This Chapter is excerpted from the June, 2010 book, Rewarding Strivers.

In the postindustrial economy, educational attainment, especially postsecondary educational attainment, has replaced the industrial concept of class as the primary marker for social stratification. In particular, in the post–World War II era, access to postsecondary education has become the salient mechanism driving access to middle-class earnings and status.

Our own analysis of data from the Current Population Survey (CPS)2 shows that high school dropouts and high school graduates who do not attain postsecondary education are losing their middle-class status.
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