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Social Capital and Social Exclusion
The American Dream and the Myth of Meritocracy
• What is the “American dream”?
• What do you need in 2024 to work toward that dream?
• What is a “meritocracy”? Why is this social system positioned as an
ideal?
Adam Smith Institute (2015)
https://www.adamsmith.org/blog/education/addressing-the-real-problem-of-social-
mobility-in-education-2
The Limits of Social Mobility
Socioeconomic Class and Social Inequality
Key Terms: Social Class
(Conerly, pg. 255).
• Socioeconomic status (SES)—“an individual’s level of wealth, power, and
prestige”
• Class—“a group who shares a common status based on factors like wealth,
income, education, and occupation”
• Class traits/markers—“the typical behaviors, customs, and norms that
define each class”
• Meritocracy—“an ideal system in which personal effort—or merit—
determines social standing”
• Social mobility—“a societal change that enables a whole group of people to
move up or down the class ladder”
• Income—money received over some period of time in exchange for work, a
good or service, or return on an investment.
• Wealth—total value of one’s assets minus their debts; the greatest asset
most Americans own is their home. “Wealth is the most significant way of
distinguishing classes, because wealth can be transferred to one’s children
and perpetuate the class structure” (pg. 243).
Key Terms: Social Inequality
• Socioeconomic inequality—the unequal accumulation and distribution of
wealth in a society (also called social stratification). Often, a society’s
beliefs (ideologies) may reinforce or serve to justify social stratification.
• Economic insecurity—exposure to or lack of protection from the economic
impact of sudden loss of income or sudden unexpected costs.
• Relative poverty—“not having the means to live the lifestyle of the average
person in your country” or part of the country.
• Absolute poverty—“deprivation so severe that it puts day-to-day survival in
jeopardy”
• Caste system—“a system in which people are born into a social standing
that they will retain their entire lives”
• Food insecurity—a state of worry or uncertainty about one’s ability to
purchase or obtain sufficient food to feed oneself and one’s family.
Theories: Why does social inequality exist?
• Functionalism—Some types of work are more valuable than others,
and social inequality reflects that. (This does not explain inequalities
due to race or gender or those that stem from systemic inequalities in
education.)
• Conflict—Some groups benefit from social inequality and therefore
work to preserve it. Class inequality = class oppression.
• Marx: Social inequality stems from various social groups’ relationship to
production as either owners (the bourgeoise) or workers (the proletariat).
“Marx believed workers experience deep alienation, isolation and misery
resulting from powerless status levels” (Conerly, pg. 253).
• Symbolic interactionism—Examines how social interactions reflect or
reinforce social inequality. (Most people interact primarily with people
of a social standing similar to theirs.)
Who is “middle class”?
What does this term mean?
“Inequality and Opportunity:
The Role of Exclusion, Social Capital, and
Generic Social Processes in Upward Mobility”
by Linda Burton and Whitney Welsh (2015)
Los Angeles Progressive (2014)
Inequality and Opportunity
Key point: Groups with economic or racial privilege “participate in
marginalizing” America’s poor (Burton and Welsh, pg. 1).
Three arguments:
1. Social capital can help ease effects of social exclusion “a critical
resource for disadvantaged families seeking socioeconomic
mobility”
2. Social interactions “both within and between groups…also shape
poverty outcomes”
3. Context matters in determining capacity of the poor to “garner and
leverage social capital to attain upward socioeconomic mobility”
What does poverty look like?
What does it exist?
Spatial inequality speaks to the historical reality that poverty
is not evenly dispersed geographically. Simply put, some areas
are poorer and some areas richer than others. This has been
caused and reinforced by residential segregation which has
seen the concentration of poverty in “segregated and isolated
communities in inner cities, aging suburban communities, and
rural small towns” (2).
Concentration of Poverty
• “Surprisingly, more of America’s poor were living in economically
disadvantaged neighborhoods despite unprecedented declines in
concentrated poverty during the 1990s.” This means that people who
are poor are more likely to live in communities that are poor (i.e.
where poverty is “concentrated” or where rates of poverty are high), a
fact that limits their access to social capital that might lead to social
mobility.
• Big cities “have been hit especially hard by slow job growth, high
unemployment, and the housing crisis” (2).
• Meanwhile, “upper-income groups [have] increasingly cordoned
themselves off in gated communities [and] affluent neighborhoods”
(2).
