The influence of class

The United States was founded on the principle that anyone could become successful, but this American Dream has proved more difficult for those from lower classes.

Kayla Beeler, a junior at Ball State University, has lived her life in two different worlds.

During her childhood, her time was split between a household that made more than six figures and a household that lived below the poverty line. Kayla’s parents separated when she was around 4 years old. She spent most of her time with her mother’s side of the family. They lived in one home in Hudsonville, Michigan: Kayla, her mom, her aunt and uncle, her three cousins, and her maternal grandparents.

Her dad’s side of the family was a stark contrast.

Although Kayla’s father was sent to prison when she was in elementary school, she still spent some weekends and a majority of her summers with her paternal grandparents. Her grandfather worked as an engineer, and her grandmother was a teacher. They lived in a large home with a private drive in Rockford, Michigan. Kayla says even as a child, she could see the differences between the two households.

Tom Hirschl, a professor of sociology at Cornell University whose research focuses on social stratification, says most people’s lives could be compared to a stock market. You have highs. You have lows. It’s difficult to predict what life can throw at a person.

The United States has an economic disparity. As explained by the Council on Foreign Relations, income inequality is significantly higher in the U.S. than in any other developed nation across the globe—even higher than in countries such as Russia or India.

And Americans can feel it. Anger peaked in 2011 during the Occupy Wall Street movement, when protesters in New York City revolted against the country’s economic inequality. A 2012 study by Pew Research Center even found 65 percent of U.S. citizens feel the nation’s income disparity between the rich and the poor has grown in the last decade.

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