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Social construction of the middle class : class identification and class images of young Canadians

dc.contributor.advisorDunk, Thomas
dc.contributor.authorLapre, Claude
dc.description.abstractThere is a contradiction between some of the theoretical issues regarding class and the results of subjective class identification research in the United States and in Canada. Arguments concerning the decline of the middle class and debates regarding the validity of the concept of class are met by a consistent self-identification of a majority of the population as middle-class. The aim of this thesis is to help us understand the apparent contradiction by considering how some young Canadians identify as and construct images of the middle class. Two hundred and forty nine undergraduate students from two Ontarian Universities completed a questionnaire comprised of open-ended and multiple choice questions. Results indicate that: 1) Participants in this study have vivid and salient images of who is and who is not, in their view, a member of the middle class; 2) Economic criteria are frequently used, but these are most often stated in qualified terms and combined with criteria concerning social and cultural capital or life style and values; 3) Some redundant economic criteria construct what could be seen as the "middle-class cocoon," a composite image of financial well-being, conservative spending patterns, feelings of security, and a strong work ethic; 4) Criteria regarding social and cultural capital or life style and values construct an image of a large and dominant middle class from which, on the other hand most of the population would be excluded, according to judgmental criteria; 5) Indications of a relationship between class and other aspects of social identity such as gender and ethnicity were not conclusive, but responses to a few of the questions indicate a need for further investigation. At the end of this process, we find a three-level class structure in which the middle class distinguishes itself from the upper class on the basis of ascribed criteria and from the lower class on the basis of achieved criteria. The middle class earns its status above the lower class and is not part of the upper class only because of fate. By the combination of a claim to size and inclusion with a set of selective and judgmental criteria, the middle class is socially constructed as an "exclusive majority."
dc.subjectSocial class theories
dc.subjectClass consciousness (Canada)
dc.titleSocial construction of the middle class : class identification and class images of young Canadians
dc.typeThesis of Arts University

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