Social Exclusion (pg. 3)
• “Americans are either exposed to, turn a blind eye toward, or are deeply embedded in
lived experiences that involve micro social processes that exclude the poor” (3).
• “Social exclusion ‘is not just a situation, but a process that excludes,’” characterized by:
1. incomplete or unequal integration of the poor into society,
2. disadvantaged access to status, benefits, and the human capital-building experiences
(e.g. education) that should be rightfully afforded to human beings,
3. temporal domination (control of time) by the privileged, which creates or extends
sociotemporal marginalization in the poor receiving necessary assistance (e.g.
assistance for victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2005),
4. “social distance, isolation, rejection, humiliation, denial of participation, and a lack
of social support networks,” which characterize relationships of those who suffer
due to social exclusion.
“Exclusion from social networks and other supports that lead to social capital is the
Achilles’heel that prevents the poor from attaining upward socioeconomic mobility” (3).
Social Capital and Social Mobility
(pg. 4)
• “Social capital refers to resources that are accessible through social
interactions and extended networks of social ties.”
• In other words: What value or use can be derived from your social
relationships with family, friends, acquaintances, neighbors, etc.?
• Social capital is often restricted by the “homophily principle” that
holds that people who are similar in some way (race, ethnicity, age,
gender, etc.) are more likely to interact with each other than with
people with whom they share few similarities.
• Think of social capital as your “connections” and the process of
building social capital as “networking.”
https://marketbusinessnews.com/financial-glossary/social-capital/
Bonding vs. Bridging Social Capital
• Bonding social capital reinforces existing similarities between strong
ties (e.g. family and close friends).
• bolsters unity and strengthens dynamics of mutual support
• works to maintain status quo
• Bridging social capital crosses or spans gaps in the social structure to
link different groups, generally through weaker, less enduring ties
(e.g. acquaintances).
• “offers the chance of social mobility precisely because it ‘bridges’ social
divides” (4).
• “In communities where unemployment is high and jobs are scarce, these weak
bridging ties take on even greater significance for those pursuing upward
mobility” (4). In other words, people living in poverty need bridging social
capital more urgently than other groups and, simultaneously, have less access
to it.
Social Capital vs. Human Capital
• Burton and Welsh write, “…social capital has a greater impact than
human capital on the fortunes of the poor…However, the
disadvantaged generally possess few of these valuable bridging ties,
due to persistent social isolation and exclusion across multiple
domains…” (4).
• In other words, who you know (social capital) is often more important
than what you know or what you can do (human capital). It is so
difficult to move out of poverty because who you know is generally
restricted by small-scale processes that serve to isolate marginalized or
oppressed groups from resources and to exclude them from areas and
forums where they might obtain bridging social capital (i.e. develop
relationships with people that might help in efforts to secure housing,
employment, education, childcare, services, public benefits, etc.).
Human capital refers to the value and worth of one person’s experiences, abilities, skills, and knowledge.
Social capital refers to the combined worth of the accessible human capital of all people in one’s social network.
Activity: Mapping Your Social Capital
• List the skills, knowledge, experience, and qualifications you bring when applying
for a job, internship, graduate program, etc. This is your human capital.
• Draw a map or graphic illustrating the people you are in touch with on a daily,
weekly, monthly, or yearly basis (e.g. family, friends, coaches, mentors,
coworkers, former employers, etc.).
• Of the people you list, consider who you would feel comfortable asking for
advice, some help, or a favor. Be specific in terms of what types of assistance each
person might provide (e.g. a loan, a reference, information, food, childcare, etc.).
• Are most of the people you listed from similar or different personal and
socioeconomic backgrounds than you? In other words, are your personal or
professional connections more akin to “bonding” or “bridging” social capital?
• Reflect: What does your “map” suggest about the extent of your social capital?
Are you “well-connected” or might forces of “social exclusion” make it more
difficult for you to accomplish your professional or economic goals? How might
you work to expand your social network—that is, your social capital? What does
this exercise suggest about social capital more broadly?
Q: In the years since the civil rights movement broke
down legal barriers to equality, “why, then, does this
social isolation and exclusion persist?” In other words,
why is it still difficult for disadvantaged groups to
accumulate the social capital needed for social
mobility?
A: Micro processes that promote social exclusion.
1. Relatively high levels of distrust among disadvantaged groups.
• Making social connections requires trust.
• People living in poverty tend to distrust institutions and other people,
e.g. “welfare caseworkers, employers, childcare providers, romantic
partners, and extended kin,” often due to survival mentality, negative
past experiences, or general fear of authority (4).
