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The Upper Class

A small upper class “high society” exists, though most Americans have little contact with these people. The core of this group are wealthy people, mostly in the Northeast, who can trace their family lines back to the English or Dutch Colonial days, or to certain legendary fortunes made during America’s great industrial age. This is old money. It is associated with resorts like Palm Beach, Florida or Newport, Rhode Island. Society people attend many sporting and formal evening events designed to raise money for charities.

New Money Very wealthy people with new money, the “nouveau riche”, sometimes have success in breaking into the high society group, particularly if they are movie stars or other beautiful people. If they fail to be accepted by high society, or if they do not want to be, they are upper middle class regardless of how wealthy they become. In America, class distinctions are more a matter of values and lifestyle than of money. Many upper class families have poor relations, family members who, though they have only modest incomes, can still claim membership in the high society set.

Little Impact. The very rich control corporations and have some political power, but the lifestyle and values of the very wealthy do not have much impact on the country in general, nor are the upper classes given as much respect by the general population as they are in many other countries. America is a middle class nation.

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