Friday, January 27, 2012

the declining significance of "class"

With exception of the term middle class, television newscasters largely fail to employ the word class, according to a recent content analysis by Jay Livingston in the Montclair SocioBlog. While approximately as many Americans self-identify as working class as middle class, they are mentioned far less often, and virtually devoid from public conversation are stories using terms to describe the extremes: upper class and lower class.  Rather than class, discussion is now framed in the news in terms of income levels. Livingston implies that this failure to recognize classes other than the middle class is consistent with the desire to avoid the specter of class conflict.    

Cross-posted at Sociological Images.   


  1. I think people don't want to be labled as a class because there are certain stereotypes. The way the media portrays that particular class might not be one sees themselves. It goes to the discussion we had in class everyone is middle class. Even if you are rich you lable your self middle class because you are not as rich as Bill Gates and you are not as poor as the guys begging for money on 410. The media fails to use the word Class probably because they don't want to further stratify our society. Josue Castro

  2. another possible reason we don't speak of "class" when considering social or economic issues is due to the fact that if we acknowledge that there is a lower class, we would then need to consider problems they face. it's sort of the idea that we can't fix what we dont know about; if we know there are those in society that cannot afford necessities, we must look at the whole picture, thereby admitting that there is a problem with our country and the way in which we address issues and distribute resources.
    gloria Hearn

  3. The term "class" is such an subjective term to begin with. If you want to talk about income levels, making 45k a year in San Antonio would be considered middle class, but in a placed like NYC, would be lower class. Those that make 6 figures a year probably don't like the upper class label due to the "snob" type stereotypes that go along with it. In contrast, those in poverty probably don't like to be thought of as lower class for the same reasons. This is why the media has strayed away from those terms. It is always better to speak objectively than subjectively.
    -Scott Jarvis

  4. The media is owned by the upper class and must answer to them. The upper class does not appreciate attention and calling attention to the lower class would not be fortuitous, there's not much to sell to them. So the perpetuation continues;that one can become upwardly mobile. Especially, if one considers this certain product which has sponsored tonight's program and/or news journalist job.
    Sad is the fact that the ever widening disparity among the American classes is compounded and not addressed, and guess who benefits?
    -Martin Leyvani

  5. Broadcast news is a product that is designed to ultimately make a profit for the entrepreneurs with the resources to put in place the structure that makes a broadcast possible. The capitalist takes a calculated risk and "rolls the dice" so to speak. The media moguls being the clever souls they are have sway over where the broadcast occur, the content, the personalities hired and who can purchase some of the air time they control in the manner of commercials.

    The media moguls also seem to have a very good understanding of viewer demographics. They know which of the social classes watches and when. According to an article titled "Trends in News Consumption 1991-2012" put out by The People and the Press, viewership during the day when news broadcast occur, is when persons making under 30K a year tune in.

    Persons earning over 70K a year hardly tune in. They instead receive the news from the Economist, NPR, New Yorker, Wall Street, and New York Times in that order. The paradigm of "middle class" from which to market seems very logical.

    There isn't any use reminding people how poor or lacking class they might be. The psychological effect might be a potential for diminished sales which is frowned on by advertisers, or a depressed portion of the audience which wouldn't speak well for the broadcasters ability to provide escapism. Lastly, concentration on the middle class makes the upper class feel they might still have the where-with-all to blend in.

  6. Now days, it appears that "middle class" and "working class" can at times be interchangeable. For example, my parents consider themselves middle class, but after paying for my college(and my mother, who is also in college,) we identify as working class. But the bigger issue in my opinion is the fact that the media simply doesn't want to speak of the working class. They want to focus on the middle class and, as aforementioned by other comments, income levels as opposed to class. Which is very worrisome in my opinion, but will be hard to combat given the situation we are currently in.