- Top out-of-sight
- Upper middle
- Bottom out-of-sight
Category X exist outside of the class system.
Uppers and Upper middles
Uppers and Upper middles generally do not socialize with Middles, but Middles hope to find them on cruise ship vacations. Uppers and Upper middles do not engage in a lot of creative work or analytical thinking, instead relying on tradition. Uppers live on inherited wealth, while Upper middles may include those financially successful through their own work, eg movie stars and entrepreneurs.
Middle and proles
Fussell argues that the American middle class has experienced "prole drift" dragging it downward and effectively joining it with the prole class. Whereas a university education used to be rarer and a clear class divider separating middles from the high school education of proles (proletarians), Fussell reports that the vast proliferation of hundreds of mediocre "universities" in the U.S. has rendered this an ineffective class symbol. (This trend continued long after the book was published: there were 4,298 degree-granting postsecondary institutions in the U.S. in the 2017-2018 school year.) The elite Ivy league still retains class status though. Unlike the classes above and below, members of this group are insecure in their class status and are in constant fear of slipping down. Fussell notes that a fiberglass Chris-Craft was a common prole and middle class pleasure boat meant to ape the precious wood yachts of the upper class.
In the final chapter, The X Way Out, Fussell identifies "category X" people who exist outside of the US class structure. Fussell argues that it is essentially impossible to change one's social class —up or down— but it is possible to extricate oneself from the class system by existing outside the system as a X person. (In the US, Middles and proles are conditioned to believe in meritocracy, despite class mobility being among the lowest in industrialized economies.) He states that X people do self-directed work without a boss or supervisor; they are writers, artists, musicians and others "creative" types. X people dress comfortably, wearing L. L. Bean, Lands' End, and thrift store purchases. They drink good wine without commenting on it, speak multiple languages, and generally disregard social norms because they have no interest in class status and disdain the Middles who are so concerned with it. Fussell names the Mark Twain character Huckleberry Finn as an archetypal Category X person.
Popular YouTuber ContraPoints references Class in a video titled "Opulence", regarding the status and evolution of wealth and citizens' ever-changing relationship with it in the United States. Creator ContraPoints refers to the book as her "favorite book about class in America", where she references the class breakdown from the reading and comments on the "eerie familiarity to a lot of the core observations."
- Class Dismissed: A new status anxiety is infecting affluent hipdom Sandra Tsing Loh, The Atlantic, March 2009
- On the Touchy Subject of Class in America Dwight Garner, New York Times, 27 July 2017
- Class by Paul Fussell Simon & Schuster
- A Guide to the Changing Number of U.S. Universities Josh Moody, U.S. News & World Report, February 15, 2019
- Gould, Elise (10 October 2012). "U.S. lags behind peer countries in mobility". Economic Policy Institute.
- Social class in the United States
- Socioeconomic mobility in the United States
- Myth of meritocracy
- Affluence in the United States
- Poverty in the United States
- Income inequality in the United States
- Social class in American history