What's so difficult for the poor to move up to middle-class?

Is it attributable to laziness? Or, is it a part of out social structure that keep the poor living in poverty? How hard is it to move out of poverty without job training? Can America cope with a larger middle-class?

What makes it so hard for the middle class move into the rich class?

Who says that class differences are necessarily a bad thing? Sure it’s not good for people to live in complete squalor and starve to death, but if you read the economic works of Leo XIII he argues for there to be different classes of people in society and the cooperation–and not warfare a la Marx–between them in order for society to function and be prosperous.


not as much laziness as an “entitlement” mentality that has grown in our society.

Or, is it a part of out social structure that keep the poor living in poverty?

Not social structure alone, but socio-economic trends. Mostly the growing disparity between the well-off and the working class, and the reduction in numbers of the middle class, and the fewer opportunities to “join” the middle class.

How hard is it to move out of poverty without job training?

Some skill or training is virtually essential, but it also has to do with attitude and ambition. There are many, many examples of people, immigrants or first generation children of immigrants, who have started with little education, training or resources and achieved the “American Dream” through initiative, hard work and opportunity. The world is different today, but the opportunities are still there for those with the vision and the energy to work at it. (gee, I sound like I am running for office, don’t I?)

Can America cope with a larger middle-class?

Not only can America cope, but a large middle-class is absolutely necessary, unless we want to return to the dark ages when there was a small group of elite rich and a large group of poor, dependent serfs. A middle class provides the skilled and educated people, with the drive and education to make things happen and to create growth.

When I was young, the middle class was both blue collar and white collar. Most of the middle class people I knew were “blue collar”. Both made enough money at their jobs to own a home, raise a family, put their children through school, and give themselves a decent life. Now the blue collar portion of the middle class has drastically declined in numbers and changed from middle income to lower income jobs. Someone making $20 or $25 per hour will spend more money (thereby boosting the economy) and pay more taxes (thereby providing our governents with the funds they need) then someone making $10 per hour. We need that vibrant middle class to keep the economic engine powered up and our budgets in balance.

It is different per person, there is no one reason. For some it is laziness, other’s lack of education, and still others lack experience. There are numerous reasons. Some are legit, others are not.

But also as edward_george said, there is a necessity for a difference in class. There are some jobs that if everyone were on the same class would not want to take because they would feel shafted and under-appreciated.

I think the “American Dream” is what you speak of, and the answer is mostly dependent upon economic opportunity.
Not that it was ever “easy” to climb out of poverty, but it was at least attainable by the average person, and with only a high school diploma.
My Mom and Dad did it, but that was in the 1950’s, a time that showed us the amazing possibilities for an average family with only ONE breadwinner, and a time when being middle class was the norm.
In the last few years, as more middle class families become homeless, lost wages and benefits contribute to a steady slide into poverty for many, I would say the momentum of this trend is a huge factor in preventing any kind of economic progress for our country.
Lazy is not even on the radar… :shrug:

I would caution against blaming the victim. There is certainly a faction of lazy people, but there are also cultural norms that are insideous. I lived in a very poor part of my state for three years and it had a high minority population. A friend of mine finally quit teaching high school there because the kids refused to learn or care. She had conversations like this all the time:
Student: I don’t need to do that.
Teacher: Don’t you want to know how to read?
Student: No.
Teacher: How will you make it as an adult if you cannot read and write?
Student: I will just go on welfare, like my parents.
Teacher: But you need to know how to read and write to at least fill out the forms.
Student: No, they have people to help you with that.
Teacher: Don’t you WANT to do better?
Student: NO.

This was typical of the thought. It is sad, but I don’t blame the students as much as the culture that teaches them that it isn’t even worth it to try to improve yourself or do something to contribute to society.

Also, we have the immigrant generation that came to America to provide a better life for their family and future generations. They worked hard and provided for their children. But the future generations, one or two removed, did not have to work hard to “make it” so they assumed that it was just “the way it is” (entitlement, as another poster pointed out). There are people who rely on social services and welfare to live and create a lifestyle that sustains itself on welfare. I have known many “families” who consist of a woman, her boyfriend, and lots of kids, aunts, uncles, friends, etc. who all live in a Section 8 home, but when the home checks come around, the adults and half of the children ‘disappear’ because they are not supposed to be living there. Home check is done, everyone moves back, until the next scheduled check. The boyfriend and woman will not get married because they get more welfare that way.

