The upper class in modern societies is the social class composed of people who hold the highest social status, usually are the wealthiest members of society, and wield the greatest political power. According to this view, the upper class is generally distinguished by immense wealth which is passed on from generation to generation. Prior to the 20th century, the emphasis was on aristocracy, which emphasized generations of inherited noble status, not just recent wealth. 
Because the upper classes of a society may no longer rule the society in which they are living, they are often referred to as the old upper classes and they are often culturally distinct from the newly rich middle classes that tend to dominate public life in modern social democracies. According to the latter view held by the traditional upper classes, no amount of individual wealth or fame would make a person from an undistinguished background into a member of the upper class as one must be born into a family of that class and raised in a particular manner so as to understand and share upper class values, traditions, and cultural norms. The term is often used in conjunction with terms like upper-middle class, middle class, and working class as part of a model of social stratification.
Historically in some cultures, members of an upper class often did not have to work for a living, as they were supported by earned or inherited investments (often real estate), although members of the upper class may have had less actual money than merchants. Upper-class status commonly derived from the social position of one's family and not from one's own achievements or wealth. Much of the population that composed the upper class consisted of aristocrats, ruling families, titled people, and religious hierarchs. These people were usually born into their status and historically there was not much movement across class boundaries.
In many countries, the term "upper class" was intimately associated with hereditary land ownership. Political power was often in the hands of the landowners in many pre-industrial societies despite there being no legal barriers to land ownership for other social classes. Upper-class landowners in Europe were often also members of the titled nobility, though not necessarily: the prevalence of titles of nobility varied widely from country to country. Some upper classes were almost entirely untitled, for example, the Szlachta of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth.
In England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, the "upper class" traditionally comprised the landed gentry and the aristocracy of noble families with hereditary titles. The vast majority of post-medieval aristocratic families originated in the merchant class and were ennobled between the 14th and 19th centuries while intermarrying with the old nobility and gentry. Since the Second World War, the term has come to encompass rich and powerful members of the managerial and professional classes as well.
In the United States, the upper class, as distinguished from the rich, is often considered to consist of those families that have for many generations enjoyed top social status based on their leadership in society. In this respect, the US differs little from countries such as the UK where membership of the 'upper class' is also dependent on other factors. In the United Kingdom, it has been said that class is relative to where you have come from, similar to the United States where class is more defined by who as opposed to how much; that is, in the UK and the US people are born into the upper class. The American upper class is estimated to constitute less than 1% of the population. By self-identification, according to this 2001–2012 Gallup Poll data, 98% of Americans identify with the 5 other class terms used, 48–50% identifying as "middle class".
The main distinguishing feature of the upper class is its ability to derive enormous incomes from wealth through techniques such as money management and investing, rather than engaging in wage-labor or salaried employment. Successful entrepreneurs, CEOs, politicians, investment bankers, venture capitalists, heirs to fortunes, some lawyers, top-flight physicians, and celebrities are considered members of this class by contemporary sociologists, such as James Henslin or Dennis Gilbert. There may be prestige differences between different upper-class households. An A-list actor, for example, might not be accorded as much prestige as a former U.S. President, yet all members of this class are so influential and wealthy as to be considered members of the upper class. At the pinnacle of U.S wealth, 2004 saw a dramatic increase in the numbers of billionaires. According to Forbes Magazine, there are now 374 U.S. billionaires. The growth in billionaires took a dramatic leap since the early 1980s, when the average net worth of the individuals on the Forbes 400 list was $400 million. Today, the average net worth is $2.8 billion. Wal-Mart Walton family now has 771,287 times more than the median U.S household (Collins and Yeskel 322).
Upper-class families... dominate corporate America and have a disproportionate influence over the nation's political, educational, religious, and other institutions. Of all social classes, members of the upper class also have a strong sense of solidarity and 'consciousness of kind' that stretches across the nation and even the globe.— William Thompson & Joseph Hickey, Society in Focus, 2005
Since the 1970s income inequality in the United States has been increasing, with the top 1% experiencing significantly larger gains in income than the rest of society. Alan Greenspan, former chair of the Federal Reserve, sees it as a problem for society, calling it a "very disturbing trend".
