How Does Classism Affect Society??

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Classism is a form of discrimination based on social class or perceived social class. It involves prejudicial attitudes and discriminatory treatment towards individuals due to their real or perceived socioeconomic status. Classism can have profound impacts on society, perpetuating economic inequality, social exclusion, stereotypes, and psychological harm. This comprehensive article will analyze the various ways classism affects society.

Key Takeaways

  • Classism leads to policies favoring the wealthy over the poor, exacerbating economic inequality.
  • Social exclusion of lower classes limits opportunities and social mobility.
  • Negative attitudes and assumptions about people based on class cause mistreatment.
  • Classism causes psychological impacts like low self-esteem and entitlement.
  • Classism perpetuates cycles of poverty, poor health, and lack of political power.


Classism refers to prejudice, discrimination, and antagonism directed against people due to their real or perceived social class or economic status. It involves making assumptions about worth, abilities, merits, and moral character based on social class.

Classism can occur on systemic and individual levels. On a systemic level, classism may be reflected in policies, practices, and cultural messages that benefit wealthier populations at the expense of the poor. At an individual level, classist attitudes involve judging and treating others differently based on where they fall on the socioeconomic hierarchy.

This article will provide an in-depth evaluation of the impacts of classism on society. It will analyze how classism exacerbates economic inequality, limits opportunities through social exclusion, promotes harmful stereotypes, and causes psychological damage. The information presented aims to highlight the serious consequences of classism in order to promote greater social equity. Read on to gain a comprehensive understanding of this important issue.

How Does Classism Worsen Economic Inequality??

One of the most far-reaching effects of classism is that it enables and exacerbates drastic economic inequality in society. Classism often manifests itself in policies, practices, and cultural messaging that favor the upper classes at the expense of the poor and working class. This ends up concentrating power and resources in the hands of the wealthy elite while depriving lower income groups of opportunities to improve their economic standing.

Several examples illustrate how classism fuels economic inequality:

Tax Laws That Favor the Wealthy

  • Tax policies like regressive sales taxes, low capital gains taxes, corporate tax breaks, and estate tax reductions allow the rich to accumulate more wealth while placing a greater proportional burden on the poor.
  • study by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy found that the poorest 20% of Americans pay over twice as much of their income in state and local taxes as the top 1%.
  • Such tax structures reflect classist attitudes that wealthy people deserve to amass fortunes without returning proceeds to society.

Budget Cuts to Social Programs

  • Cuts to social programs like food stamps, housing assistance, Medicaid, and cash assistance disproportionately impact lower income Americans who rely on these services.
  • Reduced social spending reflects classist notions that poor people are undeserving of government help or that poverty results from personal failings.

Maintaining Low Minimum Wage

  • Keeping the minimum wage low compared to the cost of living ensures that the working class struggle to make ends meet and remain stuck in poverty.
  • This reflects classist attitudes that low-wage laborers do not merit higher pay.

Weakening Unions and Labor Protections

  • Policies and legal rulings that weaken labor unions and reduce worker protections make it harder for the working class to advocate for better wages, benefits, and working conditions.
  • This demonstrates classism by disempowering lower income workers while favoring owners and management.

Overall, classist biases become embedded in economic policies and structures, concentrating wealth among elites while depriving lower classes of resources and power. This entrenches a cycle of economic inequality.

How Does Classism Lead to Social Exclusion??

Beyond economics, classism also causes social exclusion that limits lower-income individuals’ access to opportunities. People seen as belonging to a lower social class face discrimination, marginalization, and lack of access to social institutions. This curtails their chances for upward mobility.

Some examples of how classism leads to social exclusion include:

Barriers to Quality Education

  • Lower-class students often attend under-funded public schools with fewer resources, qualified teachers, and college preparatory classes.
  • Costs make higher education inaccessible to many low-income youth. This limits professional opportunities.
  • Such barriers reflect and reinforce classist notions that children from poorer families do not merit the same quality of education as their privileged counterparts.

Reduced Access to Healthcare

  • Wealth enables access to the best medical care, specialists, and elective procedures, while the poor often lack insurance and rely on emergency rooms or low-quality clinics for basic care.
  • Those in power exhibit classism by failing to make healthcare equitably accessible.

Exclusion from Politics and Policy Making

  • Political participation is lower among lower-income groups due to disenfranchisement, disengagement fostered by poverty, and classist attitudes dismissing the political competence of the poor.
  • This results in a political system dominated by the class-privileged.
  • The political marginalization of those in poverty makes it harder for their needs to be addressed through government policy.