There are others who use the system as it is intended: as a stopgap measure until they get on their feet and can fully provide for their families. These sort of people work very hard, WANT to get off of welfare, and are sometimes ashamed of their status. I respect these hardworking people very much.

There is no simple answer to your question; I’m sure that there are a great many answers as to why the class barrier is so difficult to penetrate.


As I write this, there’s a story on the Net that 79% of Chicago 8th graders are not adequately proficient in reading. Surely the failure of the public school systems to teach, to be able to require discipline, standards, and academic performance has something to do with this. And I write this as the father of a teacher who lives through the baloney that the education system and teachers’ unions generate.

The rise of the middle class in the U.S. had a lot to do with WWII, the GI Bill, and high-paying manufacturing jobs. It’s harder for the poor to afford college and to get high-paying manufacturing jobs than in the 1950s and 1960s.

This question is not answerable because it deals with a designated group and not the individuals within the group.

The group exists. It never changes unless some outside force changes the parameters by which the group is designated. Then the composition, the size, of the group might change…but - “The Poor”, that is the group designated as the poor can never move up to middle class because the “group” cannot move…

Now individuals within the group are another matter…
Individuals enter the group. Individuals leave the group. Some are in the group for a short time. Some are there longer. Some are in it all their lives. Some struggle to get out, others are content where they are.
But regardless of the movements of the individuals, the “group” remains…

This why Jesus could say that “the poor will be with you always…”.


And unfortunately these high-paying manufacturing jobs have given way to things like McDonalds and Walmart. Having worked at the latter, I saw a lot of times where what little people had managed to save up would be wiped out by a broken car or unexpected medical bills or something. These were typically single adults - I can’t imagine trying to support children on that little money.

Or another case I saw - a friend of mine was looking for work. His wife works at a low-paying job and they have a young son at home. He finally got a job offer and went to add up the costs. Once he added them up, he realized that he would actually be losing money if he took the job. He’d lose all government benefits, and between gas and childcare he would be paying more to go to work than he would be getting paid.

No. Have you ever tried living hand-to-mouth? While holding down two jobs? As a single parent? It’s not nice. People are not poor merely because they choose to be poor.

At least in a developed society there will always be a spectrum, where people who have it are on one end, and people who have nothing are on the other. The challenge is narrowing those ends at the spectrum. There’s plenty of short-term charity, but I think one problem is there’s not enough long-term charity.

Christ said we will always have the poor with us. And what so ever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto Me.

And we will always have a range work that must be done from minimum wage to CEO. Few ever get to be the CEO or a top executive.

When we say “poor” we should take time to determine the family structure. Is there a father and mother, sane and sober, loving their children and encouraging them to get their education? Do they have and practice a religion?

If not, perhaps we need to address the needs of the parents or single parent. Perhaps we need to teach them HOW to parent given their circumstance. There are effective techniques that can be taught so that in home parenting is better. When it is important to the parent that the child learn to read and write and do math, the child will do better because the parent cares.

What if 5 single parents in the neighborhood got together to help fillfull the demands on family. Two or three could take care of the in house demands while the other two or three attended classes to get a High School Diploma and perhaps an Associates Degree. Poor families can cycle through.

Do the poor kids have heros they can relate to? Do they have realistic role models beyond their immediate family? Store keepers, carpenters, plumbers, police, firemen, nurses, etc, and not just top sports figures? Do they have goals, at least short term goals that they can achieve and realize that they can achieve and take on more demanding goals? Success breeds success.

After school programs can go a long way.

The thing that is missing, it seems, is LEADERSHIP. Leaders that know what and how to inspire and teach and can develop TRUST and get cooperation. We just cannot throw more and more money at the problem. Someone has to use that money prudently.

I"m not sure what the Bible says about class differences. It would be helpfu to have a full understanding of that, and I doubt I’ll be able to in my lifetime.

But class differences, as a Catholic, does, at least for me, raise some questions and concerns. One is the class of non working poor in first world countries, and if they are living their potential as God would like them to live, or are they being held down by handouts leaving them in not only a social underclass…but a spiritual underclass…a segment of society that is either looked upon with contempt or pity (assuming they can not live a better life).

And on the other extreme, the extremely, fithy rich. Are they living lives that God would have them live? The power they have, as a result of tons of money and wealth (again I"m talking about the filthy rich and not the upper class or ‘rich’ people as in worth 10 or 40 million) and are they living according to the word of God and the teachings of Jesus Christ? If not, and if they were to live according to the teachings of Jesus Christ, what kind of changes might we see in the world?

