Chapter 8SOCIAL CLASS: THE STRUCTURE OF INEQUALITY
Why is it important to study class inequality?
Social Stratification & Inequalitysocial stratification: the division of society into group arranged in a social hierarchy *it exists in all societies in one form or anothersocial inequality: the result of the unequal distribution of wealth, power, or prestige among members of society *stratification is maintained through beliefs that are widely shared by members of a society
Systems of Stratificationslavery: the most extreme form of stratification, based on the legal ownership of people. This still exists in some societies todaycaste system: a form of social stratification in which status is determined by one’s family history and background and cannot be changed
Systems of Stratificationapartheid: legal system of segregation in South Africa between 1948 and 1991social class: a system of stratification based on access to resources such as wealth, property, power, and prestige socioeconomic status (SES): a measure of an individual’s place with a social class system. Often means interchanged with “class”.
Systems of Stratification Around the WorldBrazil’s system of stratification is influenced primarily by race – over 25 racial “categories” existIran has been dominated by a theocracy (religious government) since the revolution of 1979. Strict observance of Islamic law dictates social position.Sweden has attempted a “classless” society, made easier by a homogenous population. Social services are provided to every citizen
Social Class in the United StatesThe upper class: - wealthiest people in a class system - usually very well educated - make more than $250,000 per year - make up about 1% of the US population - possess most (80%) of the wealth of the country
Social Class in the United States, continuedThe upper middle class: - professionals and managers (college educated) - make up about 14% of US Population - make $89,000 - $150,000 per yearThe middle class consists primarily of: - “white collar” workers (2 & 4 year college educ) - make up about 30% of US population - make $55,000 - $88, 000 per year
Social Class in the United States, continuedThe working (lower middle) class: - “blue collar” or service industry workers - less likely to have college degrees - make up about 30% of US population - make about $23,000 - $54,000 per year
Social Class in the United States, continuedThe working poor: - poorly educated, higher rates of high school dropouts and a lower levels of literacy - work includes unskilled and temporary labor - about 20% of the US population - make about <$10,500 - $22,000 per yearThe underclass: - truly disadvantaged populations - make less than $7,500 per year - may depend on charity to survive
Problems With Class CategoriesMeasuring socioeconomic statues (SES) accurately is difficult because it is based on so many factors like income, wealth, education, occupation, and power.Status Inconsistency: stark contrasts in the level of different statuses one person may occupy. Example: someone from a poor background who becomes a millionaire. Does income alone make her a certain class?
Theories of Social Class – Karl MarxKarl Marx believed that there were two main social classes in capitalist societies: - capitalists (or bourgeoisie) - workers (or proletariat)He believed that the classes would remain divided and social inequality would grow as long as capitalism prevailed.
Theories of Social Class – Max WeberMax Weber thought that other factors besides owning the means of production should be accounted for when measuring social class standing. - wealth (or privilege, if inherited) - power (ability to control others) - prestige (social honor granted to those who belong to certain groups.
Theories of Social Class – Pierre BourdieuBourdieu reported on a phenomenon he called social reproduction: the tendency for social class status to be passed down from one generation to the nextThis happens because each generation acquires cultural capital (tastes, habits, expectations, skills, knowledge, etc) that help us to gain advantages is society
Pierre Bourdieu, continuedOur cultural capital can help us or hinder us as we become adults. Ex: “she talks like a hillbilly” or “he sound too ‘street’”. *It can shape the perceptions we have of a person*There is evidence that states half of all children will grow up with the same SES as their parents
Theories of Social Class – Symbolic InteractionistsSymbolic interactionistsexamine the way we usestatus differences tocategorize ourselves andothersErving Goffman pointedout that our clothing,speech, gestures,possessions, friends, andactivities provideinformation about oursocioeconomic statusWhat do these living roomstell us about the owners’SES?
