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Class Matters

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  1,305 Ratings  ·  123 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 clas
ebook, 288 pages
Published July 12th 2011 by Times Books (first published September 2nd 2005)
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Todd N
Feb 01, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Todd by: Looker book club
Class Matters

Just like George Orwell, I am from the upper lower middle class.

This book is a reprint of a series of New York Times articles about class in America. These articles were published during May-June 2005, so they don’t have the trauma of the 2008 Don’t-Call-It-A-Depression-Please running through it.

(One choice pre-2008 quote: "Banks, more confident about measuring risk, now extend credit to low-income families, so that owning a no longer evidence that someone is middle class
Piper Mount
Mar 23, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book is boring. It seems to be written for the naive Americans that believe class doesn't matter - but will they really even think of picking this book up? 

I find the stories tedious. They lose their power when filtered through a reporter and not told firsthand. There are so many better ways to understand the lives of people who are in different classes from you. Mostly, go out and meet them.

I was hoping there would be a "so what" to this book. Yes, class really does matter. But simply poin
May 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"If Gatsby were to come back today, he would come back as Donald Trump and would want a date not with Daisy but with Britney" (200). So, parts of this book are now dated (no pun intended), but overall, the information in this book is excellent and fascinating.
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
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
Sep 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 20, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jan 01, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although it is now several years out of date, the patterns described in this book still hold true and the human faces it puts on people of all classes remain an engaging reminder of how much people have in common, no matter where they fall on the class scale. It's not always pleasant reading--the inequities described make even this lower-middle-class reader uncomfortably aware of her privileges--and the statistical chapters can be dry even as they are informative--but the education is worth the ...more
Aug 09, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2017
Class Matters (Paperback)
by The New York Times

from the library

Shadowy lines that still divide / Janny Scott, David Leonhardt -- Life at the top in America isn't just better, it's longer / Janny Scott -- A marriage of unequals / Tamar Lewin -- Up from the holler : living in two worlds, at home in neither / Tamar Lewin -- On a Christian mission to the top / Laurie Goodstein, David D. Kirkpatrick -- The college dropout boom / David Leonhardt -- No degree, and no way back to the middle /
Joinville Naoum
I think that I found the book interesting as it was my first time to read something concerned with Economics. The book was so far clear to me, however, I found too much unfamiliar vocabulary. It was easy to conclude from the first 3-5 stories what the book was talking about and what the reporters tried to illustrate. The stories overall were enjoyable and detailed about the class distinctions. I found the story of the 2 immigrants and Ms. Whitiker who had 5 children from different fathers very t ...more
Colin Fyfe
Mar 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I thoroughly enjoyed the analysis of class-consciousness. The journalistic writing is on par, as well does an excellent job of illustrating the various class structures within America society. I enjoy how the book didn't have a political bias and presented the destruction of class-consciousness in American society; informing and education its audience.

I hope that social-scientist will publish accessible representation of class mobility on a yearly basis.
May 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: journalism
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
Nancy Kennedy
May 19, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Todd Martin
Jul 11, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: culture-politics
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
Jan 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Danni Green
May 20, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i-own-this
This book provides a good introduction to class issues, offering the reader an entry point that focuses on stories of the lives of people from different class experiences in the USA. The essay that compares three heart attack survivors' access to health care based on their class status and how that affected their health outcomes was particularly powerful. I would like liked to see more attention given to the ways in which gender and race intersect with class; it seemed like the book almost went ...more
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
Jun 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sociology, class
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
Brian Black
Dec 28, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Whomever wrote the book is a talented writer. They introduce the complexities of defining class in contemporary American society from multiple perspectives and survey data in 2005. The book's research is dated for sure, but still offers insight into the myriad levels of class in America, using race, inheritance, education and job type, income and assets, and various other indicators.

The stories are intriguing till the very end. Unfortunately, the end really was a dud--there was no call to actio
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
Feb 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own
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
Jan 04, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Robert C
Nov 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I come from an area of extreme rural poverty and have climbed to a position as a Middle School teacher. However, it took me until my late 40's to finish my MBA, and certification, that allowed me to have this job.

In my gut I know I am holding on to a "normal" existence by a thread. That insecurity that comes from poverty never lets go.

The stories in the book were compelling. While they were not my own, I could easily relate.

That being said, I do not know who the book was for. The people aroun
Sep 16, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Alicia Fox
Jun 21, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
This is (and reads as) a series of newspaper features. This meant getting through it in a day, but being a bit unsatisfying. It's a series of vignettes about people in various socio-economic positions.

I was a bit surprised to not see a story focusing on Silicon Valley, which was definitely booming by the time of this book's publication (at least enough for the NYT to notice). And nothing much on NYC except differences in health care and outcomes, and a story contrasting different generations of
Oct 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: social-issues
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
Aug 15, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Jun 10, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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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“Merit has replaced the old system of inherited privilege, in which parents to the manner born handed down the manor to their children. But merit, it turns out, is at least partly class-based. Parents with money, education, and connections cultivate in their children the habits that the meritocracy rewards. When their children then succeed, their success is seen as earned.” 1 likes
“Heart attack is a window on the effects of class on health. The risk factors—smoking, poor diet, inactivity, obesity, hypertension, high cholesterol, and stress—are all more common among the less educated and less affluent, the same group that research has shown is less likely to receive cardiopulmonary resuscitation, to get emergency room care, or to adhere to lifestyle changes after heart attacks.” 0 likes
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