Social Class in Smaller Places

In an effort to determine what factors enter into the making of social status in smaller communities, the questionnaire found on the preceding page was mailed to the society editors of a large number of daily and weekly newspapers in twenty states. Replies were received from the following towns, plus a few the names of which were obscure on the envelopes:

Struthers, Ohio Mt. Airy, N.C.
Bryan, Ohio Bennington, Vt.
Del Rio, Texas De Soto, Missouri
Hillsdale, Michigan Lancaster, N.Y.
Sedro Woolley, Washington Weston, W. Va.
Mission, Texas Greeneville, Tenn.
Cadiz, Ohio Bluffton, Ohio
Garden City, New York Whitefall, N.Y.
Williston, N.D. Drexel Hill, Pa.
Quakertown, Pa. Yankton, S.D.
Lewiston, Pa. Nazareth, Pa.
Hudson Falls, N.Y. Landon, N.D.
Canisteo, N.Y. Council Grove, Kansas
Rice Lake, Wis. Farmville, Va.
Sprinfield, Vt. Lewisburg, W. Va.
Rock Hill, S.C Wellboro, Pa.
Marysville, Kansas Norman, Okla.
Hoisington, Kansas Chickasha, Okla.
Fredonia, Kansas Ramsey, New Jersey
Manassas, Va. Grants Pass, Oregon
North Platte, Nebraska Madill, Oklahoma

From the denominational backgrounds of the leading families in these communities given in the replies the following was compiled:

Presbyterian 55
Episcopalian 31
Methodist 28
Roman Catholic 16
Mixed Protestant 12
Congregational 11
Baptist 6
Lutheran 6
Others 16

The preponderance of "English" and "Scottish" religious backgrounds indicated above for the upper classes in smaller places tends to show (1) a preponderance of those religious groups in the population, in which case it shows nothing about social class, (2) the advantage of certain families, of these denominations, have over others because of their longer residence in America, since those of these denominations came with the earlier migrations to America, or (3) that families of higher standing prefer to be identified with these churches, in which case the basis of their belief would have to be that other families already high in standing were in these denominations as a matter of family custom. In communities which are neither overwhelmingly Episcopalian nor Presbyterian, which is usually the rule, one would be inclined to conclude that these data indicate that those family lines which were formerly conservative, successful, and exclusive are still so and are still identified with the same church organizations as their ancestors. This is especially true of the Episcopalians, who, as a rule form a small proportion of the total populations of smaller places, but some of whose members may almost always be reckoned among the better or best families of the towns. However, the survey did not prove anything conclusive about the relationship between religion and upper class standing in smaller places.

The nationality backgrounds of families of higher status were given as follows:

English 67
Mixed British 22
Mixed Northern European 22
German 22
Mixed British-Irish 14
Irish 7
Scottish, Dutch, French, each: 3
Others 12

It would seem, from the foregoing, that these communities have not received the impact of the new immigration, that is, of those proportions of it which have habitually carried higher social standing with them. The new immigration which has come to these towns, in other words, did not have or have not attained high status. The foregoing figures indicate that those who came earlier either came with higher status or attained it through the advantages of priority. One must conclude that if there had been much such social mobility, those of English background could not have retained their status for long. More infiltration would have been evident in that case, because few American towns are populated overwhelmingly with persons of English stock.

The occupations of the heads of the leading families in these communities were given as follows:

Manufacturers 29
Lawyers 24
Bankers 23
Merchants 15
Realtors 12
Publishers 10
Educators 8
Physicians 6
Wholesalers and investors, each 5
Insurance agents 4
Politicians, ranchers, clergymen, and druggists, each 3
All others 25

These figures show (1) that persons of high standing go into certain occupations, by choice, or (2) that their families have pointed and trained them in these directions, or (3) that their work has contributed to their high standing. The sample is, again, too small to be conclusive, but it is very indicative of the occupations of leading American families -- this is a bourgeois world.

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