Chapter 8 Stratification, Class and Inequality
Systems of Stratification • Slavery-certain people are owned by others as property. Treatment and conditions varied throughout time, but severe inequality. • Caste system-one’s social status is for life. All individuals must remain at certain social level. Caste systems have been found throughout history but probably best known in modern times in India.
Systems con’t • Class is system of stratification in today’s industrialized societies like U.S. • A large group of people who occupy a similar economic position in society. • “Life chances” described by Max Weber are opportunities one has for achieving prosperity.
Characteristics of systems • Rankings apply to people who share things in common without interacting with each other. • People’s experiences and opportunities depend on how their social category is ranked. • Ranks of social categories change very slowly over time.
Class • Class systems are fluid. • Class positions are somewhat achieved. There is some chance of mobility. • Class is economically based. • Class systems are large scale and impersonal. • The social class one is born into has a large impact on where one ends up. • In mature capitalistic societies, there is movement between classes. • Inequality has been increasing in U.S.
Class Differences • Income-refers to wages earned and money from investments. The majority of working people in Western countries have had significant increases in real income over last hundred years. • This is result of increasing productivity with technology. • Income distribution is very unequal.
Wealth refers to all assets someone owns. • Assets are cash, savings, investments, real estate and other property, commonly referred to as net worth. Wealthy people often get most of their income from investments. • Wealth is real indicator of social class. Wealth in U.S. is very concentrated. Income, age and education contribute to this. • People with higher levels of education tend to have higher net worth. People who own their own homes tend to have higher net worth.
Wealth is often passed on to next generation. • Whites have much more wealth than Hispanics or blacks. • Home ownership has been primary means of accumulating wealth for most Americans. • Many Americans have high levels of debt, meaning they owe more than they own. • Even poorest Americans are better off than 2/3 of world population.
Education • Education, as measured by years of school completed, is part of social stratification. • Education is one of strongest predictors of occupation, income and wealth. • How much education one receives is influenced by parents’ social class. • Certain occupations add to one’s social standing. Doctors tend to be highly ranked in many countries.
Cultural factors • Lifestyle choices such as dress, leisure, travel contribute to class indicators today. • Consumption patterns of both goods and services have greatly increased. For example, people who purchase many personal services may be seen as being of a certain social class.
Class Structure in U.S. • Upper Class-very wealthiest, about 5% of U.S. population. They are likely to own more than 1 home, educate their children privately, have servants, travel. Most of their wealth comes from investments. They are politically influential. • Globalization and information revolution have added to super rich.
Upper Middle Class high income professionals, managers, business owners. Incomes range from about $100,000 to $200,000. • about 15% of American households • College degree or higher • Own home • Some savings and investments
Lower Middle Class • Teachers, nurses, gov’t, skilled services. May be high status but less income. Income from $40,000 to $100,000. • Some college degree, want children to finish college • May own home or rent • About 40% of American households
Working Class • Blue-collar and pink-collar, earning between $20,000-$40,000. Work to make ends meet. • About 20% of American households • Older people may own small homes, but most rent • Ethnically and racially diverse • Children unlikely to go to college • Concern about job losses
Lower Class • About 15%, work part-time or not at all, employment not stable • Household income below $20,000 • Many live in poverty • Higher % is non-white compared to other social classes
“Underclass” • Lack access to world of work • Live in high-poverty areas of inner cities • Often trapped for more than one generation • Unskilled, unemployed men, Young single mothers and their children, homeless • Large increase in last 25 years • Hurt by globalization, recession and less gov’t assistance • Some believe very poor have different culture from mainstream America
Growing Gap between Rich and Poor • Rich have gotten much richer • Middle class incomes have stagnated • More poor people and they are poorer • Huge pay gap between corporate executives and their workers • Substantial differences in income based on race and ethnicity. • “Wealth gap” is even greater. • Single parent families are likely to have low incomes.
Social Mobility • Movement between different class position due to changes in occupation, wealth or income. • Intragenerational mobility-how far one moves up or down during life • Intergenerational mobility-mobility across generations • Industrial hypothesis-society becomes more open to mobility with technological advances • Key factor in movement seems to be educational attainment • Family background affects child’s educational attainment • Downward mobility is common among divorced women with children.
Poverty • Absolute poverty-not enough to eat • Relative poverty-measure of inequality. Being poor compared with standards of living of majority. • U.S. gov’t calculates poverty line. Some poor receive non-cash benefits like food stamps • U.S. poverty rate higher than other industrialized nations. • Many Americans see poor as lacking effort to get ahead. • Many Americans are working poor-non-white and immigrants • Poverty rates are much higher for minority groups. • Feminization of poverty-increase in proportion of poor who are women. Also high child poverty rates.
Explaining Poverty • Theories that say poor are responsible for own poverty, they are inadequate or less capable. • Culture of poverty-larger social and cultural environment where poor children are socialized, no examples of possible changes so low aspirations. • Dependency culture-growth of welfare programs created sub-culture with no incentive to work or have ambition.
Explaining Poverty • Theories that say poverty is produced and reproduced by structural forces in society. • Lack of ambition is consequence of limited opportunity. Factors like race, class, gender, occupation, education, etc. create structure whereby it is difficult to move out of poverty. • Social welfare programs can both help and hinder.
Social Exclusion • New sources of inequality-ways in which some are cut off from wider society. • Housing and neighborhoods exclude certain people who are low income. Poor neighborhoods may have few services or be isolated. • Strong links between crime and social exclusion. Shifts in labor markets , unstable families. • Rural exclusion may be influenced by no access to transportation.
Theories of Stratification • Karl Marx-class in relation to means of production. Working class or capitalists. Surplus value is profit. He predicted gap between some group with wealth and poverty of masses. • Marx did not predict material success of many working people.
Theories con’t • Max Weber-class divisions due to skills and qualifications • Status—differences between groups in prestige they get from others • Functional theory-stratification benefits society. Most qualified people are rewarded. • Erik Wright—contradictory class locations. Relationship to authority and skill level