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Class Matters

3.66 of 5 stars 3.66  ·  rating details  ·  950 ratings  ·  97 reviews
The acclaimed New York Times series on social class in America--and its implications for the way we live our lives
We Americans have long thought of ourselves as unburdened by class distinctions. We have no hereditary aristocracy or landed gentry, and even the poorest among us feel that they can become rich through education, hard work, or sheer gumption. And yet social cl
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Paperback, 288 pages
Published September 2nd 2005 by Times Books
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(showing 1-30 of 2,132)
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sleeps9hours
This book was my first in a recent exploration of class differences. It was interesting, but since it was originally written by NYTimes reporters for a series of newspaper articles, it wasn’t as meaty as I was hoping for. The stats and research results were few. Instead the reporters did the research, but substituted interviews and stories with people whom they saw as representative of the trends. Fine for reporting, not as fine for social science.

Main points:

One way to think of a person’s posit
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Melissa Bond
For me, the book just really skimmed the surface when it came to the thoughts of the upper class, and really spent too much time on a select sample of the middle and lower class. If you are going to write a book about why each class matters and the lifestyles of the varying levels of class, then you must include a balanced portrayal for each. That is where this book fell short for me. Even the surveys were so contradictory and too vague to get a clear picture of what class means to each individu ...more
John
The kind of articles that really make you think. It's hard to pinpoint what class really means, and how it changes due to where you live and over time. There's a great chapter in here about a lawyer from Kentucky and how she doesn't feel like she fits into either the class she was born into or the class she's in now, and there's another great one about the new super wealthy on Nantucket. It almost makes you sympathize with the old money people, crazy as that seems. Oh, and there's another great ...more
Katy
This book contains one of the most well-written and clearest essays I have ever read, maybe in general but certainly depicting issues of class. The article in question is about 3 people, of 3 classes, who each have a heart attack and the various factors that contribute to the success (or lack thereof) of the care they receive during and after. It really pinpoints some major, often-ignored issues of class, without demonizing any one group. For example, it's clear that all 3 have doctors who care ...more
Nancy Kennedy
This review is from: Class Matters (Paperback)
This book was required summer reading my son's rising sophomore year. I was thrilled he was being asked to read a nonfiction book, as fiction dominates the high school curriculum. The SAT is almost all based on nonfiction, so I don't know why students aren't being prepared to understand and evaluate nonfiction.

The chapters in this book alternate between stories of individual Americans and statistics-heavy essays identifying and analyzing trends affe
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Sarah
As a journalist, I think I enjoyed this more than the average person, but the series of articles in this collection were eye-opening. It discussed class from health, relationship and career perspectives, but the major conclusion seemed to be: Americans are not as able to attain a higher class than they once were. My only problem was that it kept defining class as something more than socioeconomical, but it never quite defined what else it might be, at least not clearly.
JDK1962
Interesting reportage on class, though a bit dated now (it's from 2005). The US uses money as a substitute for class, but it's kind of a vicious cycle: class determines how you think about or behave with money, and if you don't act responsibly with money, you don't acquire it and remain trapped in the class that your income level defines (or slip even lower). The piece about Nantucket in particular illustrated how people aren't defined by class, they're defined by money. The book probably should ...more
Yana
All of the articles were very interesting and I could relate to some of the stories. Some of the articles opened my eyes to the economic classes and how different they really are. One of my favorite chapters is chapter 2 "Life at the Top in America Isn't Just Better, It's Longer." Never before have I thought that wealth affects how well you are treated medically. Of course I know that a poor person will get less care than a wealthy person, but I never thought that the higher class and the middle ...more
Heila
I will be forever grateful for having read this book. Ahhh.... it was a relief and a satisfaction to enjoy, learn from and read ... good journalism!! The writers explore, and intelligently and thoroughly report on different aspects of social class in America. Many of the chapters were things I'd observed for myself as we've moved around over the years - or just being the amateur sociologist that I am - but I wondered about the import of them, or wondered if I was accurate in my observations. Or, ...more
Todd Martin
Class Matters – New York Times Correspondents
Class Matters examines the effects of social class on the lives of people living in the US. The book is a compilation of articles by correspondents to the New York Times and is written in an easy to read, newspaper style (which I suppose means it’s suitable for anyone with a 6th grade education).

A core tenet of the American mythology is this idea that if you work hard and get a good education you will succeed. Control over one’s socio-economic class i
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Jenny
I liked this more than I thought I would and it was a good follow-up to Special Topics in Calamity Physics, which any fiction book would be a poor second fiddle.

NYT reporters researched several facets of class and found out that it's harder than it used to be for poorer folks to leap up to middle or upper class.

I especially liked the stories of Angela and her children as well as the state of higher education. The latter talks about how upper class students think they must work really hard if th
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Steven
Great collection of stories on how notions of class impact so much in this country. Class does not get the credit it deserves in this country as a divider, we seem to focus more on race and on sex. I read many of these stories in the NY Times before they appeared here, but the book was very interesting, well worth owning.