According to the book Who Rules America? by William Domhoff, the distribution of wealth in America is the primary highlight of the influence of the upper class. The top 1% of Americans own around 34% of the wealth in the U.S. while the bottom 80% own only approximately 16% of the wealth. This large disparity displays the unequal distribution of wealth in America in absolute terms.
In 1998, Bob Herbert of The New York Times referred to modern American plutocrats as "The Donor Class" (list of top donors) and defined the class, for the first time, as "a tiny group – just one-quarter of 1 percent of the population – and it is not representative of the rest of the nation. But its money buys plenty of access".
The African-American upper class consists of African-American engineers, lawyers, accountants, doctors, politicians, business executives, venture capitalists, CEOs, celebrities, entertainers, entrepreneurs and heirs who have incomes amounting to $200,000 or more. This class, sometimes referred to as the black upper class, the African-American upper middle class or black elite, represents less than 1 percent of the total black population in the United States. This group of African Americans has a history of organizations and activities that distinguish it from other classes within the black community as well as from the white upper class. Many of these traditions, which have persisted for several generations, are discussed in Lawrence Otis Graham’s 2000 book, Our Kind of People: Inside America’s Black Upper Class.
Scholarship on this class from a sociological perspective is generally traced to E. Franklin Frazier's Black Bourgeoisie (first edition in English in 1957 translated from the 1955 French original).American upper class
The American upper class is a social group within the United States consisting of people who have the highest social rank, primarily due to the use of their wealth to achieve social status. These criteria differ from those of the traditional "upper class" in Britain and Europe which favor landed gentry and aristocracy (although such class distinctions have been deteriorating in recent times).
The American upper class is seen by some as simply being composed of the wealthiest individuals and families in the country. Some would add that people within this social class need to make themselves socioeconomically distinguishable from other classes by demonstrating their greater wealth, influence and power. The American upper class can also be broken down into two groups: people of substantial means with a history of family wealth going back centuries (called "old money"); and those who have acquired their wealth more recently (e.g. since 1900), often referred to as "Nouveau riche" (borrowed from the European aristocratic system, though often without its derogatory historical connotation). In a CNBC Millionaire Survey it can be observed that a majority of millionaires polled, representing the wealthiest 10 percent of Americans, described themselves as middle class (44%) or upper middle class (40%).Many politicians, heirs to fortunes, top business executives, CEOs, successful venture capitalists, those born into high society, and some celebrities may be considered members of this class. Some prominent and high-rung professionals may also be included if they attain great influence and wealth. The main distinguishing feature of this class, which is estimated to constitute roughly 1% of the population, is the source of income. While the vast majority of people and households derive their income from wages or salaries, those in the upper class derive their income from investments and capital gains. Estimates for the size of this group commonly vary from 1% to 2%, while some surveys have indicated that as many as 6% of Americans identify as "upper class." Sociologist Leonard Beeghley sees wealth as the only significant distinguishing feature of this class and, therefore, refers to this group simply as "the rich."
