Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Windows and Mirrors: A Program about Diversity for Grades 4-5

Leader Resource 1: Class Identity Descriptions

Class is relative status according to income, wealth, power, and/or position. In the U.S. , it is a confusing and slippery topic. Definitions that make sense to one person may not make sense to another. These definitions are offered in hopes of starting a discussion with shared language.

The U.S. has no hard and fast divisions between class groups. Income and wealth are on a spectrum, and most of us move a little up or down the spectrum during our lifetimes. Some people grow up in one class and live as adults in another. For immigrants, there's another layer of confusion, as their class status in their country of origin is often different from their class status in the U.S.

Class Identity Indicators/Markers/Descriptions

Low Income/Poor

Because some low-income people see "poor" as a negatively loaded term, many activists use "low-income" as a more respectful term.

  • Rarely have enough money to pay all their bills or cover needs
  • Poor-quality housing or homelessness
  • Use of government money or charity to pay for necessities, i.e., free lunch or food stamps
  • Rare visits to health-care provider
  • Move frequently
  • Chaotic life
  • Varied in race, values, and political beliefs
  • Disproportionately people of color, women, and children
  • Heads of households may have not graduated from high school

Working Class

  • Little or no college education; in particular did not graduate from a four-year college
  • Rental housing or one, non-luxury home long saved-for and lived in for decades
  • Do physical work or work in very structured environments with strict rules
  • More likely to have strong ethnic and religious identities than middle-class people
  • Varied in race, culture, values and political beliefs
  • Majority white, but compared with the composition of the whole population, they are disproportionately people of color and women.

Middle Class

  • College-educated, salaried professionals and managers; doctors; lawyers
  • Four-year college graduates, especially at private and/or residential schools, sometimes professional school
  • Secure home ownership, often with several moves up to bigger houses in a lifetime
  • Independent work environments with little supervision
  • More economic security than working-class people but no way to pay bills without working
  • Varied in race, culture, values and political beliefs
  • Disproportionately white

Rich/Owning Class

  • Have enough income that they do not have to work to pay basic bills
  • Elite private schools and colleges
  • Large inheritances
  • Luxuries and international travel
  • Own multiple homes
  • Varied in culture, values and political beliefs
  • Disproportionately white