Class Mobility in England v.s. U.S.?

Can someone please tell me how the English class system works? Whenever I hear or read comparisons of the England and U.S. economic systems, it is said that there is no class system in the U.S. and very little class mobility in England and that individuals move through the income brackets more fluidly in America than in England.

So, how does it work in England? Are individuals generally "stuck" in their class? Is it impossible or rare to move up (or down) the economic ladder? If not, why is it so difficult to do so in England? How does one "move up" in England? If a poor single adult mother in England is working and going to school simultaneously, will this make it more likely for her to move to a higher class if she works upon graduation?

Please explain.


2 Answers

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    The United States does not have a system of inherited titles as the British do. I don't believe any inherited titles are being bestowed in Britain any longer -- almost all new honors are only lifetime honors, which expire when the person dies.

    You are confusing the economic ladder with the social ladder -- in Britian, they are two VERY different things. Socially, you can either be born into the aristocracy or marry into it (if you're a woman) -- that's it. The top of the social heap, of course, is the Queen and her family, then various ranks of peerage below that, and then "commoners", those who are not of the aristocracy. Economically, it's wide open -- people who work hard and smart can become economically successful (often more so than many of the aristocracy!)

    There isn't a similar system in the United States, although socially, several unofficial layers of society exist. In America, social status is conferred either by a family's long standing and contribution in the community, by political achievement (often these two go together), or by economic success. Sometimes, in America, you hear reference to "lower class, middle class and upper class", but these are almost always strictly economic distinctions based on income and net worth, not by social standing.

  • 1 decade ago

    In England class is not necessarily the same as wealth. There are many people who are upper class, but live in gentile poverty. The British class system is based largely on hereditary ownership of land, and not all land generates enough income to pay expenses (and in many cases there is not much land left after large chunks have been sold off to pay death duties. Money will not ever buy hereditary landholding.

    In the US class and money are almost synonymous. If you make enough money you (and, if not you, your kids) can buy yourself in anywhere. This may not be so for some of the upper class of the north-east, but if you go back far enough it all comes down to money.

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