I cant speak to 3rd world poverty as I don’t follow the news, and didn’t grow up in a 3rd world country. But the little that I know about it certainly makes me sad. And a couple of stories I have heard from friends who did grow up in 3rd world countires, what some parents do to their children to put food on the table…my God…it makes me sick to even think about it…

Note- there are also lazy rich people, and lazy middle class people. The difference is, I think, that often they have a parent or other relative enabling them to stay in that class.

I agree with everything you say.

But it makes me wonder, just like learning must come from parents (or other trusted responsible adults who serve as parent-like role models) to children which would help those who grow up in poor neighborhoods to give them an opportunity to not repeat the same lives as their parents…

…it makes me think of the extremely rich people in the world. Those worth hundrends and hundres of millions, or billions of dollars. And I wonder how many of those individuals/families have God and Jesus as priorities in their lives. How many are passing along the teachings of Jesus Christ to their children? How many of them have stable, healthy family lives with loving mother and father (and not 'traded up trophy wives)? How many of those families have fidelity as part of their marriages?

While they are only a very tiny segment of the population, because of their wealth, of what they own, because of their influence… they have a great impact on society at large.

Many poeple get upset because poor people take handouts rather than working. I don’t get upset when people show up and take $100 bills from people standing on the corner holding up $100 bills for the taking (i.e. entitlement programs).

I wonder how much time and energy of the truely extremely wealthy spend thinking about the lives of the average Joe. How many of them care more about their neighbor than they care about turning another buck (that their grandkids grandkids will never be able to spend)?

And I wonder why political conversations always seem to exclude looking at THEM? It seems pretty clear to me that the poor class is pittend against the upper middle class and that’s where the focus of the conversation is directed, and that’s where the foucs of the conversation STAYS.

People focus on whether or not someone making x ammt in income should pay more tax, and whether people collecting x ammt in goods and services from the income tax of others should get that or less or more.

The filty rich don’t pay income taxes. And any taxes they pay they are not going to miss. This is not true of the ppl who make $250K/yr or more or whatever.

The filty rich make $250K/day and it is not subject to income tax. People have talked about the 99% vs. the 1%. I’m not for that.

But I would like for people to start paying attention to the .000001% and how they make their money and what they do with their money. I’m not even saying tax them more. I"m saying pay attention to how they make their money and what they do with it. How many souls they buy with that money. How many politicians sell their souls to them and are their puppets while they dance on stage singing to the 250K+/yr families or the poor families.

I don’t think they avoid scrutiny by mistake. I don’t think they don’t get negative press and don’t think they avoid having people scrutinize the way they make and spend their money and put it on the evening news on a regular basis by mistake or because there is no way to make it interesting to the public.

I think they own the media (acutally I KNOW they do) and think they own the politicians, dem’s and repub’s alike. I think they are slavemasters, they just don’t necessarilly use whips to get people to do what they want.

Yes we need the lower classes don’t we? As long as it isn’t you in the lower classes all is fine.

I don’t think that people are poor because they are lazy. I know many “poor” people who work very hard. And like one poster already pointed out. One unexpected bill can put them in the dog house so to speak. And if you’re working 50+ hours a week just to make ends meet. Then there is hardly time nor money for education.

From Rerum Novarum of Leo XIII:

  1. The great mistake made in regard to the matter now under consideration*** is to take up with the notion that class is naturally hostile to class, and that the wealthy and the working men are intended by nature to live in mutual conflict. ***So irrational and so false is this view that the direct contrary is the truth. Just as the symmetry of the human frame is the result of the suitable arrangement of the different parts of the body, so in a State is it ordained by nature that these two classes should dwell in harmony and agreement, so as to maintain the balance of the body politic. Each needs the other: capital cannot do without labor, nor labor without capital. Mutual agreement results in the beauty of good order, while perpetual conflict necessarily produces confusion and savage barbarity. Now, in preventing such strife as this, and in uprooting it, the efficacy of Christian institutions is marvellous and manifold. First of all, there is no intermediary more powerful than religion (whereof the Church is the interpreter and guardian) in drawing the rich and the working class together, by reminding each of its duties to the other, and especially of the obligations of justice.



My theory:

No not because of laziness. I can’t imagine anyone would want to be poor besides those who have given up material possessions for the Gospel

Sorta structure. The way our system works in America is that once you get a job you’re kinda out of luck for help from the government. The government doesn’t do anything to help the working class.

I don’t know. I would assume pretty hard.

Yes. A large middle class is a good thing, but classes don’t really matter. If everyone works together and does their part for the good of society things won’t be that bad.

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