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The stratification of class differs from that of both race and gender. Massey argues that “Markets have been rigged systematically to produce outcomes favoring the elite” (Massey, 159). What this means, is that there is a reduced need for discrimination and exclusion on the basis of class. Instead exists a system that inherently puts down those with lower class status. One example of the systematic stratification of class comes in the form of de-unionization, as “Falling levels of unionization translate directly into lowerworker earnings” (Massey, 164).
This phenomenon of deunionising was powered by legislation such as the Taft-Hartley act and Landrum-Griffin act, Ceasing the formation of unions and stopping the act striking within the labor force.
Policy decisions like the previously mentioned are heavily influenced by the american elite, as it is the norm for politicians to be of higher class stature. Without the formation of unions, stratification was allowed and easier increase through the form of minimum wage laws. Massey cites, “The golden age of the progressive political economy was 1948 to 1968, when in real terms the minimum wage steadily rose from .
50 an hour to a peak of $9.20 at the height of the Great Society” (Massey 166). However, “By minimizing the minimum wage, Congress by the year 2005 guaranteed that the poorest workers in America would make no more than 53 percent of the federal poverty rate even if they worked full-time” (Massey 168). This separation into poverty is then further solidified by lack of government assistance. “The decline in welfare receipt and income transfers did not stem from a drop in the rate of poverty, but from the systematic shifting of poor women away from public supports” (Massey 175) Massey explains.
Not only was spending decreased unfavorably for those under the poverty line, the middle class was also affected negatively in the form of federal funding. Tax rates, through time, have been shifted heavily to favor the most elite. This confirmed in the reading as “Clearly, since 1980 taxes paid by the wealthiest Americans have been substantially reduced” (Massey, 182). Data shows that “this [tax system] progressivity largely evaporated during the Reagan and Bush years, with the average tax rate for wealthy households going from 67 percent to 28 percent in just eight years… The poor, meanwhile, saw their tax burden rise under President Reagan, with the average rate after 1986 going from 16 percent to 23 percent” (Massey, 183).
As you can see, policy heavily shapes the class stratification in the United States. This class stratification then becomes inherently reproduced in society, which can be seen through the thoughts and actions of individuals. Spatial separation is a large indicator of this stratification as “At all points in time over the past thirty years, affluence has been more concentrated spatially than poverty. In other words, those with money are more likely to live in homogeneously affluent environments than are those without money to live in homogeneously poor environments” (Massey, 193). Massey attributes this homogeneity to stratification though citing one of his previous works, saying “If the distribution of income becomes more unequal and class segregation simultaneously rises, then the only outcome that is demographically possible is an increase in the geographic concentration of affluence and poverty (Massey and Fischer 2000)” (Massey, 192).
Through spatial segregation, individuals of higher class status become more unified. This unification then leads to increase in class power in a variety of areas. Previously, I had mentioned how political control highly resides in the class elite. This is reproduced through the very stratification political control allows. Massey reiterates this in saying “the boundaries of governmental and administrative units can be arranged to approximate the geographic contours of concentrated affluence and poverty, and to the degree that taxes and service delivery can be shifted down the administrative hierarchy, then the potential for reifying class advantages and disadvantages is maximized (Massey 1996, 2005a)” (Massey,195). Not only this, but other societal mechanisms are also controlled in this way. For example, in terms of education, Massey states “the spatial concentration of affluence and poverty in rich and poor school districts raises the odds that affluent children will receive a superior education and that poor children will get inferior schooling, virtually guaranteeing the intergenerational transmission of class position” (Massey, 197).
Not only do political and educational means keep a hold on United States class stratification, but also social and cultural mechanisms do as well. By keeping social circles elite and cultural capital less readily available to low class status individuals, stratification is further maintained through the previously cited spatial segregation. This reproduction can be observed through the quote: “As the concentration of affluence grows ,the children of the privileged increasingly socialize with other children of well-educated and successful parents” (Massey, 207).
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