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Class and Stratification in the United States

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1 Class and Stratification in the United States
Chapter 7 Class and Stratification in the United States

2 Social Stratification
Hierarchy of social groups based on control over resources. Sociologists examine social groups that make up the hierarchy in a society to determine how inequalities persist over time.

3 Life Chances Access to resources such as food, clothing, shelter, education, and health care. Affluent people have better life chances because they have greater access to: quality education safe neighborhood nutrition and health care police protection

4 Systems of Stratification
Open system - boundaries between hierarchies may be influenced by people’s achieved statuses. Closed system - boundaries between hierarchies are rigid, people’s positions are set by ascribed status. No stratification system is completely open or closed.

5 Open and Closed Systems Differ in the Availability of …
Social Mobility Process of changing one's social class. Intergenerational Intragenerational

6 Slavery Throughout recorded history 5 societies have been slave societies: Ancient Greece Roman Empire United States Caribbean and Brazil.

7 Characteristics of Slavery in the U.S.
It was for life and was inherited. Slaves were considered property, not human beings. Slaves were denied rights. Coercion was used to keep slaves “in their place”.

8 Caste System Status is determined at birth based on parents’ ascribed characteristics. Cultural values sustain caste systems and caste systems grow weaker as societies industrialize. Vestiges of caste systems can remain for hundreds of years after they are “officially” abolished.

9 In Caste Systems … Perpetuation of class is assured because:
Persons must follow the same occupations as their parents Persons must marry within their own caste One may not have any social relations with members of other castes

10 The Class System A type of stratification based on the ownership and control of resources and on the type of work people do. Horizontal mobility occurs when people experience a gain or loss in position and/or income that does not produce a change in their place in the class structure. Vertical mobility is movement up or down the class structure is.

11 Is stratification unfair? It creates inequality.
In the U.S. we view stratification as unfair if it is based upon ascribed statuses. Why? It runs counter to our value of equal opportunity.

12 How does this come about?
U.S. culture values achievement more than inherited wealth and status, and our occupations are not directly inherited. Yet, people tend to have occupations of a status similar to that of their parents. How does this come about?

13 The influence of family on social class
As a general rule, children have occupations of a status similar to that of their parents because the family’s status and income determine children’s aspirations and opportunities.

14 Marxian Criteria for Class Structure
Ownership of the means of production. Employing others. Supervising others on the job. Being employed by someone else.

15 Marx’s View of Stratification

16 Max Weber: Wealth, Prestige, and Power
Wealth is the value of a person’s or family’s economic assets, including income, personal property, and income-producing property. Prestige is the regard with which a person or status position is regarded by others. Power is the ability of people or groups to achieve their goals despite opposition from others.

17 Socioeconomic Status (SES)
A combined measure that, in order to determine class location, attempts to classify individuals, families, or households in terms of factors such as income, occupation, and education.

18 Weberian Model of the Class Structure
Upper Class - comprised of people who own substantial income-producing assets. Upper-Middle Class - based on university degrees, authority on the job, and high income. Middle Class - a minimum of a high school diploma or a community college degree.

19 Weberian Model of the Class Structure
Working Class - semiskilled workers, in routine, mechanized jobs, and workers in pink collar occupations. Working Poor - live just above to just below the poverty line. Underclass - people who are poor, seldom employed, and caught in long-term deprivation.

20 Weber’s Multidimensional Approach to Social Stratification

21 Stratification

22 Middle Class and the American Dream
Four factors have eroded the American Dream for this class: Escalating housing prices Occupational insecurity Blocked mobility on the job Cost of living squeeze that has penalized younger workers, even when they have more education and better jobs than their parents.

23 Pink-collar Occupations
Relatively low-paying, nonmanual, semiskilled positions primarily held by women, such as day-care workers, checkout clerks, cashiers, and waitpersons.

24 Underclass Those who are poor, seldom employed, and caught in long-term deprivation that results from low levels of education and income and high rates of unemployment.

25 Median Income by State

26 Income and Wealth Income - wages, salaries, government aid, and property Wealth - value of economic assets, including income and property. Wealth can generate income.