The members of the tiny capitalist class at the top of the hierarchy have an influence on economy and society far beyond their numbers. They make investment decisions that open or close employment opportunities for millions of others. They contribute money to political parties, and they often own media enterprises that allow them influence over the thinking of other classes... The capitalist class strives to perpetuate itself: Assets, lifestyles, values and social networks... are all passed from one generation to the next. –Dennis Gilbert, The American Class Structure, 1998
Sociologists such as W. Lloyd Warner, William Thompson and Joseph Hickey recognize prestige differences between members of the upper class. Established families, prominent professionals and politicians may be deemed to have more prestige than some entertainment celebrities who in turn may have more prestige than the members of local elites. Yet, contemporary sociologists argue that all members of the upper class share such great wealth, influence and assets as their main source of income as to be recognized as members of the same social class. As great financial fortune is the main distinguishing feature of this class, sociologist Leonard Beeghley at the University of Florida identifies all "rich" households, those with incomes in the top 1% or so, as upper class.In 1998, Bob Herbert of The New York Times referred to modern American plutocrats as "The Donor Class" (list of top donors) and defined the class, for the first time, as "a tiny group – just one-quarter of 1 percent of the population – and it is not representative of the rest of the nation. But its money buys plenty of access."Beverly Road Historic District
The Beverly Road Historic District is a historic district consisting of fifteen residential buildings located between 23 and 45 Beverly Road in Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1995.British country clothing
British country clothing or English country clothing is the traditional attire worn by men and women in rural Britain; it is the choice of clothing when taking part in outdoor sports such as equestrian pursuits, shooting, fishing and during general outdoor activity such as when working outdoors, on picnics, walking and gardening. It is also worn at events such as horse races, country weddings, beer festivals and country fairs.
The form of dress although worn throughout Britain is mostly associated with England and is sometimes considered a historical form of dress or national costume, often worn to represent the English gentleman and lady. It is still considered countryside leisure wear and due to the durable, practical, comfortable and fashionable style, some people choose to use elements of country clothing for general usage in Britain.Chevy Chase, Maryland
Chevy Chase is the name of both a town and an unincorporated census-designated place (Chevy Chase (CDP), Maryland) that straddle the northwest border of Washington, D.C. and Montgomery County, Maryland. Several settlements in the same area of Montgomery County and one neighborhood of Washington, D.C. include "Chevy Chase" in their names. These villages, the town, and the CDP share a common history and together form a larger community colloquially referred to as "Chevy Chase".
Primarily a residential suburb, Chevy Chase adjoins Friendship Heights, a popular shopping district. It includes the National 4-H Youth Conference Center, which hosts the National Science Bowl annually in either late April or early May.The name "Chevy Chase" is derived from "Cheivy Chace", the name of the land patented to Colonel Joseph Belt from Charles Calvert, 5th Baron Baltimore on July 10, 1725. It has historic associations to a 1388 battle between Lord Percy of England and Earl Douglas of Scotland, the subject of the ballad entitled "The Ballad of Chevy Chase". At issue in this "chevauchée" (a French word describing a border raid) were hunting grounds or a "chace" in the Cheviot Hills of Northumberland and Otterburn.Country club
A country club is a privately owned club, often with a membership quota and admittance by invitation or sponsorship, that generally offers both a variety of recreational sports and facilities for dining and entertaining. Typical athletic offerings are golf, tennis, and swimming. A country club is most commonly located in city outskirts or suburbs, and is distinguished from an urban athletic club by having substantial grounds for outdoor activities and a major focus on golf.
Country clubs originated in Scotland and first appeared in the US in the early 1880s. Country clubs had a profound effect on expanding suburbanization and are considered to be the precursor to gated community development.Housatonic Valley
The Housatonic Valley is a geographic region of Connecticut and Massachusetts in the United States, associated with the valley and watershed of the Housatonic River.
The Greater Danbury metropolitan area in western Connecticut is also known as the Housatonic Valley Region.
The Housatonic Valley Watershed spans 1,948 square miles including 83 towns from the Berkshires region of Massachusetts to the Long Island Sound.
The Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area is a designated National Heritage Area consisting of an 848-square-mile (2,200 km2) area in the watershed of the upper Housatonic River, extending from Kent, Connecticut, to Lanesborough, Massachusetts, including eight towns in Connecticut and eighteen in Massachusetts.Nouveau riche
Nouveau riche (French: [nuvo ʁiʃ]; French for "new rich") is a term, usually derogatory, to describe those whose wealth has been acquired within their own generation, rather than by familial inheritance. The equivalent English term is the "new rich" or "new money" (in contrast with "old money"/vieux riche). Sociologically, nouveau riche refers to the person who previously had belonged to a lower social class and economic stratum (rank) within that class; and that the new money, which constitutes his or her wealth, allowed upward social mobility and provided the means for conspicuous consumption, the buying of goods and services that signal membership in an upper class. As a pejorative term, nouveau riche affects distinctions of type, the given stratum within a social class; hence, among the rich people of a social class, nouveau riche describes the vulgarity and ostentation of the newly rich man or woman who lacks the worldly experience and the system of values of "old money", of inherited wealth, such as the patriciate, the nobility and the gentry.Old money
Old money is "the inherited wealth of established upper-class families (i.e. gentry, patriciate)" or "a person, family, or lineage possessing inherited wealth". The term typically describes a class of the rich who have been able to maintain their wealth over multiple generations, often referring to perceived members of the de facto aristocracy in societies that historically lack an officially established aristocratic class (such as the US).Philadelphia Main Line
The Philadelphia Main Line, known simply as the Main Line, is an informally delineated historical and social region of suburban Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Lying along the former Pennsylvania Railroad's once prestigious Main Line, it runs northwest from Center City Philadelphia parallel to Lancaster Avenue (U.S. Route 30).
The railroad first connected the Main Line towns in the 19th century. They became home to sprawling country estates belonging to Philadelphia's wealthiest families, and over the decades became a bastion of "old money". Today, the Main Line includes some of the wealthiest communities in the country, including Lower Merion Township, Radnor Township, and Tredyffrin Township. Today, the railroad is Amtrak's Keystone Corridor, along which SEPTA's Paoli/Thorndale Line operates.Preppy
Preppy (also spelled preppie) or prep (all abbreviations of the word preparatory) is a subculture in the United States associated with old private Northeastern university-preparatory schools. The terms are used to denote a person seen as characteristic of a student or alumnus of these schools. Characteristics of preps in the past include a particular subcultural speech, vocabulary, dress, mannerisms and etiquette, reflective of an upper-class upbringing.Social class
A social class is a set of subjectively defined concepts in the social sciences and political theory centered on models of social stratification in which people are grouped into a set of hierarchical social categories, the most common being the upper, middle and lower classes.
"Class" is a subject of analysis for sociologists, political scientists, anthropologists and social historians. However, there is not a consensus on a definition of "class" and the term has a wide range of sometimes conflicting meanings. In common parlance, the term "social class" is usually synonymous with "socio-economic class", defined as "people having the same social, economic, cultural, political or educational status", e.g., "the working class"; "an emerging professional class". However, academics distinguish social class and socioeconomic status, with the former referring to one's relatively stable sociocultural background and the latter referring to one's current social and economic situation and consequently being more changeable over time.The precise measurements of what determines social class in society has varied over time. Karl Marx thought "class" was defined by one's relationship to the means of production (their relations of production). His simple understanding of classes in modern capitalist society are the proletariat, those who work but do not own the means of production; and the bourgeoisie, those who invest and live off the surplus generated by the proletariat's operation of the means of production. This contrasts with the view of the sociologist Max Weber, who argued "class" is determined by economic position, in contrast to "social status" or "Stand" which is determined by social prestige rather than simply just relations of production. The term "class" is etymologically derived from the Latin classis, which was used by census takers to categorize citizens by wealth in order to determine military service obligations.In the late 18th century, the term "class" began to replace classifications such as estates, rank and orders as the primary means of organizing society into hierarchical divisions. This corresponded to a general decrease in significance ascribed to hereditary characteristics and increase in the significance of wealth and income as indicators of position in the social hierarchy.Social class in the United Kingdom
The social structure of the United Kingdom has historically been highly influenced by the concept of social class, which continues to affect British society today.British society, like its European neighbours and most societies in world history, was traditionally (before the Industrial Revolution) divided hierarchically within a system that involved the hereditary transmission of occupation, social status and political influence. Since the advent of industrialisation, this system has been in a constant state of revision, and new factors other than birth (for example, education) are now a greater part of creating identity in Britain.
