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Social Class: The Structure of Inequality

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Presentation on theme: "Social Class: The Structure of Inequality"— Presentation transcript:

1 Social Class: The Structure of Inequality
Chapter 8

2 Social Inequality The unequal distribution of: Wealth Power Prestige
Due to meritocracy or social stratification

3 Social Stratification
Social hierarchy Division of society into groups Upper Middle Lower Social stratification is a characteristic of society; it persists over generations, and it is maintained through beliefs that are widely shared by members of society. In a stratified society, groups at the top of the hierarchy have greater access to goods and services in a society than members of groups at the bottom.

4 Social Stratification
Criteria for Stratification: Race Class Gender Age Whatever is socially important.

5 4 Principles of Social Stratification
Characteristic of society Persists over generations All societies stratify their members Maintained through beliefs (ideology) Divine right of kings White man’s burden Work hard and you will achieve

6 3 Major Systems of Stratification
1. Slavery 2. Caste system 3. Social class

7 Social Stratification

8 1. Slavery Most extreme form of stratification People are property
Can be bought and sold Provide labor

9 2. Caste system: Status determined by heredity (birth) Religious
Economic Political Physical characteristics Cannot be changed Apartheid in South Africa ( ) India is the country most closely associated with the caste system. Another example of a caste system was the apartheid system, the system of segregation of racial and ethnic groups that was legal in South Africa between 1948 and 1991.

10 Apartheid Colour Classification
4 official groups: Black White Indian Coloured

11 Caste System: India

12 3. Social Class
System based on access to resources: Wealth Property Power Prestige Sociologists refer to it as socioeconomic status (or SES).

13 Social Class

14 Social Classes in the U.S.
Upper class: Wealthiest people in U.S. About 1% of the U.S. population Most of the wealth of the country How the very rich live Playhouses

15 Top 10 of Forbes 400 Wealthiest in 2012

16 Professionals and Managers
Upper-middle class Professionals and Managers Executives Managers Well-educated College or postgraduate degrees 14% of the U.S. population Interestingly, most Americans would call themselves middle class, whether they make $25,000 per year or $250,000 per year. Middle class seems to be a social norm that people want to identify with even when they really are not part of that class.

17 Upper Middle Class

18 Middle class “White collar” workers Broad range of incomes
About 30% of U.S. population

19 Middle Class

20 Working (lower-middle) Class
“Blue-collar” or service industry workers Less likely to have college degrees 30% of the U.S. population

21 Working Class

22 Typically have lower levels of literacy 20% of U.S. population
The Lower Class “Working poor” Unemployed Typically have lower levels of literacy 20% of U.S. population

Social institution: Organizes society’s Production, Distribution, and Consumption of goods and services

24 Goods: Commodities (products) Services: Activities that benefit people
THE ECONOMY Goods: Commodities (products) Services: Activities that benefit people

25 Economy: Basic Issues Production: Which goods and services
Consumer goods: Food Shelter Clothing Producer goods: Resources to create goods Cotton Steel Water

26 Services Educational Communication Transportation Health

27 Distribution Transportation Packaging Storage Advertising

28 Consumption Income Price
Purchase and Use of goods & services by households Major determinants Consumption Income Price

29 C0nsumption HENRY FORD: It is customers, not employers, who really pay workers’ wages; employers merely look after the cash. Economies do best when workers can afford to buy the goods that they make.

30 Consumer Spending We are all consumers Drives 70% of the U.S. economy
Things we buy every week: Groceries, gasoline, clothing Create the demand that keeps companies making products


32 Two General Economic Models
Capitalism Socialism No nation completely one or the other

33 Economic Systems Capitalism Socialism
Private ownership of means of production Production based on profit Competition Self-interest Limited government influence Public ownership of the means of production Production based on human needs Equality of all people Democracy Common good

34 U.S. considered a Capitalist system
Most businesses are privately owned Government: Large role in the economy Public Ownership: Schools Highways Parks Museums

35 Sets minimum wage levels Workplace safety standards
U.S. Government Sets minimum wage levels Workplace safety standards Provides farm price supports Negotiates trade policies

36 Theories of Social Class: Conflict Theory
Karl Marx: Two main social classes in capitalist societies: Capitalists (or bourgeoisie) Own the means of production Workers (or proletariat) Sell their labor for wages Remember, Marx was a conflict theorist, so he was interested in the conflict between these two classes. He believed that eventually the workers would revolt against the capitalists because of the oppression they felt.

