Bringing Social Class Home: The Social Class Genealogy and Poverty Lunch Projects

Document Type


Publication Date



Although sociologists frequently utilize the concept of social class, discussions about the issue can lead to perfunctory references to the role of education, occupational prestige, and income as the variables used to measure social class. This paper provides an overview of social class, poverty, and welfare issues, as well as two in-class projects designed to inject realism and creativity into the study of these subjects. The first project involves a genealogical exploration into students' own social class backgrounds, as well as their childhood perceptions of social class and racial hierarchies. The second project is a "Poverty Lunch," and involves a class-selected meal that uses the poverty line to budget for food costs (i.e., currently about 96 cents per person per meal). These projects accomplish several different goals: first, they broaden students' understanding of their own families' social class histories, which highlights the relevance of the sociological imagination, that is, understanding the intersections of biography and the particular historical moments we are born into; second, they help students understand the politics, history, realities, and challenges of the "poverty line"; and third, the projects build a sense of community and collaborative learning in the classroom.




American Sociological Association

Publication Information

Teaching Sociology