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Class discrimination

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Class discrimination, also known as classism, is prejudice or discrimination on the basis of social class. It includes individual attitudes, behaviors, systems of policies and practices that are set up to benefit the upper class at the expense of the lower class.[1]

Social class refers to the grouping of individuals in a hierarchy based on wealth, income, education, occupation, and social network.

Studies show an interconnection between class discrimination and racism and sexism.[2]


Class structures existed in a simplified form in pre-agricultural societies, but it has evolved into a more complex and established structure following the establishment of permanent agriculture-based civilizations with a food surplus.[3]

Classism started to be practiced around the 18th century.[4] Segregation into classes was accomplished through observable traits (such as race or profession) that were accorded varying statuses and privileges. Feudal classification systems might include merchant, serf, peasant, warrior, priestly, and noble classes. Rankings were far from invariant with the merchant class in Europe outranking the peasantry, while merchants were explicitly inferior to peasants during the Tokugawa Shogunate in Japan. Modern classism, with less rigid class structures, is harder to identify. In a professional association posting, psychologist Thomas Fuller-Rowell states, "Experiences of [class] discrimination are often subtle rather than blatant, and the exact reason for unfair treatment is often not clear to the victim."[5]

Intersections with other systems of oppression[edit]

Socioeconomic, racial/ethnic and gender inequalities in academic achievement have been widely reported in the United States, but how these three axes of inequality intersect to determine academic and non-academic outcomes among school-aged children is not well understood.[6]

Institutional versus personal classism[edit]

The term classism can refer to personal prejudice against lower classes as well as to institutional classism, just as the term racism can refer either strictly to personal prejudice or to institutional racism. The latter has been defined as "the ways in which conscious or unconscious classism is manifest in the various institutions of our society".[7]

As with social classes, the difference in social status between people determines how they behave toward each other and the prejudices they likely hold toward each other. People of higher status do not generally mix with lower-status people and often are able to control other people's activities by influencing laws and social standards.[8]

The term "interpersonal" is sometimes used in place of "personal" as in "institutional classism (versus) interpersonal classism"[9] and terms such as "attitude" or "attitudinal" may replace "interpersonal" as contrasting with institutional classism as in the Association of Magazine Media's definition of classism as "any attitude or institutional practice which subordinates people due to income, occupation, education and/or their economic condition".[10]

Classism is also sometimes broken down into more than two categories as in "personal, institutional and cultural" classism.[11] It is common knowledge in sociolinguistics that meta-social language abounds in lower registers, thus the slang for various classes or racial castes.

Structural positions[edit]

Schüssler Fiorenza describes interdependent "stratifications of gender, race, class, religion, heterosexualism, and age" as structural positions [12] assigned at birth. She suggests that people inhabit several positions, and that positions with privilege become nodal points through which other positions are experienced. For example, in a context where gender is the primary privileged position (e.g. patriarchy, matriarchy), gender becomes the nodal point through which sexuality, race, and class are experienced. In a context where class is the primary privileged position (i.e. classism), gender and race are experienced through class dynamics. Fiorenza stresses that kyriarchy is not a hierarchical system as it does not focus on one point of domination. Instead it is described as a "complex pyramidal system" with those on the bottom of the pyramid experiencing the "full power of kyriarchal oppression". The kyriarchy is recognized as the status quo and therefore its oppressive structures may not be recognized.[12][13]

To maintain this system, kyriarchy relies on the creation of a servant class, race, gender, or people. The position of this class is reinforced through "education, socialization, and brute violence and malestream rationalization".[12] Tēraudkalns suggests that these structures of oppression are self-sustained by internalized oppression; those with relative power tend to remain in power, while those without tend to remain disenfranchised.[14] In addition, structures of oppression amplify and feed into each other.[13]

In the UAE, Western workers and local nationals are given better treatment or are preferred.[15]

Media representation[edit]

Class discrimination can be seen in many different forms of media such as television shows, films and social media. Classism is also systemic,[16] and its implications can go unnoticed in the media that is consumed by society. Class discrimination in the media displays the knowledge of what people feel and think about classism. When seeing class discrimination in films and television shows, people are influenced and believe that is how things are in real life, for whatever class is being displayed. Children can be exposed to class discrimination through movies, with a large pool of high-grossing G-rated movies portraying classism in various contexts.[17] Children may develop biases at a young age that shape their beliefs throughout their lifetime, which would demonstrate the issues with class discrimination being prevalent in the media.[18] Media is a big influence on the world today, with that something such as classism is can be seen in many different lights. Media plays an important role in how certain groups of people are perceived, which can make certain biases stronger.[19] Usually, the lower income people are displayed in the media as dirty, lacking education and manners, and homeless.[20] People can use the media to learn more about different social classes[21] or use the media, such as social media to influence others on what they believe.[22] In some cases, people who are in a social class that is portrayed negatively by the media can be affected in school and social life as "teenagers who grew up in poverty reported higher levels of discrimination, and the poorer the teens were, the more they experienced discrimination".[23]