Discrimination in Social Settings

  • Country clubs, private schools, political functions, and other exclusive social settings are limited to the affluent.
  • Poorer individuals experience social marginalization firsthand when they are looked down upon or excluded from certain social circles or neighborhoods due to classism.

Through various forms of exclusion, classism severely constricts the opportunities and social mobility available to people based on their economic status. This creates a self-perpetuating cycle where poverty begets more poverty across generations.

What Stereotypes and Attitudes Does Classism Promote??

Classism fosters a wide range of harmful stereotypes and attitudes toward individuals based on socioeconomic status. These include:

Poor People are Lazy

  • A common classist stereotype is that people in poverty are lazy, unmotivated, and undeserving of help.
  • In reality, the working poor frequently work multiple demanding jobs that offer few paths for economic advancement.

Wealth Results from Superior Virtue

  • Many believe that the affluent must have worked harder and made wiser choices, ignoring the role of inherited privilege.
  • Classism assumes the poor deserve their plight due to moral failings.

The Poor Lack Intelligence and Civility

  • Lower classes are stereotyped as uneducated, crude, and ignorant.
  • In fact, people of all classes exhibit intelligence and unsavory behavior. Lack of access to education is often the main differentiator.

Manual Labor is Low Skill

  • Classism leads many to view manual and service jobs as requiring little skill or intellectual ability compared to professional roles.
  • This diminishes the challenging work performed by the working class.

Different Standards of Behavior

  • Rich people’s excessive or indulgent habits may be tolerated as eccentricities while similar behaviors among the poor are judged as moral failings.
  • Members of higher classes often receive gentler punishments for unlawful acts.

These types of classist attitudes portray people in poverty as inherently flawed while excusing or even praising the rich. They lead to mistreatment based solely on socioeconomic status, not on character or merit.

What are the Psychological Impacts of Classism??

Experiencing classism can take a major psychological toll on both the lower classes and upper classes. Some of the documented psychological effects include:

Lower Self-Esteem

  • Being looked down upon, excluded, and made to feel inferior based on class leads to lower self-worth.
  • Internalized classism causes individuals to devalue themselves.

Shame About Background

  • Those from poorer backgrounds often feel embarrassed and ashamed about their origins and family.
  • They may hide details about their upbringing to avoid judgement.

Learned Helplessness

  • Poverty and classism often make people feel incapable of improving their circumstances.
  • This promotes passivity and acceptance of one’s disadvantaged state.

Psychological Distress

  • The chronic stress of poverty and marginalization contributes to higher rates of mental illness among disadvantaged groups.


  • Those raised with class privilege are more likely to develop unfounded expectations of special treatment and status.
  • Entitlement among the affluent exacerbates class divisions.

In different ways, classism takes psychological tolls on both the underprivileged and overprivileged, creating unhealthy outlooks and behaviors.

How Does Classism Perpetuate Cycles of Disadvantage??

The impacts described so far demonstrate how classism fundamentally obstructs social mobility. The lower classes are denied access to opportunities and resources needed to ascend economic and social ladders. When allowed to persist, classism sets in motion cyclical patterns that replicate disadvantage across generations.

For example:

  • Poverty leads to poorer health outcomes, making it harder to perform well in school or work.
  • Lower educational quality and attainment limit employment options and upward mobility.
  • Social exclusion from networks and institutions blocks access to power.
  • Psychological distress exacerbates other issues like substance abuse and family dysfunction.

Each of these factors reinforces the others in ongoing cycles that entrap people in disadvantage based on the class they are born into. People cannot easily work their way out of inherited poverty when classism persistently blocks their paths.

The cyclical nature of class disadvantage demonstrates why classism is so detrimental. Its effects compound across generations, concentrating hardship among the same marginalized groups over decades. Classism’s role in perpetuating inequality and poverty must be recognized in order to promote greater equity.


As this thorough analysis has illustrated, classism profoundly harms society on multiple levels. It enables policies and practices that concentrate wealth in the hands of elites, excludes the poor from opportunity, promotes harmful attitudes, damages psychological health, and traps families in cycles of disadvantage. Classism runs counter to principles of equal human worth and dignity.

While class distinctions may always exist to some degree, the extreme imbalances enabled by classism are neither inevitable nor acceptable. The evidence clearly reveals the need to challenge systemic classism and change societal attitudes. Progress requires acknowledging classism as a widespread injustice, not an acceptable status quo. All social institutions must prioritize inclusion and reject classist biases. Only then can true equal opportunity and social mobility be ensured for all people, regardless of their origins and economic status. What other impacts does classism have on society? Let’s keep the conversation going

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