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Sociology: Understanding and Changing the Social World. Chapter 6 Social Stratification. Learning Objectives. Explain the difference between open and closed societies Define the several systems of stratification Understand how Max Weber and Karl Marx differed in their view of class societies

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Sociology: Understanding and Changing the Social World


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    1. Sociology: Understanding and Changing the Social World Chapter 6Social Stratification

    2. Learning Objectives • Explain the difference between open and closed societies • Define the several systems of stratification • Understand how Max Weber and Karl Marx differed in their view of class societies • Outline the assumptions of the functionalist explanation of stratification • Outline the assumptions of the conflict theory explanation of stratification • Understand how symbolic interactionism views stratification

    3. Learning Objectives • Distinguish objective and subjective measures of social class • Outline the functionalist view of the American class structure • Outline the conflict view of the American class structure • Discuss whether the United States has much vertical social mobility • Understand trends in U.S. inequality • Explain the social distribution of U.S. poverty

    4. Learning Objectives • Distinguish the structural and individual explanations of poverty • List the major effects of poverty • Describe the most important characteristics of wealthy nations, middle-income nations, and poor nations • Describe the arguments of modernization and dependency theories • List the major effects of global stratification • Summarize the sociological understanding of poverty • List any three policies or programs to reduce poverty suggested by the sociological understanding

    5. Social Stratification • Social stratification: Rankings of people based on wealth and other resources a society values • Life chance: The degree to which people succeed in life in such areas as education, income, and health

    6. Systems of Stratification • Stratification systems vary on their degree of vertical mobility • Vertical mobility: Movement up or down through a society’s stratification system • In closed societies, there is virtually no chance of moving up or down • In open societies, there is have more vertical mobility

    7. Systems of Stratification • Several systems of stratification, from the most closed to the most open: • Slavery: The ownership of people • Estate system: A system of stratification characterized by control of land and common during feudalism • Caste system: A stratification system based on rigid placement at birth into unequal groups based on one’s parents’ status, with no chance of moving out of these groups • Class system: A system of stratification containing unequal groups but with a relatively high degree of social mobility

    8. Systems of Stratification • Classless societies: Societies with no social stratification • Some Western European nations are not classless but still have much less economic inequality than class societies like the United States

    9. Explaining Stratification • The assumptions of the functionalist explanation of stratification: • Some jobs are more important than other jobs • Some jobs require more skills and knowledge than other jobs • Relatively few people have the ability to acquire the skills and knowledge that are needed to do these important, highly skilled jobs • To induce the people with the skills and knowledge to do the important, highly skilled jobs, society must promise them higher incomes or other rewards

    10. Explaining Stratification • Some sociologists pointed out serious problems in the functionalist theory of stratification: • It is difficult to compare the importance of many types of jobs • The functionalist explanation implies that the most important jobs are paid the most money and the least important jobs the least money, but many examples counter this view • The theory implies that people move up the economic ladder based on their abilities, skills, knowledge, and their merit - This view ignores the fact that much of our stratification stems from lack of equal opportunity • It does not justify the extremes of wealth and poverty found in the United States and other nations

    11. Explaining Stratification • The conflict view • Assumption • Stratification stems from a fundamental conflict between the needs and interests of the powerful in society and those of the weak • The powerful take advantage of their position at the top of society to stay at the top, even if it means oppressing those at the bottom • They can heavily influence the law, the media, and other institutions in a way that maintains society’s class structure • In explaining stratification, conflict theory emphasizes ideology • Ideology: A set of beliefs that supports the status quo

    12. Explaining Stratification • Symbolic interactionism • Tries to understand stratification by looking at people’s interaction and understandings in their daily lives • It examines the differences that stratification makes for people’s lifestyles and their interaction with other people

    13. Social Class in the United States • Objective measure of social class - We classify people according to one or more criteria such as their occupation, education, and/or income • Subjective measure of social class - We ask people what class they think they are in • Most sociologists favor objective measures of social class when they study stratification in American society • Because, in case of subjective measure, some people say they are in a social class that differs from what objective criteria might indicate they are in

    14. Social Class in the United States • The American class structure • The upper class • The middle class • The upper-middle class • The lower-middle class • The working class • The lower class

    15. Social Class in the United States • Social mobility • Two types of vertical social mobility: • Intergenerational mobility: Vertical mobility from one generation to the next within the same family • Intragenerational mobility: Vertical mobility within a person’s own lifetime • A key vehicle for upward mobility is formal education

