Economic Inequality in the United States Social stratification: –the system by which society ranks categories of people in a hierarchy Stratification produces social classes –categories of people who have similar access to resources and opportunities
The Rich and the Poor: A Social Profile “The rich”: those families who fall within the top 10 percent of income distribution. The “poverty line”: the level of annual income below which a person or family is defined as poor and thus entitled to government assistance The “poverty gap”: the difference between the official poverty line and the actual income of the typical poor household
The Extent of Poverty Profile of the U.S. poor –Age: at greatest risk are children –Race: African Americans and Hispanics –Gender: women –Family Patterns: single mothers –Region: the South and the West
Social Problems Linked to Poverty Poor health –The link between poverty and health is evident from birth to old age –The infant mortality among the poor is twice the national average and among the poorest, four times the national –Death comes earlier to the poor, who are more likely to die from infectious diseases and violence at any age
Social Problems Linked to Poverty Substandard housing –About 500,000 people are homeless in the U.S. on a given night –Up to 2 million people are homeless at some point during the year –Low income coupled with a decrease in available low-income housing leads to homelessness
Social Problems Linked to Poverty Limited schooling –Poor children are less likely than rich children to complete high school –fewer poor children enter college and have less of a chance of completing an advanced degree Uncertain work and the working poor
Social Problems Linked to Poverty Crime and Punishment –Due to the focus on street crime, the poor are more likely to face arrest, trial, conviction, and prison –The poor depend more on public defenders and court-appointed attorneys, most of whom are underpaid and overworked
Responding to Poverty: The Welfare System Social welfare program:an organized effort by government, private organizations, or individuals to assist needy people defined as worthy of assistance
Responding to Poverty: The Welfare System Large government-run welfare programs have three characteristics : –they direct money to specific categories of people; –they benefit many people (e.g., the elderly, veterans, students, and farmers); and –they do not significantly change income inequality
Welfare Today Changes in the welfare system began to occur when President Clinton pledged in 1992 to “end welfare as we know it.” The result was the Welfare Reform Act of 1996 The public remains divided over whether people deserve help
Welfare Reform Act of 1996 New rules require able-bodied people receiving benefits to find a job or enroll for job retraining within two years.
Politics and Poverty: Constructing Problems and Defining Solutions Conservatives: Personal Responsibility –focus on personal responsibility, stressing the importance of self-reliance Liberals: Societal Responsibility – view poverty as more structural than it is individual; thus they look for societal solutions
Politics and Poverty: Constructing Problems and Defining Solutions Radicals: Change the System –poverty is inherent in capitalist society, –they dismiss social welfare programs and tax plans advocated by liberals as little more than a Band-Aid applied to the body of a person with an incurable disease
How do students derive status from the products they buy and the clothes they wear?