Although as a native born U.S. citizen I was led to believe that we live in a classless society where anyone can be anything that they want to be when they grow up, I know better now.
In many a post I have included the disclaimer that examples abound for those who have succeeded in lifting themselves up from poverty or seemingly hopeless situations to make themselves very successful.
There is an entire genre of self-help writers who extol those types of feel-good stories and I could look up a dozen and share them here were I so inclined.
Statistics show otherwise; that income class mobility in the U.S. is extremely low. Also, per the Gini Coefficient, the U.S. has a wider gap between the haves and the have-nots than most other countries.
The point being that class differences are a real thing here in the U.S. Our sense of class is connected to our gender and race, to where we live and to who our neighbors are. It’s affected by how healthy we are and even how much we pray. Class is about many facets of our dynamic lives, and we’re constantly piecing together a narrative about it through shards of subjective information, expert say.
I am a self-proclaimed Middle Class Guy who ranks high as a middle class person in any test or list that exists, from the way that I was raised to my educational attainment to my family’s lifestyle to the neighborhood where we reside to our middle class income that skews closer to upper middle class than lower, but for the area where we reside it is the middle of the middle.
Following last year’s presidential election, much was made of the white working class, which was credited for launching Trump into the White House as a way of getting back at the Democrats for years of being ignored and passed over.
Working class is another one of those terms, like Rust Belt, that I do not care for. While those who use the term are referring to those with less skilled positions and a lower amount of education, I cannot help but think of myself as working class.
Investopedia defines working class as a socioeconomic term used to describe persons in a social class marked by jobs that provide low pay, require limited skill and/or physical labor, and have reduced education requirements. Unemployed persons or those supported by a social welfare program are often included in this group.
Businessdictionary.com defines working class as a socioeconomic class consisting of individuals that are paid an hourly wage and considered to be lower-middle class. Typically these individuals work blue-collar jobs such as manufacturing, retail sales, or food service. Also called lower class.
Blogger Joseph Chris writes that the working class comprises people (together with their families) who exhibit specific class indicators, which are little or no college education; low or negative net worth; rental housing or a non-luxury home that was long saved for and lived in for many years; careers that involve physical work; and little to no control in the workplace. Though lower middle-class individuals are in certain ways more secure and prosperous than those in the working class, these groups still have a lot in common, like both of them having less college education than a BA degree, having less control over their work and having a fewer assets than those in the professional middle class. If these people own an enterprise, then they can keep it afloat by doing hands-on work.
Interesting. I suppose that low hourly wages and blue-collar jobs that do not require a college degree could be considered working class rather than professional. It is just a choice of semantics, but I still do not care for the term.
So because I hold a master’s degree and certification in my field and wear khakis and button-down shirts most days and sit in front of a computer in an office and attend many meetings, that means that I am not working class?
When I read about knowledge workers, I associate with that definition, too. After all, everything that I do at work consists of writing, speaking and meeting with people about business-related projects. I do not just blurt out whatever I want to. My replies and advice are based upon many years of experience in the field and working for my current community. I can pretty much tell you what type of project or business my community wants and where. and I possess enough knowledge about every property in the town to share details that could not be found via a Google search to make myself needed.
But I still think of myself as a working class guy, but with a lot of knowledge.
Working Class Guy
Although I have never been to Australia (even though I would not mind going someday), I would be a very working class Australian. Per a social class quiz, I would be an established working class Australian.
A few points on the above: (1) my house might be worth around $250,000, but I think that it would be more like $240,000; (2) our $150,000 or more in savings includes our children’s college savings accounts, so those will be depleted over the next eight years; (3) a solicitor is what they call an attorney in England and Australia and probably some other countries.
The description of established working is a little insulting, saying that I have the lowest social contact score and occupational prestige, although an argument could be made for both.
The explanations that most convinced me that I may be part of the working class are the following three comments from a thread on the Guardian website:
THE difference between the classes is in their relationship with society’s institutions. The working classes do what the system sets out for them. The middle classes invent, operate and belong to the system. The upper classes tolerate the system but know the right people to speak to if they feel the need to bypass any part of it. The underclass (often overlooked) don’t have any relationship with the system at all. Similarly, for example, working-class attitudes on school are: “Keep your head down and your mouth shut – if they don’t notice you, then you can’t get into trouble.” Middle class on school: “Your school is there to help you learn, and teachers are there to answer your questions.” Upper class on school: “It’s a pity you have to spend your time with second-rate people but you’ll get the real lessons of life here, when you come home for the hols.” J Nieman, Muswell Hill, London N10.
THE last two of these three terms are confusing. The important division is between working class and owning class. Members of the owning class own enough so that they do not have to work to stay alive, while members of the working class have to sell their work to survive. The point about the owning class is not that they are richer than the rest of us, but that they own the things that generate wealth without them having to work: essentially, land and buildings (giving them income from rent) and businesses (giving them income from the sale of goods or services). The only sure way to ensure your place in the owning class is to choose your parents carefully.
