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Keeping Up with the Joneses Commonlit Answers

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  • 8th Grade
  • Lexile: 1240

Source: Keeping Up with the Joneses by CommonLit Staff

Assessment Answers

How does the creation of the “Four-Hundred List” contribute to the idea of “Keeping
Up With the Joneses”?

The creation of the “Four-Hundred List” significantly contributes to the idea of “Keeping Up With the Joneses” by establishing a tangible measure of social status and exclusivity.

By hosting elaborate parties and inviting only four hundred elite members of society, the Joneses set a benchmark for social prestige.

Being included on this list was not only a sign of respect and popularity but also became highly competitive, as it indicated one’s social standing and acceptance into the upper echelons of society.

This competition to be recognized as part of an exclusive group exemplifies the essence of “keeping up with the Joneses,” where individuals strive to match or surpass their peers’ social status and wealth.

The list encouraged others to emulate the lifestyle and achievements of the Joneses, thus perpetuating the cycle of comparison and competition for social superiority.

QuestionAnswer
What is one danger to “Keeping up with the Joneses”?People can become obsessed with physical or economic gains.
How is the phenomenon of “Keeping up with the Joneses” a distinctly American concept?Unlike in Europe, anyone in America was thought to be capable of achieving wealth and status
PART A: What is the reality of upward mobility in the United States?People are no more likely to achieve upward mobility in the United States as they are in many other countries.
PART B: Which detail from the text best supports the answer to Part A?“…in the US, 45% of the poor rose out of poverty in a given year, compared with 45% in the UK, 53% in Germany, and 56% in Canada.” (Paragraph 6)

Discussion Answers

In your own words, explain the concept of “keeping up with the Joneses.”

The concept of “keeping up with the Joneses” refers to the social phenomenon where individuals or families strive to match or surpass the material wealth, status, or lifestyle of their peers or neighbors. It’s driven by a desire for social approval, prestige, or the fear of being perceived as less successful.

This often involves acquiring the latest consumer goods, properties, or adopting certain lifestyles, not necessarily for personal satisfaction, but to maintain a social image or status that appears equal to or better than that of those around them.

The phrase highlights the competitive nature of social comparison, where one’s possessions or achievements are used as a benchmark against those of others, leading to a cycle of continuous consumption and competition.

This behavior can have various implications, including financial strain, increased stress, and a shift in values towards materialism and away from more fulfilling aspects of life.


What caused the rush to build overly extravagant mansions in New York?

The rush to build overly extravagant mansions in New York was primarily sparked by the construction of a 24-room mansion called Wyndcliffe by Elizabeth Schermerhorn Jones in 1853.

This mansion, described as ornate and styled like a Scottish castle, set a new standard for luxury and opulence in the Hudson Valley area. Its grandeur spurred other wealthy New Yorkers, eager to showcase their wealth and social status, to construct even more lavish homes.

This competitive building spree among the rich New Yorkers to outdo one another in displaying their wealth and status came to embody the phenomenon of “keeping up with the Joneses.”

Essentially, the desire to prove one’s equal or greater wealth through the construction of grand mansions fueled this rush, making it a clear case of social competition and the desire for recognition within elite circles.


Why do people follow the crowd? Use evidence from this text, your own experience, and other literature, art, or history in your answer.

People follow the crowd for a variety of reasons, including psychological, social, and cultural factors. The concept of “keeping up with the Joneses” from the provided text highlights one such reason: the desire for social status and approval. Individuals often compare themselves to their peers and feel pressured to match or surpass others’ achievements or possessions. This is not just about material wealth but also about belonging and being valued within a social group.

From a psychological perspective, conformity and the need for acceptance are powerful motivators. Social comparison theory suggests that individuals determine their own social and personal worth based on how they stack up against others.

People often follow the crowd to avoid feeling left out or inferior. The fear of missing out (FOMO) can drive individuals to adopt trends, technologies, or lifestyles that they see popularized among their peers.

Historically, this phenomenon is not new. The Tulip Mania of the 17th Century in the Netherlands is a prime example, where people invested heavily in tulip bulbs amidst a market frenzy, driven by the desire to own what was considered a status symbol at the time.

Similarly, during the Renaissance, the affluent competed in commissioning artworks or constructing lavish residences as a display of their wealth and cultural sophistication, influenced by the standards set by their peers.

In literature and art, the theme of conformity versus individuality has been explored extensively.

For example, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” delves into the characters’ obsession with wealth and status, illustrating how societal expectations can drive individuals to extreme behaviors.

Gatsby himself goes to great lengths to win Daisy’s love and to be accepted by the society of East Egg, showcasing the lengths to which people will go to follow the crowd or achieve a perceived level of social acceptance.

From personal experience, the influence of social media today serves as a modern-day “Joneses.”

Constant exposure to the highlight reels of others’ lives can exacerbate feelings of inadequacy and spur individuals to mimic what they see online, whether it’s travel, lifestyle, or consumer goods, in an effort to keep up with an ever-shifting benchmark of social success.

Ultimately, the drive to follow the crowd stems from a complex interplay of wanting to fit in, fear of missing out and pursuing social status. While this can foster a sense of community and shared experience, it also risks losing individuality and prioritizing external validation over personal satisfaction and well-being.

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