What’s Your Social Class?

Earlier this week cultural critic Paul Fussell died at the age of 88. Fussell, an English professor at the University of Pennsylvania, wrote books on a variety of topics, ranging from poetry textbooks to the role of war in determining a generation’s outlook.

But it was Class: A Guide Through the American Status System (1983) that was perhaps his most readable, and certainly most controversial, book. The illustrated handbook to the American caste system featured games for the reader at the end.

To commemorate his death, I have here reproduced The Living Room Scale, which offers a helpful guide on determining an American’s social class based on the contents of his living room. Enjoy.

LR

Begin with a base score of 100 and then add or subtract in accordance with what you have or don’t have.

Hardwood floor, add 4

Parquet floor, add 8

Stone floor, add 4

Vinyl floor, subtract 6

Wall-to-wall-carpet, add 2

Working fireplace, add 4

New oriental rug or carpet, subtract 2 (each)

Worn oriental rug or carpet, add 5 (each)

Threadbare rug or carpet, add 8 (each)

Ceiling ten feet high, or higher, add 6

Original paintings by internationally recognized practitioners, add 8 (each)

Original drawings, prints, or lithographs by internationally recognized practitioners, add 5 (each)

Reproductions of any Picasso painting, print or anything, subtract 2 (each)

Original paintings, drawings, or prints by family members, subtract 4 (each)

Windows curtained, rods, and draw cords, add 5

Windows curtained, no rods or draw cord, add 2

Genuine Tiffany lamp, add 3

Reproduction Tiffany lamp, subtract 4

Any work of art depicting cowboys, subtract 3

Transparent plastic covers on furniture, subtract 6

Furniture upholstered with any metallic threads, subtract 3

Cellophane on any lampshade, subtract 4

No ashtrays, subtract 2

Refrigerator, washing machine, or clothes dryer in living room, subtract 6

Motorcycle kept in living room, subtract 10

Periodicals visible, laid out flat:

National Enquirer, subtract 6

Popular Mechanics, subtract 5

Reader’s Digest, subtract 3

National Geographic, subtract 2

Smithsonian, subtract 1

Scientific American, subtract 1

New Yorker, add 1

Town and Country, add 2

New York Review of Books add 5

Times Literary Supplement (London), add 5

Paris Match, add 6

Hudson Review, add 8

(No periodicals visible, subtract 5)

Each family photograph (black-and-white), subtract 2

Each family photograph (color), subtract 3

Each family photograph (black-and-white or color) in sterling-silver frame, add 3

Potted citrus tree with midget fruit growing, add 8

Potted palm tree, add 5

Bowling-ball-carrier, subtract 6

Fishbowl or aquarium, subtract 4

Fringe on any upholstered furniture, subtract 4

Identifiable Naugahyde aping anything customarily made of leather, subtract 3

Any item exhibiting words in an ancient or modern foreign language, add 7

Wooden venetian blinds, subtract 2

Tabletop obelisk of marble, glass, etc., add 9

Fewer than five pictures on walls, subtract 5

Each piece of furniture over 50 years old, add 2

Bookcase(s) full of books, add 7

Any leather bindings more than 75 years old, add 6

Bookcases(s) partially full of books, add 5

Overflow books stacked on floor, chairs, etc., add 6

Hutch bookcase (“wall system”) displaying plates, pots, porcelain figurines, etc., but no books, subtract 4

Wall unit with built-in TV, stereo, etc., subtract 4

On coffee table, container of matchbooks from funny or anomalous places, add 1

Works of sculpture (original, and not made by householder or any family member), add 4 (each)

Works of sculpture made by householder or any family member, subtract 5 (each)

Each framed certificate, diploma, or testimonial, subtract 2

Each “laminated” ditto, subtract 3

Each item with a “tortoiseshell” finish, if only made of Formica, add 1

Each “Eames” chair, subtract 2

Anything displaying the name or initials of anyone in the household, subtract 4

Curved moldings visible anywhere in the room, add 5

Scoring:
Scoring:
245 and above: upper class
185 to 245: upper middle class
100 to 185: middle class
50 to 100: higher proletariat
Below 50: lower proletariat

This scale admittedly makes a little more sense when one reads the actual book. Check it out here.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer