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Inequality, Stratification and Ethnicity

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1 Inequality, Stratification and Ethnicity

2 Sociologists make a distinction between ethnicity and race There is no scientific or genetic basis to ideas of ‘race’ with the differences between groups of humans being tiny Ideas of ‘race’ were largely discredited in the early 20 th century with pseudo scientific notions such as Social Darwinism being used to justify horrendous racial intolerance in places such as Nazi Germany. Instead sociologists prefer the concept of ethnicity which places emphasis on culture (shared norms and values) rather than on spurious biological differences. Ethnicity is therefore something which is socially constructed.

3 There are still difficulties in using the concept of ethnicity Many often used ‘ethnic groups’ are huge and subdivided into very different sub groups e.g. Asian covers an enormous range of different cultural experiences. People within ethnic categories may experience elements of culture which produce conflicting categories e.g. Serbs and Croats share a territory and a language but have different languages.

4 Strat/Diff and Ethnicity According to the Policy Studies Institute ethnic minorities do less well in employment than whites although the gap is diminishing. The pattern however is mixed Bangladeshis and Pakistanis do least well whereas Chinese and African Asians do most well Only a very small percentage of Afro Caribbeans hold professional jobs Ethnic minorities are most likely to live in inner city disadvantaged areas and are less likely to own their own properties though this gap has decreased significantly The issue is also crossed by gender – ethnic minority women tend to earn more than white women whilst ethnic minority men earn less than white men

5 You can draw on examples of inequality by ethnic group synoptically from the other units you have studies Education – Black Caribbean boys are the most likely group to be excluded from school whereas Chinese and Indian the least. Black Caribbean boys are the lowest achievers whereas Chinese and Indian the highest achievers Health – Pakistani and Bangladeshi people report the highest levels of ill health whereas Chinese and Indian people the lowest. Bangladeshi men are far more likely to smoke than other groups Crime – ethnic minorities are far more likely to be victims of crime, arrested or imprisoned than the majority population

6 Some sociologists emphasise structural factors in explaining ethnic disadvantage. Functionalists like Sheila Patterson ‘Dark Strangers’(1965) suggest that existing disadvantage will gradually ‘melt away’ as a mutual adjustment process between the immigrant and the host communities kicks in and the meritocratic principles of society start to take effect. Patterson says racism and disadvantage are therefore temporary phenomenon whilst the mutual adjustment process takes place. Eventually and inevitably the hosts accept the immigrants as permanent members of the community and the immigrants are assimilated. Functionalists cite as evidence the successful assimilation of older minority groups in the UK and USA but have been criticised for assuming that assimilation is somehow inevitable and ignoring the powerful obstacles of racism and class conflict.

7 Marxists suggest that capitalism benefits from keeping the working class divided. Castles and Kosack (1973) ‘Immigrant Workers and the Class struggle in Western Europe’ say that capitalism benefits from having a working class divided by racial tension. Political class consciousness for the working class remains impossible so long as such divisions remain. The power of the working class is thus diminished for so long as certain ethnic groups regard themselves as superior to others. A divided working class is easier to rule. Ethnic division also creates a reserve army of relatively cheap ethnic minority labour. Capitalism therefore encourages ethnic division and disadvantage.

8 Weberians Weberians like John Rex ‘Race Relations in sociological theory ‘ 1970 claim that ethnic minorities are themselves structurally distinct from the rest of the working class in that they occupy the position of ‘underclass’ both beneath and alienated (cut off from) the rest of the working class. Due to this position ethnic minorities have low status and much worse life chances than other workers

9 New Right sociologists use cultural explanations of ethnic disadvantage Charles Murray suggests that it is the distinct sub culture of some ethnic minorities which causes their disadvantage. Such sub culture is characterised as being one that leads to dependency on State benefits and ultimately leads to poverty because within it is a fundamental unwillingness to work, a tendency to value criminal activity and a preponderance of single parent families frequently headed by the mother. Murray recognises there is an underclass but argues that it is created by the beliefs and behaviour patterns of the members of that underclass – in other words their disadvantage is their own fault.

10 Criticisms of New Right New Right ideas have been challenged by sociologists who argue that is ‘blaming the victim’ they are ignoring both the damaging influence of racism and the structural causes of poverty in explaining inequality.

11 Rally Coach 1.Why do sociologists use the term ethnicity and not race? 2.List the ways in which there can be said to be differences in life chances between different ethnic groups. 3.Briefly outline three different structural explanations for ethnic disadvantage. 4.Outline New Right explanations for ethnic disadvantage and give two criticisms of them

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