37 Theories of Social Class: Conflict
Max Weber: Social Class has 3 components: Class (Wealth: money, investments) Status (Prestige) Party (Power) Sometimes this is referred to as “The 3-Ps” or the “Three Pronged Image of Power.” Wealth might be considered money and investments (earned or inherited), power is political power or ability to make changes in the system, and prestige is the social honor people are given because of their membership in well-regarded social groups. Sometimes a person may have one of these but not the others, but often the most powerful or successful people have all three.

38 Social Prestige of Selected Occupations in U.S.

39 Social Prestige of Selected Occupations in U.S.
White Collar Score Blue Collar White Collar Score Blue Collar

40 Symbolic Interactionist Perspective
Erving Goffman: Social class indicated by: Clothing Speech Gestures Possessions Friends Activities You might notice that you wear similar brands of clothing or eat at similar restaurants as your friends. You’ll also notice that there are other people that wear or eat things that are very different from you. These preferences might say something about the class that you belong to or associate with.

41 Structural Functionalism
Motivates people to achieve Allocates people into jobs Poor provide jobs for others Social service

42 Theory in Everyday Life
The Real World: An Introduction to Sociology, 2nd Edition Copyright © W.W. Norton & Company

43 Socioeconomic Status and Life Chances
Consequences of belonging to a certain social class: Education Employment Medical care (health) Think about which people in society tend to have greater access to these resources. Not everyone has an equal chance of getting into Harvard, or being operated on by the best surgeon, or even becoming the President of the United States, despite what children are told in school. People also tend to marry someone whose social and cultural backgrounds are similar to their own, mainly because they are more likely to encounter people like themselves.

44 Social Mobility Social mobility: Movement within the hierarchal system of social classes Move up or move down Closed system little opportunity to move from one class to another Open system opportunities to move from one class to another How to marry rich America technically has an open system (it is legal and permissible for people to move between classes) but we notice structural patterns where people tend to stay very close to the class they were raised in. If we have an open system, why do we see a lack of opportunities to move between classes?

45 Social Mobility Intergenerational mobility Intragenerational mobility
Movement between social classes From one generation to the next Intragenerational mobility Over an individual’s lifetime An example of intergenerational mobility would be a plumber who has a daughter that becomes a doctor. There was class movement between generations. An example of intragenerational mobility would be a man who is a secretary, but then goes back to school to become a lawyer. The mobility in that situation would be within his own lifetime and would likely change his social class.

46 Social Mobility

47 Social Mobility

48 Social Mobility Horizontal social mobility Vertical social mobility
Occupational movement within a social class Vertical social mobility Upward or Downward movement Horizontal social mobility, which is fairly common, refers to the changing of jobs within a class: a therapist who shifts careers so that he can teach college experiences horizontal mobility. Vertical social mobility is movement up or down the social ladder, and thus is often called upward or downward mobility. If this same therapist marries a president of a large corporation, he might experience upward mobility. On the other hand, if he or his wife gets laid off, he might experience downward mobility. People are far more likely to experience horizontal than vertical social mobility. However, most Americans strive for upward social mobility.

49 Social Mobility Structural mobility: Changes in social status due to structural changes in society Example: Creating new kinds of jobs Industrialization—Improved social status Increases in education New technology Computers During periods of economic recession, we may see downward social mobility for many people at once due to layoffs and company closures.

50 Defining Poverty For a family of 4, official poverty line was an annual income of $23,050 2012: 46.2 million people in poverty 15% of the population poverty Residential segregation, political disenfranchisement, and the use of law enforcement to control the homeless can make poverty invisible to many Americans.

51 2012 Poverty Guidelines

52 Computing Poverty Status
Income before tax deductions Excludes: Capital gains Accumulated wealth Home ownership

53 Poverty

54 Older Adults and Poverty
Social Security lifted roughly 14.5 million seniors above the poverty line. Without SS, the number of people ages 65+ in poverty would have increased five-fold


56 Income inequality widening
Top 1 % of wage earners had a 6 % increase in income over last year Income at the bottom 40% basically unchanged


58 Income Inequality: Solution
1. How do sociologists understand poverty? 2. Is inequality a problem? 3. Is poverty a problem? 4. Can we reduce poverty?

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