Classism in America: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:03 What Is Classism?
  • 0:39 Examples and Types of Classism
  • 3:45 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Yolanda Williams

Yolanda has taught college Psychology and Ethics, and has a doctorate of philosophy in counselor education and supervision.

Did you know that the exclusion of poor people in American media is an example of classism? In this lesson, we will learn more about classism in America from examples.

What Is Classism?

Classism refers to treating people unequally based on the social class in which they belong to. Class can be thought of as a hierarchical social structure in which groups of individuals are divided based on factors that our society deem as prestigious (e.g., wealth and education). Classism consists of a collection of behaviors, thoughts, attitudes, practices, and policies that work together to create and maintain a system of inequality that benefits those in a higher class while negatively impacting people of a lower class.

Examples and Types of Classism

There are four types of classism: individual, institutional, cultural, and internalized.

Individual thoughts or behaviors that result in differential treatment based on social class is called individual classism. An example of individual classism is when a woman assumes that all immigrants in the United States are here illegally and refuses to speak to immigrants. The stereotypes, opinions, and beliefs we have about people in certain social classes are examples of individual classism. For example, a person who believes herself superior to poor or disadvantaged people is an example of individual classism.

When classism appears in the institutions, laws, and practices that make up a society, it is called institutional classism. An example of institutional classism is when there is less access to quality healthcare in poorer neighborhoods; people in those neighborhoods would experience a higher rate of illness and disease than those in higher-income neighborhoods who have more convenient access. In another example, libraries in urban, low-income areas of cities stay open for fewer hours, have fewer librarians, and have fewer books than libraries in wealthier parts of the city. Like individual classism, institutional classism can be intentional or unintentional.

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