sealPurdue News

November 1999

Book calls class inequalities a problem for 21st century

Source: Perrucci, (765) 494-4714;

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Forget the Y2K bug. The real pest of the new millennium will be the new "double diamond" class structure, says a Purdue University sociologist, because it's a system that will make more Americans poor and powerless -- and will keep them that way.

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"Over the past 25 years, the 'American Dream' of rising to the top has taken a severe beating," says Robert Perrucci, professor of sociology. "Downsizing, technological advances and globalization have taken their toll on the working class since the 1970s. Those not already in the upper-privileged class find it very hard to get there."

The "double diamond" that Perrucci refers to is a class structure with the top 20 percent of society enjoying the perks and security that come with access to stable financial and social resources. This group occupies the top diamond. Below it is a much larger diamond, connected by only a narrow opening, which represents the 80 percent of society that is characterized by job instability, limited financial resources and little or no way to move to the top sector.

Traditional views depict American society as a single diamond, with people rising or falling among the ranks according to their own personal achievements.

Perrucci outlines the growing phenomenon of a two-class culture in "The New Class Society" ($21.95) written with Earl Wysong, a professor of sociology at Indiana University, Kokomo. The two coined the phrase "double-diamond" to describe their view of society. The book was published this summer by Rowman & Littlefield Publishers Inc.

Perrucci says class position is determined largely by access to four critical kinds of "capital":

  • Consumption capital -- money to spend.

  • Investment capital -- money to put away for future needs.

  • Credentialed skill capital -- access to elite universities and high-paying jobs.

  • Social capital -- networking with and having the support of others in privileged positions.

    "The resources of those in the top diamond are used to maintain and legitimize the new class system," Perrucci says. "That's because they control the economy, politics and culture."

    Many persons in the lower diamond live comfortably but precariously, he says, because they lack one or more of the assets needed to secure their stability. Perrucci points out that many Americans are just one paycheck away from poverty.

    He suggests that the "American Dream" may vanish in the 21st century unless something is done to bring back a balance in class power. "Unless opposition arises to this social structure through political or other means, class inequality will increase," he says.

    Compiled by Beth Forbes, (765) 494-9723; home: (765) 497-7109;

    Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

    NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: For review copies of the book "The New Class Society", contact Rowman & Littlefield Publishers Inc. at (800) 462-6420.


    Purdue sociologist Robert Perrucci and co-author Earl Wysong created the concept of a "double diamond" to describe America's class inequality in their new book "The New Class Society." Perrucci says the privileged few are at the top in their own diamond, and the rest of society fits in a much larger diamond below with little chance of climbing to the top.

    Electronic transmission and Web and ftp download available of black-and-white graphic. Graphic ID: Perrucci.class

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