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Class Overtakes Race as the Great American Divide

Class Overtakes Race as the Great American Divide

Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam recently told activists that class division has become the dominant form of social difficulties in America, and that the problem is getting worse.

What’s the Latest Development?


Speaking at the Aspen Ideas Festival on Saturday, Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam alerted activists to the fact that class division has become the dominant form of social difficulties in America, and that the problem is getting worse. “Non-white folks with a college education are looking more and more like white folks with a college education and white folks who haven’t gotten beyond high school are looking more and more like nonwhite folks who haven’t finished high school,” said Putnam. While race and poverty have deep historical roots, they no longer seem to reflect America’s political reality. 

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What’s the Big Idea?

American society has transformed in two separate ways, says Putnam, which make it important to address class divisions by discussing social mobility directly. “Over the last 30 years there has been a remarkable growth in the black middle class while at the same time we’ve seen a collapse in the white working class, especially when it comes to family structure,” Putnam said. “By continuing to frame the conversation as one about poverty rather than one about social mobility, even well-intentioned advocates are continuing to frame the conversation as a discussion of the problem, rather than the objective.”

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