A socioeconomic status can be defined in two ways. The first is a socioeconomic status being defined by where they live, and what material possessions they have. That is a socially defined definition. The second way of defining socioeconomic status is one's income and where that person falls on the poverty scale. The two ways of understanding someone's socioeconomic status tend to be complicated, one way to understand the distinction between the two is by looking at an example. If there is someone living in center city whose income is below the state poverty line and someone living in a poorer neighborhood but their income is above the state poverty line, the person living in the poorer neighborhood will be viewed by society as impoverished rather than the person living in Center City. These two definitions of socioeconomic status are important in understanding where people come from and what they value.
Community creates one's identity which in turn dictates how much money someone will make in the future. Someone from an upper class community might automatically believe that they will make a lot of money in the future due to the resources that are offered to them as well as, they have little to no interaction with poverty so it is incredibly foreign to them. However someone from an impoverished community might believe that they cannot make more money in the future, they do not have the same resources offered as the wealthy kids do and because of where they come from they are not able to get out of the vicious cycle of society. Between the two extremes lies the middle class, the identity of the middle class is incredibly fragile. To generalize, a lot of the middle class are insecure about their jobs, how much money they make etc. This leads a lot of the population of the middle class to at some point fall below the poverty line. There are many factors that leads to this self-perception and insecurity. A New York Times article about economic classes explains “Middle-class anxiety has been driven by several factors: increasing instability in incomes, a sense among many Americans that they are failing to keep up with the gains of previous generations, and an increasing gap between themselves and the very rich.” To sum up the causes “Middle-class anxiety” is the result of people viewing themselves as less than or failures. Failing to be as successful as previous generations and less than the middle class and the worry that they will never get there. This way of thinking does not lead to promotions and higher paychecks, rather it creates stress and anxiety that many people feed on and make money off of.
The self-perception of one’s self is only a piece of the financial puzzle. Another piece is one's identity. Sarah Grace King, an undergraduate student at Duke university, took a survey about entitlement at her university. King wrote, “Despite the apparent diversity among my respondents, a finding consistent throughout all interviews was the sentiment of entitlement— the idea that Duke students have essentially been gifted with a sort of salvation as a result of having the opportunity to attend such a prestigious institution. “ Most if not all of Duke students believed they would be successful later in life. Most of the students later in fact did become incredibly successful in their careers. Their success was a result of the prestigious school they went too, and the identity that goes along with the education. Identity is developed over time. Through one’s community growing up as well as when they are older. The upper class and upper-middle class share a similar identity. More resources are offered to the upper class as well as the upper-middle class, it is incredibly unfair and unjust and they use those resources to get a step up on everyone else. Financially the upper middle class is pulling away from everyone else. “But class is not just about money. Education is an important ingredient, too. A higher level of education tends to be associated with greater occupational prestige and autonomy, as well as job quality and security.” This only leads to greater divides amongst the classes and as a result lowers people’s perception of themselves making them believe they are less than everyone else.
Where someone comes from forms their identity and who they will be later in life. Their identity in turn will dictate their socioeconomic status. All successful people believe they are able to do what they put their mind to and this type of growth mindset comes from one’s identity and self-perception.