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Social Class Justifications:
The Capitalist Conspiracy?

By: Wendi Kane
Mentor: James Wright


Close to 60 percent of this study were female and 71 percent were white.  Close to 66 percent responded that their parents’ annual income was more than $50,000.  Most of the respondents in this study had either a close relationship with members of the lower class, volunteered with the poor, or took courses on social class differences.  Exposure to the lower class was hard to test because of these factors.  Most respondents answered disagree to the stereotypes measured.  Considering how “politically correct” American society has become, it is not surprising that respondents answered disagree to stereotyped questions.

For hypothesis number 1, concerning the relationship between being middle or upper class and the belief that the distribution of rewards in society is fair and based mainly on effort, a cross-tabulation was conducted.  More than half of the respondents in every income bracket said that success depends on individual talent or hard work.  The next highest response category was “who you know” with a range of 17%- 22%.  A chi-square test showed that the relationship between income and these beliefs was not statistically significant.

Hypothesis 2 concerns the relationship between being male and the belief that the distribution of rewards in society is fair and based mainly on effort.  The appropriate cross-tabulation, however, showed that women were significantly more likely to believe that individual talent or hard work were the biggest predictors of economic success, so, hypothesis 2 is also unsupported.  A similar crosstabulation with race showed no significant difference in beliefs of whites and non-whites, contrary to hypothesis 3.

In addition to the bivariate analyses just reported, a multivariate logistic regression was also conducted. Controlling for race and income, males are 17% less likely to believe that the biggest predictor of future economic success is individual talent and hard work, but this difference was not statistically significant.  Whites are 1.13 times more likely than minorities to believe in the ideology of individualism, but this difference is also not significant; likewise the difference associated with income.  Thus, contrary to prediction, belief in the ideology of individualism is widespread throughout all gender, race, and social class categories.

Hypothesis 4—the relationship between exposure to the lower class and equality beliefs—tended to fare better.  More than a third of those who answered yes to the statement “Growing up, I was a member of the lower class” strongly disagreed that the lower class has the same opportunities as everyone else, compared to only 16% of those who answered no.  This difference is significant at the .001 level and supports hypothesis 4.  Respondents with little or no interaction with members of the lower class agreed with the myth that minorities make up the bulk of the lower class.  This was significant at the .001 level and supports hypothesis 4.

However, no other significant relationships were found between level of exposure to the lower class and stronger beliefs in the stereotypes, myths, and ideologies.

Discussion/Conclusion >>