A couple nuggets I had that I wanted to remember:
- From 1950 to 1970, for every additional dollar earned by the bottom 90 percent,those in the top .01% earned an additional $162
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Brad VanAuken
Class Matters explores income, social class, wealth’s causal factors, social class mobility, the reality of the American Dream, old versus new money, class distinctions, types of neighborhoods and enclaves, mixed class marriages, tax policy and the rapidly growing wealth disparity and more. I especially liked the chapter, “Old Nantucket Warily Meets the New.” This book provides insight into the very poor to the über-rich and everything in between. It is a fascinating look into social class in Am ...more
Sarah
Jul 28, 2011 Sarah added it
Shelves: nonfiction, anthology
Fans of anthology reading, particularly memoir-personal-is-political style writing will probably enjoy this, but agree with the commenter who said that this doesn't exactly break any new ground. If you've never thought about class in America, this might shake you up, but for those of us who have, it was a bit boring and I'll admit to having skimmed some of the more boring essays. Also, a mere 4 years after it was published, it is starting to appear a bit dated. In particular the essay where the ...more
Julie
If only there were more stories like this published in the paper, and if only more people cared about them.
Beth
I was extremely pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed reading this collection of articles from The New York Time. I found each "article" well-written and filled with information conveyed in an in interesting manner. I had not given much thought to my own class status or what that means in my life, and this book sort of shook me into confronting where I've been and where I am know, and the consequences of those two things for my life. It added a new way of thinking about my social society fo ...more
Jen
A thought-provoking collection of essays by New York Times journalists, written in 2005 on various interpretations of class in America. By examining education, social status, race, and other indicators, these reporters paint a compelling picture of the ever-widening gap between the very rich, the very poor, and the disappearing middle class. Not all of these articles are surprising--in fact, some may be exactly what you'd expect--but several, especially those regarding education and the ways in ...more
ems
some hits and some misses. would be interesting to see an updated collection.
Ellen
This is a fascinating series of articles by the New York Times on class in America. From the differences between the nouveau riche and old money to differences in healthcare to getting out of welfare the articles are unflinching looks into our financial lives. Ironically, the book is already dated. The impending mortgage crisis and financial freefall is still far off on the horizon (a reference to Lehman Brothers evoked a surly guffaw). Nonetheless, the book has many insights and truths to share ...more
Bibliomama
The essays in this collection are now 10 years old, and the "class matters" explored have only gotten worse. But they are still interesting, and occasionally moving. Alpharetta, GA seems like a black hole (and I have family that lives there!); Myers Park in Charlotte is much nicer.
Joshua
This is an amazing look at the class system in America - don't think there is one? Think again. Writers at the New York Times spent 18 months putting these stories together. It's a fascinating look at how, despite the American Dream, class still plays a huge role in the lives of Americans. One of the best pieces is a comparison of three people from three different economic levels who all experience a heart attack on the same day - guess who's better off at the end of the story. Read this book if ...more
Paul
A light read on the subject of class (social and economic) in America. As political or social commentary, it falls short due to rather small sampling of people used for the stories within the book and the limited details provided within those stories. However, viewed as nothing more than a voyeuristic look into the lives of others, I think it's rather entertaining. And does still give some cause to think/question the role of class in America, just not nearly as much as I think the authors intend ...more
Julia
I would rate this higher if we hadn't had a financial collapse 3 years after it was published, quickly making it outdated. I still found it illuminating and it was an enjoyable read.
Tara
Sep 29, 2008 Tara rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone who works in an industry where all classes are intertwined.
Recommended to Tara by: Fairfield University
Class Matters is written by several NY Times contributers and looks at class differences in America through a variety of lenses like cross-class marriages, switching classes, the class divide in education and healthcare, and the rise of the hyper-rich. While I found some of the chapters thought-provoking, others left me going, "um, duh." It's a decent look at class structure and issues in this country. Of course, I guess all of this may change if we hit the next Great Depression.
Molly
I thought the essays in this book really touched on a lot of important aspects of class in the US, some that I hadn't previously thought about. Will definitely make you think, and at times, make you angry. Slightly scary thing is that even though this book was published in 2005, some essays already felt dated-- the economy has gotten so much worse since then! I wish there would have been more of an afterword to tie all of the essays together, but as a whole, I liked it.
Emily
Great read. I'm currently teaching this in an introductory college English course!
Wendy
Favorite part of this book was one of the last stories of a welfare mom who raised her class level. The book cites that what really enabled her to do this was being married to the right guy and getting an education.

Seems like we should be supporting both of these large factors to success in our country.

In addition, I have learned that I will never be one of the mega-rich. Which is fine. Since I probably wouldn't feel like I 'fit-in'.
Sharon
Thought provoking, essential reading for all of us who think that we are middle class and that everyone had the same opportunity to achieve whatever they believe is the American dream. No, it's not dry quantitative research, but qualitative anecdotal stories of real Americans and how class, human and social capital impact their lives and availability of choices in all aspects. Share it with your favorite teens.
Ani
This book raises a lot of valid questions about class, but it feels very dated. I remember reading the series in NYT when they first came out, and being engaged with the theme. However, I feel the country economic situation has worsened enough since 2005 that the interviews and class snapshots of 2005 ring hollow. Yet another reminder to myself that probably, waiting 8 years to read a non-fiction book is not wise.
Alex
Jan 21, 2009 Alex rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who doesn't believe the US has a class system
We often pretend there isn't a class system in the good ol' US of A, but it's not true, and this book helps illustrate the issues perfectly.

The various personal accounts are all very illuminating, but the one that truly lays it all out is the article on how three individuals belonging to three different classes get treated medically when they each had a heart attack.

Absolutely an eye-opener.
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The New York Times is a daily newspaper published in New York City and distributed internationally. Founded in 1851, the newspaper has won 112 Pulitzer Prizes, more than any other news organization. Its website receives 30 million unique visitors per month.
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