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Essay on Working and Living at the Turn of the Century

4 pages
886 words
Boston College
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In the late 18th early 19th century, living as well as working conditions of the middle class, working class also the recent immigrants and the sharecroppers was clearly different. The sharecroppers were the individuals who were tenant farmers and gave parts of their crop as rent. Even though the season was not favoring and less harvests were gathered, the sharecropper still had to give out part of the available yield. The middle-class people during this era were middle wealthy as they had servants and children were sent to private schools. The working class was made up of the businessmen during the Second Industrial Revolution and was owners of most of the industries and hiring the local and immigrants who required work. These businessmen were able to rise quickly to the middle-class status (GW). The following work will help examine the working and living conditions of these groups of people.

In work performed activities, all the three groups were involved in the production. The sharecroppers used to till the land and use the yield as a way paying their rent. Sharecropping is a form of agriculture where a tenant is allowed to use the land and then share the produce. The recent immigrants and the middle-class people are large business owners (Goldin, 1994). The difference between these groups is that the recent immigrants and the middle-class people own the businesses and can hire employees to carry out the work for them. They take all the profits of the produce since they own the business. The sharecroppers, on the other hand, do not own the land they are working on. After farming, they share the crops with the landowner as a payment of tenancy (GW1).

On the working conditions, each group f people had the opportunity to determine their working conditions. The sharecroppers were not working under the landowners as the only requirement they had was paying rent through the presentation of part of their harvest. The middle-class used their skills and expertise to create favorable working conditions by using the property and income they had to improve their lives. The working class noted the opportunities that existed overseas and moved to establish their industries and businesses. Their working conditions were of high class through the employees who worked for them experienced deteriorated working conditions. The similarities in the working conditions are that each group would use their experience to improve their conditions (GW2).

The middle-class individuals and the working class lived improved lives. Their children attended private schools; they were able to access improved healthcare services, live in their own land and improved housing conditions. They were also able to access diet food and thus lived improved lives as they were wealthy. The sharecroppers, on the other hand, lived poor lives. They did not have any property and had to rent a place to stay where they paid through working in the land of the person renting them. They would only consume what they farmed which means they would lack dietary feeds. Their health status deteriorated with time due to lack of access to medical services. These people were separate from the working class and did not enjoy public property (Wright, 1990).

The education margin of the three groups of people differed largely. The sharecroppers hardly got any education. They did not have enough capital to take their children to school, and illiterate levels were thus high. The middle-class people invested largely in education as a way of preparing their children to improve their lives in future. There were lots of middle-class people who had skills and expertise which they used to multiply the less they had, and they ended up being able to live comfortable lives. The recent immigrants were businessmen which means they had high levels of education and understanding of how international trade is conducted and embracing opportunities in overseas nations. It helped them in rising to the middle-class groups very fast (Hepworth, 1876).

The three groups had economic opportunities. The sharecroppers received land where they would till and get the yield and give part as payment for rent. Instead of being employed by other people, the sharecroppers had land given to them which they would exploit for their own advantages. The working class had opportunities in the foreign lands where they migrated to and establish their industries, hired workers and running the business brought large profits. The middle-class people had invested in their education which gave them the skills and expertise required to use to less they have to conduct business and improve it. However, the recent immigrants had the larger economic opportunities as they were able to invest in the international market and the gains would be larger.

In conclusion, the 18th and 19th century was a turn of the century due to the social classes of the people and the way they carried out their activities. The economic opportunities determined education, living conditions and works performed by each group.


Goldin C. (1994) The Political Economy of Immigration Restriction in the United States, 1890 to 1921. In: Goldin Claudia, Libecap Gary D., editors. The Regulated Economy: A Historical Approach to Political Economy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Pp. 223257.

GW Immigration Readings PDF

GW1 Social Class Readings PDF

GW2 Progressiveness and WWI Reading PDF

Hepworth, W. (1876). Illiteracy in America. White Conquest, 54.

Wright G. (1990) The Origins of American Industrial Success: 18791940. American Economic Review;80:651678.

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