Where caste is not established the most self-conscious classes are the rich and the poor. This has been especially true since the industrial revolution has widened the distance between the extremes of wealth and poverty, at the same time facilitating communication horizontally along the upper strata. A professional class is likely to be broken up in its class consciousness according to the wealth of the patrons whom its members serve: those who teach the children of the rich usually have more fellowship with their patrons than with the teachers of the poor, while the teachers of the poor are almost of necessity shut off from association with their more prosperous colleagues.

During the last century the expansion of Europe has let loose upon its old land-holding nobility countless winners of new fortunes made in foreign trade, colonial exploitation, railroad building, manufacturing, and the seizure of natural wealth all over the globe - gold fields and diamond fields, mineral deposits, nitrates, forests, and water-power. Under plutocratic pressure the aristocrats have had to open their ranks and admit to the charmed circle, if not the new rich, at least their children. . . . - American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 23, p. 75, Ross, "Class and Caste: Equalization."

Income, for instance, classifies people through creating different standards of living, those who fall into the same class in this respect being likely to adopt about the same external mode of life. It usually decides whether men live in one quarter of the city or another, what sort of houses or apartments they inhabit, how they dress, whether the wife "does all her own work "or employs household help (and, if the latter, how much and of what sort), whether they keep a carriage, whether they go into the country for the summer, whether they travel abroad, whether they send their sons to college, and so on. . . . Note how difficult it is for two people, congenial in other respects, to converse freely when one has an income of $5,000 and the other of $500. Few topics can be touched upon without accentuating the superficial but troublesome discrepancy. Amusements, household, and the like are hardly possible; the weather may supply a remark or two, perhaps also politics, though here the economic point of view is likely to appear. Religion and philosophy, if the parties could soar so high, would be best of all. . . . What I mean, however, is light, offhand, sociable talk that does not stir any depths. As between their wives the situation would be harder still, and only an unusual tact and magnanimity would make it tolerable. - Cooley, Social Organization, pp. 250, 251.

A young man in my home town became heir to a fortune when he was eighteen years of age. Although the money was not at his immediate disposal he had an allowance each year to do with as he liked. Before this he had been "one of the boys" and was well liked by everyone. Afterward he pulled away from his old associates until he barely recognized them on the street. After graduating from the high school he went to the university. On returning home at the end of his first year there his isolation from his old friends was complete.

A group of high school girls had been meeting Saturday afternoons. Dissension arose between those from wealthy homes and those from poor. The rich ones withdrew and organized a separate society meeting Friday evening.

Although the rich man usually leaves the bulk of his fortune to heirs, still the recipients of large incomes are not yet in this country a distinctly hereditary class. Families with earned incomes are nearly everywhere regarded as the social equals of the families with incomes from inherited property, except possibly in a few of the oldest and largest cities. When we consider the well-to-do class, rather than the wealthy, we find it without doubt an open class: any man of capacity and character has been able to reach it unless held back by some exceptional handicap. Poverty in itself, especially in young persons, is no stigma, because everyone in middle life and beyond has known so many, most often children of immigrants, who were poor only from lack of opportunity to develop and in whom it was a temporary condition from which they soon escaped.

The economic condition of the pupil is shown to be relatively a minor factor in continuance in high school. The wealthiest, the poorest, and those with monthly rentals from $27.00 to $37.00 stay in school about equally long. Practically all of the common talk about the economic factor in elimination is thus shown to have been mere speculation in the case of New York high schools. ... - Strayer and Thorndike, Educational Administration, p. 53.

The student who has read the foregoing discussion of caste and class with a background of historical knowledge doubtless perceives that a great change has come over the world. Caste counts for less; functional class counts for more. The weighty fact in determining your station in life is not who your parents were but what you yourself can do. Modern life is competitive beyond all precedent, not alone in war and industry, - its old fields of operation, - but also in every other organized form of human activity. Communication acquaints the young person with what is going on in the world, thus giving him a chance to know of the work demanded for which he may have a talent, and facilities for technical training abound. This change is not complete yet, though it has been in progress for several centuries; the chance is not equal for all, nor do all succeed in overcoming their special handicaps, but the drift of things is unmistakably toward the recognition of talent wherever it is found.