Contemporary Sociology: Social Class Agenda Objective: • To understand how social class is defined. • To understand and debate the existence of social mobility in the United States. • To understand the concept of social reproduction. • To explore the shape and consequences of class inequality. Schedule: • Lecture & Discussion • Film: Nursery University Homework: Social Class Critical Thinking paper Due: Mon 3/19 Midterm Fri 3/30
Social Class • This week, we will work on understanding some core ideas in the study of social class: • Defining Social Class • Understanding Social Mobility & Social Reproduction • Inequality • Poverty • We will apply our understanding of these ideas through an examination of the documentary Nursery University
What is Social Class? • How do you define it?
What is Social Class? • Social Class refers to a large group of individuals who share similar positions in four dimensions of economic life: • A Different Kind of Class Rank: • http://www.nytimes.com/packages/html/national/20050515_CLASS_GRAPHIC/index_01.html
What is Social Class? • How correlated do you think these dimensions of class are? • Correlation Between Education and Income: • http://www.nytimes.com/packages/html/national/20050515_CLASS_GRAPHIC/index_01.html
Social Class = Power & Prestige Top Ten Wealthiest U.S. Senators (2008)
What is Social Class? • To the extent that the higher one’s position in occupational, educational, income, and wealth give people greater access to power and prestige, we might modify our definition… • Social Class = A large group of individuals who share similar occupational, educational, income, and wealth positions and thus who share similar amounts of power and prestige.
Is There Social Mobility in the United States? • How many people agree with the following statements: • America is the land of opportunity where everyone who works hard can get ahead. • People from poor or working-class backgrounds have an average or better than average change of getting ahead in America.
Is There Social Mobility in the United States? • America is the land of opportunity where everyone who works hard can get ahead • 70% of Americans agree • People from poor or working-class backgrounds have an average or better than average change of getting ahead in America • 80-90% of Americans agree
Statistics on Social Class Mobility • http://www.nytimes.com/packages/html/national/20050515_CLASS_GRAPHIC/index_03.html • What trends do you notice? • How does this support or challenge your prior thinking?
Social Class Reproduction • These trends are evidence of a phenomenon sociologists call social class reproduction. • What is social class reproduction?
For sociologists, the question is: How do we explain why social reproduction is occurring?What are your thoughts? (Think about both culture and structure)
Cultural Capital What do we mean when we talk about capital? Habitus Each class has its own cultural background, knowledge, dispositions, and tastes that are transmitted through the family (Bourdieu 1984) Cultural capital The habitus valued socially or culturally (by society as a whole? By those in power?) that can be transformed into status, power, or economic capital Habitus as social/cultural currency”
Cultural Capital and Social Class Reproduction Argument: The cultural capital/habitus of the dominant group in society (holding the most power and wealth) becomes the knowledge that is most valued in schools To possess that cultural capital means one is considered educated or smart or talented (i.e., having merit)
Cultural Capital and Social Class Reproduction Mechanism: While schools look like they are neutral in evaluating students, but because the knowledge and dispositions they value correspond to the cultural capital of the dominant group, students from that class perform better in schools. Formal Curriculum Hidden Curriculum Null Curriculum Schools therefore legitimate social reproduction.
Formal Curriculum • The explicitly stated goals and objectives of education. • Political act, even if not stated as such. • What gets taught as “knowledge” is the cultural capital held by the upper-class: • Jazz Band (Rock Band? Country Band?) • French (Scandal over Ebonics) • Assignments that Require the Use of Technology (Denies As to students who lack technology, regardless of intelligence)
Hidden curriculum • Unintended lessons taught in schools • Examples: • How to behave in class • Rules of conduct • Classroom organization • Brown nosing • Being polite
Null curriculum • The curriculum that does not exist; Did not make the cut • We teach things by excluding them from the curriculum—by not teaching them.
Cultural Capital and Social Class Reproduction Good Academic Performance Cultural Capital Economic Capital High Educational Credentials
Check out these other statistics: • 74% of students attending “most competitive” colleges come from families in the top quartile, 3% come from families in the bottom quartile • The income gap in achievement is twice as large as the racial gap in achievement!
The Reproduction of Privilege • NY Times Article • Check out these statistics: • 74% of students attending “most competitive” colleges come from families in the top quartile, 3% come from families in the bottom quartile • The income gap in achievement is twice as large as the racial gap in achievement.
How Much Social Class Inequality is there in the United States • The richest 20% of Americans control what percentage of our nation’s wealth?
How Much Social Class Inequality is there in the United States • The richest 20% of Americans control what percentage of our nation’s wealth? • Answer 84% • Though when surveyed, most Americans believe it is 59%
1960 40x More Avg. Employee CEO
2000 431x More Avg. Employee CEO
Social Class Influences Every Part of An Individual’s Life!What food they eat, where they shop, clothes they wear, schools they attend, income they earn, how long (and quality of life) they live, occupation.
What is Poverty • Government definition of “poverty” • Lack of minimum food and shelter necessary for maintaining life. • Poverty Line • Government calculation of the amount of yearly income a family needs to meet its minimum needs. • “Official Figure” • Family of Four: $22,050/year • Calculation: • Poor people spend about 1/3 of their income on food • The government figures out a low cost food budget and multiples it by 3 • Those below the line are considered impoverished • Poverty rate • Percentage of US residents whose income falls below the poverty line
Nursery University Look For: “Definition” of Social Class Social Mobility / Social Class Reproduction Inequality