The European Convention on Human Rights, in Article 14, contains protections against social class ("social origin") discrimination.[24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kadi, Joanna (1996). Thinking Class. South End Press. ISBN 0-89608-548-1.
  2. ^ "Sexism and Racism Linked to Personality". Live Science. 9 November 2011.
  3. ^ Peter N. Stearns (Narrator). A Brief History of the World Course No. 8080 [Audio CD]. The Teaching Company. ASIN B000W595CC.
  4. ^ Young, Serinity; Katie Cannon (1999). Serinity Young (ed.). Encyclopedia of Women and World Religion (Print). Macmillan. p. 181. ISBN 0028648609.
  5. ^ "Social-Class Discrimination Contributes to Poorer Health". Association of Psychological Science. 18 June 2012. Retrieved 10 December 2019.
  6. ^ Bécares, Laia; Priest, Naomi (27 October 2015). "Understanding the Influence of Race/Ethnicity, Gender, and Class on Inequalities in Academic and Non-Academic Outcomes among Eighth-Grade Students: Findings from an Intersectionality Approach". PLOS ONE. 10 (10): e0141363. Bibcode:2015PLoSO..1041363B. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0141363. ISSN 1932-6203. PMC 4624767. PMID 26505623.
  7. ^ "Classism Definitions". gustavus.edu. Archived from the original on 13 March 2016. Retrieved 18 March 2018.
  8. ^ "Social Class Prejudice". Encyclopedia.com. Retrieved 8 January 2019.
  9. ^ Langhout, Regina Day; Rosselli, Francine; Feinstein, Jonathan (Winter 2007), "Assessing Classism in Academic Settings", The Review of Higher Education, 30 (2): 145–184, doi:10.1353/rhe.2006.0073, S2CID 144691197
  10. ^ "Glossary".Archived 9 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ Adams, Maurianne; Bell, Lee Anne; Griffin, Pat, eds. (2007). Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice (2nd ed.). Routledge. p. 317. ISBN 978-0-415-95199-9.
  12. ^ a b c Schüssler Fiorenza, Elisabeth (2009). "Introduction: Exploring the Intersections of Race, Gender, Status and Ethnicity in Early Christian Studies". In Nasrallah, Laura; Schüssler Fiorenza, Elisabeth (eds.). Prejudice and Christian beginnings: investigating race, gender, and ethnicity in early Christian studies. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. ISBN 978-1451412840.
  13. ^ a b Reed-Bouley, Jennifer (Spring 2012). "Antiracist Theological Education as a Site of Struggle for Justice". Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion. 28: 178–189. doi:10.2979/jfemistudreli.28.1.178. S2CID 143768692.
  14. ^ Tēraudkalns, Valdis (2003). "Construction of Masculinities in Contemporary Christianity". In Cimdiņa, Ausma (ed.). Religion and political change in Europe: past and present. PLUS. pp. 223–232. ISBN 8884921414.
  15. ^ "'Western workers favoured in UAE', survey respondents say". The National. 18 April 2015. Retrieved 5 November 2019.
  16. ^ Gamble, Matt (10 February 2018). "Classism: America's Overlooked Problem". The Rutgers Review. Retrieved 21 March 2019.
  17. ^ Streib, Jessi (18 April 2016). "Class Inequality in Children's Movies". Class Action. Archived from the original on 21 March 2019. Retrieved 21 March 2019.
  18. ^ Suttie, Jill. "How Adults Communicate Bias to Children". Retrieved 21 March 2019.
  19. ^ Burke, Krista. "Media Portrayal of Individuals in the Lower Class". Digital Commons. Retrieved 21 March 2019.
  20. ^ "Portrayal of Minorities in the Film, Media and Entertainment Industries". web.stanford.edu. Archived from the original on 13 December 2019. Retrieved 18 March 2018.
  21. ^ "Race & Ethnicity". criticalmediaproject.org. Retrieved 18 March 2018.
  22. ^ "Classism, Accountability, and Social Media". blogs.harvard.edu. Retrieved 18 March 2018.
  23. ^ "Social-class discrimination contributes to poorer health". wisc.edu. Retrieved 18 March 2018.
  24. ^ European Convention on Human Rights as amended by Protocols Nos. 11, 14 and 15, supplemented by Protocols Nos. 1, 4, 6, 7, 12, 13 and 16

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