27 Income inequality is higher in the United States than in most nations.
Why do you think this might be the case?

28 How can we measure income inequality?
One way is to look at the way income is distributed.

29 Income distribution in the United States
Richest 20% receives 50% of all income Next 20% receives 23% of all income Next 20% receives 15% of all income Next 20% receives 9% of all income Poorest 20% receives 3% of all income

30 What do we mean by income distribution
What do we mean by income distribution? Let’s say we have ten people in a room. How much income inequality do we have in the room? Person 1 income is $20,000 Person 2 income is $60,000 Person 3 income is $25,000 Person 4 income is $110,000 Person 5 income is $80,000 Person 6 income is $200,000 Person 7 income is $15,000 Person 8 income is $250,000 Person 9 income is $40,000 Person 10 income is $50,000

31 How can we measure inequality?
In addition to income, we might also look at the way wealth is distributed. The richest 20% of the U.S. population currently hold 84% of all wealth.

32 Median Household Income by Race/Ethnicity in the United States

33 Defining Poverty Sociologists distinguish between absolute and relative poverty. Absolute poverty exists when people do not have the means to secure the most basic necessities of life. Relative poverty exists when people may be able to afford basic necessities but are still unable to maintain an average standard of living.

34 % U.S. Population Without Health Insurance

35 Official Poverty Line The federal income standard that is based on what is considered to be the minimum amount of money required for living at a subsistence level. This is $19,157 for a family of four.

36 % Distribution of Poverty in the U.S.
Education All Races White African American Hispanic No diploma 21.8 15.7 34.8 26.7 High School Graduate 11.9 9.4 22.0 15.4 Some college 8.5 7.0 11.5 10.6 College degree (or more) 4.3 3.7 7.1 7.5

37 % Distribution of Poverty in the U.S.
Age All White African American Hispanic Under 18 17.8 10.5 33.6 28.9 18–24 18.1 14.5 28.1 22.6 25-44 11.2 7.8 20.2 18.4 45-64 8.8 7.0 16.8 14.4 65 and above 9.8 7.5 23.9 18.7

38 Feminization of Poverty
The trend in which women are disproportionately represented among individuals living in poverty. Women bear the major economic and emotional burdens of raising children when they are single heads of households but earn 70 and 80 cents for every dollar a male worker earns. More women than men are unable to obtain regular, full-time, employment.

39 What are the causes of poverty?
“The Culture of Poverty” : A set of values that emphasizes living for the moment, rather than thrift, investment in the future or hard work is what keeps the poor from upward social mobility. Changing labor market: De-industrialization. “If there are no good jobs available, then we don’t need to psychoanalyze people to figure out why they are poor.” Job Deskilling: A reduction in the proficiency needed to perform a specific job that leads to a corresponding reduction in the wages for that job.

40 Functionalist Perspective: Davis-Moore Thesis
Societies have tasks that must be accomplished and positions that must be filled. Some positions are more important for the survival of society than others. The most important positions must be filled by the most qualified people.

41 Functionalist Perspective: Davis-Moore Thesis
The positions that are the most important for society and that require scarce talent, extensive training, or both must be the most highly rewarded. The most highly rewarded positions should be those that are functionally unique (no other position can perform the same function) and on which other positions rely for expertise, direction, or financing.

42 Meritocracy A hierarchy in which all positions are rewarded based on people’s ability and credentials.

43 Conflict Theory’s Response?
Can we really rank positions in terms of their value to society? Even if we could, do the rewards attached to positions really reflect their “value to society”? Is there a scarcity of talent?

44 What are symbolic interactionists interested in with respect to inequality?
How are inequality and unequal status symbolically communicated in interactions between people? The use of “deference” Judith Rollins’ study, page 221

45 Sociological Explanations of Social Inequality in the U.S.
Functionalist Some social inequality is necessary for the smooth functioning of society and thus is inevitable. Conflict Powerful individuals and groups use ideology to maintain their favored positions in society at the expense of others. Wealth is not necessary in order to motivate people. Symbolic interactionist The beliefs and actions of people reflect their class location in society.

46 U.S. Stratification in the Future
Many social scientists believe that trends point to an increase in social inequality in the U.S.: The purchasing power of the dollar has stagnated or declined since the early 1970s. Wealth continues to become more concentrated at the top of the U.S. class structure. Federal tax laws in recent years have benefited corporations and wealthy families at the expense of middle and lower-income families.

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