• Those with scarce resources may justifiably feel the need to preserve
those resources (time, money, energy, etc.) rather than gamble on a
person or institution that might let them down.
• “…distrust is, in fact, a more effective strategy for getting by,
although it comes at the expense of getting ahead” (5).
2. Emphasis on “disposable ties”
• Relatively new social connections or relationships that become “close”
and socially intimate fairly quickly.
• “Essentially, disposable ties were intense for short periods of time but
did not connect sets of people in the ways that bridging ties do” (5).
3. Occupational segregation:
• Studies have shown that employers often engage in processes,
practices, and relationships that stall or hinder the upward mobility of
workers, esp. poor immigrant workers.
• Examples: racial stereotyping; recruitment of workers perceived to be
easily manageable (e.g. undocumented, non-English speaking, etc.);
viewing and thinking of workers in “uncomplimentary and unequal
ways” (5); exclusion and marginalization of workers because it is
profitable for employers to do so.
The Reproduction of Social Exclusion:
Four Processes (pg. 6)
1. Othering
2. Subordinate adaptation
3. Boundary maintenance
4. Emotion management
Group Exercise
• Define the process of “social exclusion” assigned to your group. What
does this term mean?
• Give two examples. (One can be from the Burton and Welsh reading,
but the other should be one the group comes up with on its own). What
does this process look like in action?
• Why and how might this process/practice serve to maintain social
distance between those who are poor and those who are not? In other
words, how does it serve to isolate those who are poor, i.e. those who
might benefit most from access to greater social capital?
Thoughts on Public Policy and Social Exclusion
(pg. 11)
• “[T]he U.S. experiences a consistently high prevalence of poverty, despite
its global distinction as a leading developed country.” Why is this so, and
how can this be addressed?
• In this nation, “the discourse and interactions around the poor remain
anchored in racism, class stereotypes, and elitism.” Socioeconomic
inequality is not confined to matters of macroeconomics. It is also
repeatedly created and reproduced on smaller scales (“micro processes”).
• The authors conclude, “U.S. policymakers must pause to discern and
consider what types of discourse, micro processes, and social interactions
are occurring on the ground level in peoples’ everyday lives that are
inhibiting a more profound reduction in poverty” (11).

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4.9.24 Social Capital and Social Exclusion.pptx

  • 1. Social Capital and Social Exclusion
  • 2. The American Dream and the Myth of Meritocracy • What is the “American dream”? • What do you need in 2024 to work toward that dream? • What is a “meritocracy”? Why is this social system positioned as an ideal?
  • 3. Adam Smith Institute (2015) https://www.adamsmith.org/blog/education/addressing-the-real-problem-of-social- mobility-in-education-2 The Limits of Social Mobility
  • 4. Socioeconomic Class and Social Inequality
  • 5. Key Terms: Social Class (Conerly, pg. 255). • Socioeconomic status (SES)—“an individual’s level of wealth, power, and prestige” • Class—“a group who shares a common status based on factors like wealth, income, education, and occupation” • Class traits/markers—“the typical behaviors, customs, and norms that define each class” • Meritocracy—“an ideal system in which personal effort—or merit— determines social standing” • Social mobility—“a societal change that enables a whole group of people to move up or down the class ladder” • Income—money received over some period of time in exchange for work, a good or service, or return on an investment. • Wealth—total value of one’s assets minus their debts; the greatest asset most Americans own is their home. “Wealth is the most significant way of distinguishing classes, because wealth can be transferred to one’s children and perpetuate the class structure” (pg. 243).
  • 6. Key Terms: Social Inequality • Socioeconomic inequality—the unequal accumulation and distribution of wealth in a society (also called social stratification). Often, a society’s beliefs (ideologies) may reinforce or serve to justify social stratification. • Economic insecurity—exposure to or lack of protection from the economic impact of sudden loss of income or sudden unexpected costs. • Relative poverty—“not having the means to live the lifestyle of the average person in your country” or part of the country. • Absolute poverty—“deprivation so severe that it puts day-to-day survival in jeopardy” • Caste system—“a system in which people are born into a social standing that they will retain their entire lives” • Food insecurity—a state of worry or uncertainty about one’s ability to purchase or obtain sufficient food to feed oneself and one’s family.
