Nonfiction: White Working Class by Joan Williams

I learned two things when I opened White Working Class.  One, I am a class migrant (“someone who has moved from one class to another”).  Two, apparently I’m not working class at all, and never was.  Williams curiously defines “working class” to mean middle class.

She defines working class as: “Americans . . . with household incomes above the bottom third but below the top 20%.”  She adds in as well “families with higher incomes but no college graduates,” highlighting the increasing relevance of education to class in America.  This results in a range of family incomes from $41,005 to $131,962.  Williams has a point when she says that almost all Americans consider themselves middle class.  But calling couples who make $130,000 a year “working class” is silly.  Williams contrasts the working class with “elites,” i.e., “Americans with household incomes in the top 20% and at least one member who is a college graduate.”  This elite is largely a professional and managerial elite (PME).

By this measure I was only working class for a brief few years between grad school and law school.  Otherwise I have been poor or elite my entire life.

(I don’t like Williams’ definition, but for the purposes of this post, when I say “working class,” I mean working class as she defines it.)

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