I was really pleased to discover this article on Live Journal because it describes the difference between social class and economic class, and how society tends to conflate the two.

"Economic class refers to money. It refers to the wealth or poverty of a person, and to the privileges they do or do not have because of their economic might or lack thereof.

Social class is what is being referred to by such terms as "middle class", "working class", "white collar", "professional", "blue collar", and the pejoratives "white trash" and "townie".

It is a common confusion – or intellectual dodge – to conflate social class with economic class. But what what differentiates, say, the middle class from the working class is not mere wealth or earning power; as we all know, a plumber (presumed working class) may make much more money than a professor (presumed professional)."


I think the distinction is important to understand because the focus by many is on economic class without realizing the attendant challenges and benefits of social class. What I want young strivers, and in particular, first generation college students, to understand is this:

"It is a common misconception that the primary obstacle to being in a much higher class is money to afford the things by which one performs that class. The limiting factor is not money, it is this: it is impossible to join a culture the ways of which you know nothing. You may come by money, but the ignorance of how to use it to perform that higher class will keep you out as adamantly as if there were a wall built around it. And to the extent it is taboo to discuss social class – and social classes – explicitly, the wall is invisible. If nobody will tell you what the shibboleths are, then you can only learn them by direct, personal reconnaissance: getting close enough to observe it for yourself.

We humans can learn culture by immersion; in fact, that's generally how we do. It is by living and working and socializing with a people that we begin to adopt their ways. But that is precisely what most people do not have opportunities to do with people outside of their own class and the two adjacent classes. And when opportunities do present, they often find the cultural gap so uncomfortable, the experience so alienating, that they retreat from it."