  • 7. Theories: Why does social inequality exist? • Functionalism—Some types of work are more valuable than others, and social inequality reflects that. (This does not explain inequalities due to race or gender or those that stem from systemic inequalities in education.) • Conflict—Some groups benefit from social inequality and therefore work to preserve it. Class inequality = class oppression. • Marx: Social inequality stems from various social groups’ relationship to production as either owners (the bourgeoise) or workers (the proletariat). “Marx believed workers experience deep alienation, isolation and misery resulting from powerless status levels” (Conerly, pg. 253). • Symbolic interactionism—Examines how social interactions reflect or reinforce social inequality. (Most people interact primarily with people of a social standing similar to theirs.)
  • 8. Who is “middle class”? What does this term mean?
  • 9. “Inequality and Opportunity: The Role of Exclusion, Social Capital, and Generic Social Processes in Upward Mobility” by Linda Burton and Whitney Welsh (2015) Los Angeles Progressive (2014)
  • 10. Inequality and Opportunity Key point: Groups with economic or racial privilege “participate in marginalizing” America’s poor (Burton and Welsh, pg. 1). Three arguments: 1. Social capital can help ease effects of social exclusion “a critical resource for disadvantaged families seeking socioeconomic mobility” 2. Social interactions “both within and between groups…also shape poverty outcomes” 3. Context matters in determining capacity of the poor to “garner and leverage social capital to attain upward socioeconomic mobility”
  • 11. What does poverty look like? What does it exist? Spatial inequality speaks to the historical reality that poverty is not evenly dispersed geographically. Simply put, some areas are poorer and some areas richer than others. This has been caused and reinforced by residential segregation which has seen the concentration of poverty in “segregated and isolated communities in inner cities, aging suburban communities, and rural small towns” (2).
  • 12. Concentration of Poverty • “Surprisingly, more of America’s poor were living in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods despite unprecedented declines in concentrated poverty during the 1990s.” This means that people who are poor are more likely to live in communities that are poor (i.e. where poverty is “concentrated” or where rates of poverty are high), a fact that limits their access to social capital that might lead to social mobility. • Big cities “have been hit especially hard by slow job growth, high unemployment, and the housing crisis” (2). • Meanwhile, “upper-income groups [have] increasingly cordoned themselves off in gated communities [and] affluent neighborhoods” (2).
  • 13. Social Exclusion (pg. 3) • “Americans are either exposed to, turn a blind eye toward, or are deeply embedded in lived experiences that involve micro social processes that exclude the poor” (3). • “Social exclusion ‘is not just a situation, but a process that excludes,’” characterized by: 1. incomplete or unequal integration of the poor into society, 2. disadvantaged access to status, benefits, and the human capital-building experiences (e.g. education) that should be rightfully afforded to human beings, 3. temporal domination (control of time) by the privileged, which creates or extends sociotemporal marginalization in the poor receiving necessary assistance (e.g. assistance for victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2005), 4. “social distance, isolation, rejection, humiliation, denial of participation, and a lack of social support networks,” which characterize relationships of those who suffer due to social exclusion. “Exclusion from social networks and other supports that lead to social capital is the Achilles’heel that prevents the poor from attaining upward socioeconomic mobility” (3).
  • 14. Social Capital and Social Mobility (pg. 4) • “Social capital refers to resources that are accessible through social interactions and extended networks of social ties.” • In other words: What value or use can be derived from your social relationships with family, friends, acquaintances, neighbors, etc.? • Social capital is often restricted by the “homophily principle” that holds that people who are similar in some way (race, ethnicity, age, gender, etc.) are more likely to interact with each other than with people with whom they share few similarities. • Think of social capital as your “connections” and the process of building social capital as “networking.”
  • 16. Bonding vs. Bridging Social Capital • Bonding social capital reinforces existing similarities between strong ties (e.g. family and close friends). • bolsters unity and strengthens dynamics of mutual support • works to maintain status quo • Bridging social capital crosses or spans gaps in the social structure to link different groups, generally through weaker, less enduring ties (e.g. acquaintances). • “offers the chance of social mobility precisely because it ‘bridges’ social divides” (4). • “In communities where unemployment is high and jobs are scarce, these weak bridging ties take on even greater significance for those pursuing upward mobility” (4). In other words, people living in poverty need bridging social capital more urgently than other groups and, simultaneously, have less access to it.
