Waltons  Police shows (cops on the beat v. detectives/specialists)  The Deadliest Catch  CEO switch thing





37  Less contested and ambiguous than are blue- collar representations  Mostly represented as extremely flawed  Violent  Criminal  Drug-taking  Unintelligent  Sleazy

38  Trashy  Oversexed  Unsophisticated  Domestic  Kids  Dependant/“Golddigger”  Focused on men

39  Content analyses show a great overrepresentation of African Americans in depictions of the poor  Gilens (1996) content analysis of three major news magazines found African Americans were represented in 62% of stories about poverty though they comprised 29% of poor (no more info available)  Asian Americans, stereotyped as hard working and conscientious, rarely show up in stories about the poor  European Americans greatly overestimate the percentage of African Americans who are poor


41  African American men—members of “threatening and violent underclass”  African American women—welfare queens or as “ignorant, promiscuous women caught in a self-perpetuating ‘cycle of dependency’”  Emphasis on African Americans tends to render white poor ‘invisible’ in popular culture

42  “Although the ‘typical’ drug consumer and dealer is an employed, high-school-educated European American man, the majority of arrests depicted on reality-based crime programs involve African American and Latino men in densely populated, urban areas (Anderson, 1994).”


44  April-July 1999 newspapers  412 articles  24% contained at least some overt discussion of race/ethnicity  African American articles:  8 focused on chronic poverty and single motherhood  5 focused on fraud  6 highlighted the lives of African Americans who had triumphed over poverty

45  60% of articles took balanced/neutral tone  32% positive (supported services and programs for the poor)  8% negative (fraud, drug addiction, etc.)

46  60% portrayed poor as deserving of support (hard-working families with children in need)  17% portrayed poor negatively (drug users, neglectful parents)  14% neutral  8% mixed

47  Presenting the interests of the well-off (e.g., stock, financial portfolios, and leisure time) as universal concerns  Downplaying the structural economic concerns (e.g., job security, income) of the working class and poor  Emphasizing shared interclass concerns (e.g., safety, crime)  Portraying the middle class as the norm, with little representation of interclass tension

48  Imply, if not openly claim, that biological/genetic ‘causes’ of depicted inferiority explain social inequity  Are painful for those they supposedly pertain to  Justify harsh social policy, police action as the only reasonable response to socially objectionable behaviors

49  Blaming the victim  Those who receive less of the system’s output deserve their fate because they have personality flaws or don’t try hard enough  Maintenance of an uneven social reward system  Rewards not fairly tied to performance  Low self-esteem among ‘lower classes’  Exultation of self-interest  Mean World (for real)

50  Tabloid news shows tended to “focus on stories involving upper-class criminals, particularly celebrities, whereas “highbrow” news programs were more likely to focus on stories involving working-class, unemployed criminals.”  Also tend to show “rags to riches” stories or the “hollowness of wealth”

51  “Welfare recipients are among the... the most hated and stereotyped groups in contemporary society”  Only one among 17 stereotyped groups (feminists, housewives, retarded people, Blacks, migrant workers, etc.) that respondents both disliked and disrespected.  Lacking both competence and warmth  However, most common group of welfare recipients is poor children  Media representations concentrate on their mothers

52  Those who are well off and those who are not accept many of the same assumptions and explanations for their economic lot  Thus, the have-nots act to discipline themselves rather than making demands of the system  Workers who accept their role do not present as much a threat in the mines and factories


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