    16. Social Class in the United States • Does U.S. have a lot of vertical mobility or just a little? • People can and do move up the socioeconomic ladder, but their movement is fairly limited • Hardly anyone starts at the bottom at the ladder and ends up at the top • Recent trends in the U.S. economy have made it more difficult to move up the ladder and even worsened some people’s status

    17. Economic Inequality and Poverty in the United States • Economic inequality - The extent of the economic difference between the rich and the poor • When the gap between the richer and the poorer is large - Much economic inequality exists • When the gap between the richer and the poorer is small - Relatively little economic inequality exists • The United States has a very large degree of economic inequality • The degree of inequality is the largest in the industrialized world

    18. Economic Inequality and Poverty in the United States • Economic inequality in the United States has increased during the last two decades • The loss of manufacturing jobs and changes in taxation and income distribution policies since the early 1980s have favored the rich and hurt the economic standing of the middle class and the poor • After adjusting for inflation, the post-tax income of the nation’s wealthiest families grew by a much greater amount than that for the poorest families from 1979 to 2005

    19. Economic Inequality and Poverty in the United States • To measure poverty, a poverty line is needed • Poverty line: The government’s measure of official poverty, based on the cost of a minimal diet for a family multiplied by three • To understand the extent of poverty, consider episodic poverty • Episodic poverty: As defined by the Census Bureau, being poor for at least two consecutive months in some time period

    20. Economic Inequality and Poverty in the United States • Explaining poverty • Functional theory of stratification/ individual explanation • The poor have personal problems and deficiencies that are responsible for their poverty • The poor are thought to be biologically inferior (Past view) • The poor lack the ambition and motivation to work hard and to achieve (Present view) • Culture of poverty - The poor generally have beliefs and values that differ from those of the nonpoor and that doom them to continued poverty

    21. Economic Inequality and Poverty in the United States • Conflict theory of stratification/ structural explanation • U.S. poverty stems from problems in American society that lead to lack of equal opportunity, these problems include: • Racial, ethnic, gender, and age discrimination • Lack of good schooling and adequate health care • Structural changes in the American economic system

    22. Economic Inequality and Poverty in the United States • Effects of poverty • The poor are at greater risk for family and health problems • Poor children often go to run-down schools with inadequate facilities where they receive inadequate schooling • The poor are more likely to be homeless and live in dilapidated housing and unable to buy their own homes

    23. Global Stratification • Wealthy nations • The most industrialized nations • They comprise about one-fifth of the world’s population, they hold about four-fifths of the world’s entire wealth • They are the leading nations in finance and information technology • People in wealthy nations are more educated and more healthy, and they enjoy longer lives • They use up more than their fair share of the world’s natural resources • Their high level of industrialization causes them to pollute and contribute to climate change

    24. Global Stratification • Middle-income nations • They are less industrialized than wealthy nations but more industrialized than poor nations • There is much variation in income and wealth within the middle-income category • Divided into upper-middle-income nations and lower-middle-income nations

    25. Global Stratification • Poor nations • The least industrialized and most agricultural of all the world’s countries • People in live a desperate existence in the most miserable conditions possible • People suffer from AIDS and other deadly diseases, live on the edge of starvation, and lack indoor plumbing, electricity, and other modern conveniences

    26. Global Stratification • Explaining global stratification • Modernization theory: The view that global stratification results from a failure of poor nations to have the beliefs, values, and practices necessary for industrialization and rapid economic growth • Dependency theory: The view that global stratification results from colonialization and exploitation of the poorest nations by the richest ones

    27. Global Stratification • Effects of global stratification • People in the poorest nations live in the worst conditions • AIDS, malaria, starvation, and other deadly diseases are common • Many children die before reaching adolescence • Many adults die before reaching the middle age • Many people are illiterate • Rates of infant mortality are shockingly high

    28. Reducing U.S. Poverty: What Sociology Suggests • A sociological understanding of poverty emphasizes its structural basis • Poverty is rooted in social and economic problems of the larger society rather than in the lack of will power, laziness, or other moral failings of poor individuals themselves • To reduce poverty: • Adopt a national “full employment” policy for the poor involving federally-funded job training and public works programs • Increase federal aid for the working poor, including earned income credits and child care subsidies for those with children

    29. Reducing U.S. Poverty: What Sociology Suggests • Establish well-funded early-childhood intervention programs, including home visitation by trained professionals, for poor families • Improve the schools that poor children attend and the schooling they receive and expand early childhood education programs for poor children • Provide better nutrition and health services for poor families with young children • Strengthen efforts to reduce teenage pregnancies