  • 17. Social Capital vs. Human Capital • Burton and Welsh write, “…social capital has a greater impact than human capital on the fortunes of the poor…However, the disadvantaged generally possess few of these valuable bridging ties, due to persistent social isolation and exclusion across multiple domains…” (4). • In other words, who you know (social capital) is often more important than what you know or what you can do (human capital). It is so difficult to move out of poverty because who you know is generally restricted by small-scale processes that serve to isolate marginalized or oppressed groups from resources and to exclude them from areas and forums where they might obtain bridging social capital (i.e. develop relationships with people that might help in efforts to secure housing, employment, education, childcare, services, public benefits, etc.).
  • 18. Human capital refers to the value and worth of one person’s experiences, abilities, skills, and knowledge. Social capital refers to the combined worth of the accessible human capital of all people in one’s social network.
  • 19. Activity: Mapping Your Social Capital • List the skills, knowledge, experience, and qualifications you bring when applying for a job, internship, graduate program, etc. This is your human capital. • Draw a map or graphic illustrating the people you are in touch with on a daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly basis (e.g. family, friends, coaches, mentors, coworkers, former employers, etc.). • Of the people you list, consider who you would feel comfortable asking for advice, some help, or a favor. Be specific in terms of what types of assistance each person might provide (e.g. a loan, a reference, information, food, childcare, etc.). • Are most of the people you listed from similar or different personal and socioeconomic backgrounds than you? In other words, are your personal or professional connections more akin to “bonding” or “bridging” social capital? • Reflect: What does your “map” suggest about the extent of your social capital? Are you “well-connected” or might forces of “social exclusion” make it more difficult for you to accomplish your professional or economic goals? How might you work to expand your social network—that is, your social capital? What does this exercise suggest about social capital more broadly?
  • 20. Q: In the years since the civil rights movement broke down legal barriers to equality, “why, then, does this social isolation and exclusion persist?” In other words, why is it still difficult for disadvantaged groups to accumulate the social capital needed for social mobility?
  • 21. A: Micro processes that promote social exclusion. 1. Relatively high levels of distrust among disadvantaged groups. • Making social connections requires trust. • People living in poverty tend to distrust institutions and other people, e.g. “welfare caseworkers, employers, childcare providers, romantic partners, and extended kin,” often due to survival mentality, negative past experiences, or general fear of authority (4). • Those with scarce resources may justifiably feel the need to preserve those resources (time, money, energy, etc.) rather than gamble on a person or institution that might let them down. • “…distrust is, in fact, a more effective strategy for getting by, although it comes at the expense of getting ahead” (5).
  • 22. 2. Emphasis on “disposable ties” • Relatively new social connections or relationships that become “close” and socially intimate fairly quickly. • “Essentially, disposable ties were intense for short periods of time but did not connect sets of people in the ways that bridging ties do” (5). 3. Occupational segregation: • Studies have shown that employers often engage in processes, practices, and relationships that stall or hinder the upward mobility of workers, esp. poor immigrant workers. • Examples: racial stereotyping; recruitment of workers perceived to be easily manageable (e.g. undocumented, non-English speaking, etc.); viewing and thinking of workers in “uncomplimentary and unequal ways” (5); exclusion and marginalization of workers because it is profitable for employers to do so.
  • 23. The Reproduction of Social Exclusion: Four Processes (pg. 6) 1. Othering 2. Subordinate adaptation 3. Boundary maintenance 4. Emotion management
  • 24. Group Exercise • Define the process of “social exclusion” assigned to your group. What does this term mean? • Give two examples. (One can be from the Burton and Welsh reading, but the other should be one the group comes up with on its own). What does this process look like in action? • Why and how might this process/practice serve to maintain social distance between those who are poor and those who are not? In other words, how does it serve to isolate those who are poor, i.e. those who might benefit most from access to greater social capital?
  • 25. Thoughts on Public Policy and Social Exclusion (pg. 11) • “[T]he U.S. experiences a consistently high prevalence of poverty, despite its global distinction as a leading developed country.” Why is this so, and how can this be addressed? • In this nation, “the discourse and interactions around the poor remain anchored in racism, class stereotypes, and elitism.” Socioeconomic inequality is not confined to matters of macroeconomics. It is also repeatedly created and reproduced on smaller scales (“micro processes”). • The authors conclude, “U.S. policymakers must pause to discern and consider what types of discourse, micro processes, and social interactions are occurring on the ground level in peoples’ everyday lives that are inhibiting a more profound reduction in poverty” (11).

Editor's Notes

  1. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/culture/2019/03/visualize-inequality-by-viewing-cities-from-above/
  2. https://marketbusinessnews.com/financial-glossary/social-capital/