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Social Mobility

Most countries in the world have a system of social classes, and the United States is no exception. The United States is a large country with a dynamic economy. Social classes have found their own level over the course of American history. Despite this, social classes are not as rigid as they are in some more limited societies. It may be difficult for members of one social class to move up into another, but it is always theoretically possible.

The United States does not have a hereditary aristocracy or a religion-based system of castes. What it does have, on the negative side, is a strong consciousness of race and ethnicity. These are perhaps the greatest barriers to those who try to work hard to better themselves. Sometimes movement from lower class to middle class, and even to upper class, may take place as a progression from one generation to the next, particularly in the case of immigrants. Many immigrants have faced misunderstanding, prejudice, and discrimination, and yet have successfully established themselves and their families in the mainstream of American life.

Social standing is perhaps a more useful concept than social class. This indicates how well a person or group fits into society. How would mainstream Americans react, for example, if people from a certain immigrant group, of their own economic level, tried to move into their neighborhoods? How would they react if one of their children announced that they were marrying a person of a different race, ethnicity, or religion, even if that person were of high education and economic achievement? These are difficult questions. The best answer is to state that some Americans care about this kind of thing, but many others do not. Social classes do exist, but in the United States, they all have looser boundaries than may initially appear.

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