If you can walk into work in the morning and be told your labour will no longer be paid for, so you are out of a job AND have no other meaningful way to get money to live off then you are working class. You may have been under the impression you are middle class, because of education, participation on managing institutions and systems, because you have disposable income, liking classical music, etc. But the bottom line is no means of survival but the job you are employed to do, then you are functionally working class!!!
An Upper Middle Class Guy
Per CNN’s middle class calculator that goes by county, my family is not even middle class. They think that we’re above it because our income is four thousand dollars higher than what it considers middle, which is from $36,000 to $107,590. If you think about it, this measure does not account for anything besides income. What it really should report is that I skew toward upper middle income in Cook County.
Of course, that measurement does not account for where we live in Cook County or how many family members we have. True, if I was twenty-five years old and single, I could get by pretty well on my salary and maybe even enjoy some upper middle class amenities like a new car, travel, an iPhone, a new TV and other accoutrements.
A more detailed quiz on the Christian Science Monitor website has me tabbed as upper middle class due to factors including my proper use of adverbs, having hundreds upon hundreds of books in my home, giving to charity, buying fruits and vegetables and hating gospel, rap and heavy metal music.
Your results: BOURGEOIS VOUS
Your habits and perspectives most resemble those of upper-middle-class Americans. Though members of this group are not the most accurate judges of others’ emotions, they do have a high faith in people’s basic decency, and a commitment to raising healthy, curious, and imaginative children. Your people eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, eschew cigarettes, and live in homes full of books. You have vast and eclectic tastes in music, which likely exclude country, gospel, rap, and heavy metal. In fact, you identify so strongly with your own individual tastes, that you may resent it a bit when friends impinge upon your discoveries.
A Knowledge Worker
Another term that has been widely used is that of a knowledge worker. This term refers mostly to those who utilize technology
In a Harvard Business Review article by Rick Wartzman, the author writes that business guru Peter Drucker had been anticipating the monumental leap – to an age when people would generate value with their minds more than with their muscle – since at least 1959, when in Landmarks of Tomorrow he first described the rise of “knowledge work.”
Three decades later, Drucker had become convinced that knowledge was a more crucial economic resource than land, labor, or financial assets, leading to what he called a “post-capitalist society.” And shortly thereafter (and not long before he died in 2005), Drucker declared that increasing the productivity of knowledge workers was “the most important contribution management needs to make in the 21st century.”
I am certainly a person who generates value with my mind more than with my muscle and combine my knowledge in the field of economic development with what I know about properties and projects in my employer’s community to bring about private investment and job creation in the community.
If the community had to rely on my building skills or physical labor to build up the town, I would not have lasted through my first day there.
A case can be made that all workers in today’s modern world could be considered knowledge workers. In another interesting Harvard Business Review article by John Hagel III, John Seely Brown and Lang Davison called “Are All Employees Knowledge Workers?” they make just that point.
Hagel, Seely Brown and Davison write that when executives focus on “knowledge workers”, they lose sight of the fact that even highly routinized jobs require improvisation and the use of judgment in ambiguous situations, especially if the goal is to drive performance to new levels. Many of these improvisations require interactions with one’s fellow humans.
I would not argue that all workers are knowledge workers, but I do support the notion that a large percentage of professional positions where you use new technology, apply some measure of judgement and interact with clients on a regular basis could be construed as knowledge worker-type jobs. It goes far beyond scientists and engineers, and applies to me and probably to you, as well.
A Knowledgeable Working Class Guy
By reading this post and others, you could come to the conclusion that, like many people, I possess a unique blend of knowledge. Besides knowing much of what there is to know in the field of economic development, I have gained a great deal of knowledge about the field of finance, self-improvement, the future of work and literature.
I also consider myself a worker bee-type of employee. I have set hours, my assignments are given by someone fourteen years younger than myself with little to no knowledge about what it is that I do, and I report to both a Committee and Board who question everything I do including what I said to whom and why and even the level of enthusiasm with how I said it.
If I am not a working class Middle Class Guy, I do not know who is.
I may have a bachelor’s and master’s degree, I may spend my work days in meetings and on phone calls and sending emails, I may listen to jazz rather than country music, I may make a living by utilizing my knowledge in the field of economic development, and I may write numerous blog posts that will ultimately be read by thousands and re-packaged into eBooks, but I still think of myself as a working class guy.
As long as I will be going into an office tomorrow at a preordained time not set out by me to take orders from an inexperienced, overly-aggressive boss and will dutifully carry out those orders, the same as I did when my kindergarten teacher told me to draw a picture or write out the alphabet forty-two years ago, what is it that makes me any better than a working class guy?
I may not have my name on my shirt, but I probably should.