Socioeconomic Status and Life ChancesBelonging to a certain social class has profound consequences for individuals in all areas of life, specifically education, work, crime, family, and health care.Family: - people are likely to marry those with similar backgrounds because they have more access to people like themselves - higher education marrying & having children later
Socioeconomic Status and Life Chances, continuedHealth: -Lowest SES least likely to obtain adequate nutrition, shelter, clothing, and health care -Higher education feel healthier & live longer -lower level SES do not have opportunities to exercise live high SES
SES & Life Percentage of 12th Graders Expecting to Earn a Bachelor’s Degree or Attend Graduate or Professional School, by FamilyChances - Socioeconomic Status (SES)Education-schools with lowincome students havefewer resources, alsoaffecting studentattitude towardseducation-good educationnecessary for a goodjob, but access toquality education is notequal across SESspectrum-expectations differacross SES levels
Real Median Income for Working-AgeSES & Life Households, 1989–2007Chances – Workand Income-unequal education different types of jobs income gap-- lower classes alwaysworking, difficult to goback to school toimprove job chances-our economy now isstill experiencing joblosses, and most bluecollar jobs these dayscan barely supportfamilies, if at all
Socioeconomic Status and Life Chances, continuedCriminal Justice: * lower SES associated with higher rates of violent crime, but studies show that other variables like dense population and anomie have an even greater impact *lower SES are more visible, less powerful, and more likely to be caught. White collar crimes are much less likely to ever be prosecuted *Punishments for crimes are also very unequal *Lower SES feel more threatened by police
Social MobilitySocial Mobility is the movement of individuals or groups within the hierarchal system of social class A closed system is one with very little opportunity to move from one class to another. Ex: Caste system, India An open system is one with ample opportunities to move from one class to another. Ex: USA
Social Mobility, continuedIntergenerational mobility is the movement between social classes that occurs from one generation to the next. Ex: 1st & 2nd generation immigrant childrenIntragenerational mobility is the movement between social classes that occurs over the course of an individual’s lifetime. horizontal mobility: changing occupations within a social class vertical mobility: movement between social classes; either upward or downward
Structural MobilityStructural Mobility refers to changes in the social status of large numbers of people due to structural changes in societyEx: many people became overnight millionaires during the dot-com boom of the 1990s. Programmers that used to be middle class were now upper class
Defining PovertyThe United States determines a federal poverty line each year to determine who should be categorized as poor.As of 2008, at over 13% of the population in the United States were considered poor
Defining Poverty, continuedRelative deprivation: a relative measure of poverty based on standard of living; ex: a McDonalds worker making $25,000 is poor compared to a lawyer making $300,000Absolute deprivation: an objective measure of poverty defined by inability to meet minimal standards for food, shelter, clothing, or health care. Ex: high levels of diabetes among Native Americans
The Culture of PovertyThe culture of poverty is an idea stating that entrenched attitudes can develop among poor communities and lead the poor to accept their fate rather than improve their lotThis idea is reinforced by social welfare critics who think welfare is unnecessary, and it is criticized by those who see it as an acceptance of poverty rather than a need to eradicate it.
The Invisibility of PovertyResidential segregation: the geographical isolation of the poor from the rest of the city (or from neighbors in rural areas) Ex: Palm Beach built as haven for rich, West Palm Beach built for the working poor that supply Palm Beach’s labor.Accomplished most notably through public housing projects and “redlining” – the process by which banks refuse mortgages/loans to people from certain neighborhoods
The Invisibility of Poverty, continuedDisenfranchisement: the removal of the rights of citizenship through economic, political, or legal meansThe poor feel ignored by the political system so they do not participate, which leads to little representation on their behalf to make their plight more visible.
The Invisibility of Poverty, continuedThe homeless embody an example of a group of people that are often deliberately removed from public view.The homeless are routinely moved during important events, and we do not even know the exact number of homeless in our countryThese are among the most harshly treated people in our country
Inequality and the American DreamThe American Dream is part of our ideal culture – but does it really exist?Some criticize it for legitimizing stratification by telling us that everyone has the same chances to get ahead in life If we credit anyone with succeeding, then logically we must blame anyone who fails.
People like to think of the United States as a meritocracy, or a system in which rewards are distributed based on merit, but sociologists find otherwiseMost people will make little social movement in their lifetime. More importantly, social mobility is dependent upon a person’s ethnicity, class status, and gender rather than merit
Closing CommentsSocial Stratification is all about powerDifferent types of social power such as wealth, political influence, and occupational prestige are distributed in unequal ways.These inequalities are part of the larger social structure and our everyday interactions.