A-Z Popular Blog Society Search »
Social Class
Related Topics

Political Ideology

11 Characteristics of Social Class

A social class is a population grouping based on economic status and position in a society. The following are the basic characteristics of social class.


Capital is property that has potential to produce future value such as land, buildings, equipment, machines, vehicles, software and intellectual property. The upper classes of society are primarily defined by their ownership of capital. This allows these classes to support a lavish lifestyle that is not based on the output of their labor but rather returns from capital.


Classes that don't own capital depend on their labor. In many cases, this means working for those who own capital creating a hierarchical power structure in a society.

Disposable Income

Where pay for labor is high, workers enjoy disposable income. This is important as it allows families to make improvements in their life and build up capital. Disposable income is the defining characteristic of the middle class.

Leisure Class

Historically, the upper class had far more leisure time than the other classes as they do not depend on their labor for survival. As such, leisure was associated with wealth with activities such as afternoon tea that intentionally burned the core hours of the day, an unthinkable luxury for the other classes. This pattern persists to this day as the upper and middle class have the expectation of holidays, vacations, hobby time and family time where the working poor may struggle each day just to do the things they need to do to survive.

Quality of Life

Generally speaking, capital and disposable income allow individuals and families to make improvements in their quality of life. For example, purchasing homes that are further from major sources of air pollution such as highways and ports.


Education is often the key to sustaining a families position in a social class. For example, elite universities signal inclusion in the upper class. University education is also required to join many middle class professions that generate discretionary income. Likewise, training such as apprenticeships may be a route to the middle class.

Social Mobility

Social mobility is the degree to which a society provides opportunities for people to improve their economic situation such that they may join a higher social class. For example, a society that makes elite universities free and ensures that admissions are based on merit would have higher social mobility than a society where these institutions are expensive with preferred routes of admission for the upper class such as an escalator school.


Social classes develop their own culture through an ongoing process of shared experience. This can include values, language, norms, expectations, symbols, myths, stories and pastimes that allow people to identify with each other as a class.

Social Status

Social status is the respect that an individual enjoys from others in a particular context. Adherence to the ideals and norms of a class culture can earn an individual respect from their peers. There are many types of social status and it is a mistake to equate social status and wealth.

Class Consciousness

Class consciousness is the degree to which individuals identify with their socioeconomic class. In some cases, there is low unity at the class level where people focus on other aspects of identity such as religion, ethnicity, gender, culture and lifestyle.


Where class consciousness is strong the largest classes by population can dominate politics to create policies and direct the resources of a society in ways that benefit them. For example, a social market economy is largely structured to benefit the working and middle class with benefits such as healthcare, education and a social safety net that can theoretically be funded with taxation of the upper class and related entities such as corporations.
Overview: Social Class Characteristics
Definition (1)
A grouping of population based on economic status.
Definition (2)
A grouping of population based on economic and social characteristics such as wealth, income and education.
Related Concepts

Social Class

This is the complete list of articles we have written about social class.
Ascribed Status
Class Consciousness
Class System
Creative Class
Cultural Capital
Discretionary Income
Income Inequality
Knowledge Economy
Middle Class
Quality Of Life
Relational Capital
Shared Experiences
Social Analysis
Social Hierarchy
Social Location
Social Norms
Social Status
Socioeconomic Factors
Socioeconomic Status
Status Groups
Upper Class
Upward Mobility
White Collar
Working Conditions
If you enjoyed this page, please consider bookmarking Simplicable.

Social Class

The definition of social class with examples.

Middle Class

The definition of middle class with examples.

Working Class

The definition of working class with examples.

Class Consciousness

The definition of class consciousness with examples.

Natural Rights

The definition of national rights with a list of examples.


The definition of sycophancy with examples.

Social Change

An overview of the common types of social change.


The definition of an elite with examples.


The definition of sociology with examples.


The definition of society with examples.

Herd Mentality

The definition of herd mentality with examples.


The definition of credentialism with examples.


The definition of collectivism with examples.


The definition of paternalism with examples.


The definition of ideology with a list of examples.

Ideology Characteristics

The common characteristics of ideologies.


The defining characteristics of a democracy.

Political System

The definition of political system with examples.
The most popular articles on Simplicable in the past day.

New Articles

Recent posts or updates on Simplicable.
Site Map