Although definitions of social class in the United Kingdom vary and are highly controversial, most are influenced by factors of wealth, occupation and education. Until the Life Peerages Act 1958, the Parliament of the United Kingdom was organised on a class basis, with the House of Lords representing the hereditary upper-class and the House of Commons representing everybody else. The British monarch is usually viewed as being at the top of the social class structure.
British society has experienced significant change since the Second World War, including an expansion of higher education and home ownership, a shift towards a service-dominated economy, mass immigration, a changing role for women and a more individualistic culture, and these changes have had a considerable impact on the social landscape. However, claims that the UK has become a classless society have frequently been met with scepticism. Research has shown that social status in the United Kingdom is influenced by, although separate from, social class.The biggest current study of social class in the United Kingdom is the Great British Class Survey.Southern belle
The Southern belle (derived from the French word belle, 'beautiful') is a stock character representing a young woman of the American South's upper socioeconomic class.Upper Class Twit of the Year
The Upper Class Twit of the Year is a classic comedy sketch that was seen on the 1970 Monty Python's Flying Circus episode "The Naked Ant" (series 1, episode 12), and also in a modified format as the finale of the movie And Now For Something Completely Different. It is notable for its satire on dim-witted members of the English upper class.Valley girl
Valley girl is a socioeconomic stereotype depicting a class of women characterized by the colloquial California English dialect Valleyspeak and materialism.
Originally referring to upper-middle class girls from the Los Angeles commuter communities of the San Fernando Valley during the 1980s, the term in later years became more broadly applied to any female in the United States who engendered the associated affects of ditziness, airheadedness, and/or greater interest in conspicuous consumption than intellectual or personal accomplishment.Wealth
Wealth is the abundance of valuable financial assets or physical possessions which can be converted into a form that can be used for transactions. This includes the core meaning as held in the originating old English word weal, which is from an Indo-European word stem. The modern concept of wealth is of significance in all areas of economics, and clearly so for growth economics and development economics, yet the meaning of wealth is context-dependent. An individual possessing a substantial net worth is known as wealthy. Net worth is defined as the current value of one's assets less liabilities (excluding the principal in trust accounts).At the most general level, economists may define wealth as "anything of value" that captures both the subjective nature of the idea and the idea that it is not a fixed or static concept. Various definitions and concepts of wealth have been asserted by various individuals and in different contexts. Defining wealth can be a normative process with various ethical implications, since often wealth maximization is seen as a goal or is thought to be a normative principle of its own.A community, region or country that possesses an abundance of such possessions or resources to the benefit of the common good is known as wealthy.
The United Nations definition of inclusive wealth is a monetary measure which includes the sum of natural, human, and physical assets. Natural capital includes land, forests, energy resources, and minerals. Human capital is the population's education and skills. Physical (or "manufactured") capital includes such things as machinery, buildings, and infrastructure.White Anglo-Saxon Protestant
White Anglo-Saxon Protestants (WASPs) are a social group—of typically wealthy and well-connected white Protestants, usually of British descent—in the United States. The group dominated American society, culture, and the leadership of the Republican party until the World War II era. They are well placed in major financial, business, legal, and academic institutions, and had, in the past, close to a monopoly on elite society due to intermarriage and nepotism.During the latter half of the twentieth century, outsider ethnic and racial groups grew in influence and WASP dominance gave way. Americans increasingly criticized the WASP hegemony and disparaging WASPs as the epitome of "the Establishment". The 1998 Random House Unabridged Dictionary says the term is "Sometimes Disparaging and Offensive".Sociologists sometimes use the term very broadly to include all Protestant Americans of Northern European or Northwestern European ancestry regardless of their class or power. The term is also used in Australia, New Zealand, and Canada for similar elites.Yuppie
"Yuppie" (short for "young urban professional" or "young, upwardly-mobile professional") is a term coined in the early 1980s for a young professional person working in a city.