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Economic Stratification

This is a powerpoint to accompany Introduction to Sociology:

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Economic Stratification

  1. 1. Introduction to Sociology: Stratification
  2. 2. Introduction ● Stratification refers to the hierarchical arrangement of people in a society. ● This chapter focuses on economic stratification; meaning how people are differentiated based upon their wealth (and/or power).
  3. 3. Introduction ● Just 400 Americans have the same wealth as half of all Americans combined ● Just 25 Americans have a combined income almost as great as the combined income of 2 billion of the world’s poor ● In 2007, more than 37 million U.S. citizens, or 12.5 percent of the population, were classified as poor by the Census Bureau ● In 2007, CEO’s in the fortune 500 received an average of $10.5 million, 344 times the pay of the average worker ● Four of the wealthiest people in the world come from one family, the Walton’s. They are the four children who inherited Sam Walton’s company Wal-Mart. Together, they are worth $83.6 billion ● Half of American children will reside in a household that uses food stamps at some point during childhood ● Life expectancy in Harlem is shorter than in Bangladesh.
  4. 4. Socioeconomic Status ● Contemporary sociologists often define stratification in terms of socioeconomic status (or SES). ● Three components: – Power refers to someone’s ability to get others to do his/her will, regardless of whether or not they want to. Legitimate power, power given to individuals willingly by others, is called authority. Illegitimate power, power taken by force or the threat of force, is called coercion. – Property, as used in this context, refers to the sum total of one’s possessions as well as their regular income. Property goes beyond income as a measure of social class as it reflects the accumulated wealth (e.g., homes, stocks, bonds, savings and how many children you have) in addition to one’s earning potential and accumulated debt. Property is a better overall measure of social class than income as many individuals who are considered wealthy actually have very small incomes. – Prestige refers to the reputation or esteem associated with one’s position in society. Prestige used to be associated with one's family name, but for most people in developed countries, prestige is now generally tied to one's occupation. Occupations like physicians or lawyers tend to have more prestige associated with them than occupations like bartender or janitor. An individual’s prestige is closely tied to their social class – the higher the prestige of an individual (through their occupation or maybe family name), the higher the social class.
  5. 5. Social class in America ● The upper class in America (3% of the population) is divided into upper-upper class (1% of the U.S. population), earning hundreds of millions to billions in income per year while the lower-upper class (2%) earns millions in annual income. ● The middle class (40%) is divided into upper-middle class (14%) earning $76,000 or more per year while the lower-middle class (26%) earns $46,000 to $75,000. ● The working class (30%) earns $19,000 to $45,000. The lower class (27%) is divided into working poor (13%, earning $9000 to 18,000) and underclass (14%, earning under $9000).
  6. 6. Origins of Inequality and private property ● The origins of inequality can be found in the transition from hunter/gatherer societies to horticultural/pastoralist societies. ● The concept of private taking and private property began to flourish in the late 15th century beginning in Europe and spreading around the world. ● Collective land and space, once shared by all, began to be divided up into private takings and private ownership. ● Today, the right to private property is an important value in most societies. With deregulation, privatization, and free trade, we continue to see a private taking and private ownership of entities once shared by everyone. ● The idea that there should be equality in society emerged in the 17th and 18th centuries in the writings of Hobbes and Locke.
  7. 7. The persistence of inequality ● Social reproduction theory - institutions and cultures perpetuate inequality ● Economic system – capitalism and exploitation
  8. 8. Structural-Functionalism on stratification ● The structural-functional approach to stratification asks the same question that it does of the other components of society: What function or purpose does it serve? ● The answer is that all parts of society, even poverty, contribute in some way to the larger system’s overall stability, according to this theory. ● Stratification and inequalities are inevitable and beneficial to society. ● The layers (stratification) are the inevitable sorting of unequal people.
  9. 9. Conflict Theorists on stratification ● Conflict theorists argue that stratification is dysfunctional and harmful in society. ● Stratification benefits the rich and powerful at the expense of the poor.
  10. 10. Consequences of Inequality ● What class we belong to directly relates to our individual life chances. ● The wealthy and well-educated are much more likely to be in good health, and have access to good medical care than the poor. ● The poor have shorter life expectancies and are at greater risk for chronic illnesses. ● Children born into poor families are at much greater risk of dying during their first year of life from disease, accidents, or violence. ● It is estimated that 13 percent of children under age 12 are hungry or at risk of being hungry. Among the working poor, almost 75% of the children are thought to be in this category. ● The poor are not able to provide the same educational opportunities for their children as the wealthy are. School districts in wealthy suburban areas tend to pay higher teachers’ salaries, have newer buildings, and provide sophisticated equipment. Students in central city schools and poverty stricken rural areas often attend rundown schools that lack necessary equipment and teaching materials. ● Poverty and thoughts related to poverty may take up so many cognitive resources for the poor that it actually impedes cognitive functioning, which accounts, in part, for the lower IQs measured among poor people.
  11. 11. Percentage Living on less than $2 per day
  12. 12. Development and Modernization ● Societies stay poor because they hold onto traditional attitudes and beliefs, technologies and institutions, such as traditional economic systems and forms of government. ● In contrast, in the modern world, the rise of capitalism brought modern attitudes, modern technologies such as machinery and electronics, and modern institutions which helped countries progress and have a higher standard of living. ● Modernists believe large economic growth is the key to reducing poverty in poor countries.
  13. 13. Dependency ● This theory blames colonialism and neocolonialism (continuing economic dependence on former colonial countries) for global poverty. ● Countries have developed at an uneven rate because wealthy countries have exploited poor countries in the past and today through foreign debt and transnational corporations (TNCs). ● Historically, wealthy nations have taken a great quantity of materials from poor countries such as minerals and metals necessary to make automobiles, weapons, and jewelry in wealthy countries. ● In addition, large amounts of agricultural products that can only be grown in the hot climates of the poor countries have been taken and exported and manufactured in the wealthy countries such as coffee, tea, sugar, and cocoa.
  14. 14. World Systems Theory ● This theory suggests that wealthy countries benefit from other countries and also exploit their citizens. ● How a country is integrated into the capitalist world system is the key feature in determining how economic development takes place in that country. ● The world economy is a system divided into a hierarchy of three types of countries: – Core countries (e.g., U.S., Japan, Germany) are dominant capitalist countries characterized by high levels of industrialization and urbanization. – Semiperipheral countries (e.g., South Korea, Taiwan, Mexico, Brazil, India, Nigeria, South Africa) are less developed than core nations but are more developed than peripheral nations. – Peripheral countries (e.g., most African countries and low income countries in South America) are dependent on core countries for capital, and have very little industrialization and urbanization.
  15. 15. The New International Division of Labor theory ● Production is divided into small pieces, each of which can be moved by a Transnational Corporation (TNC) to any country in the world that can provide the best deal on capital and labor. ● When moving businesses and factories to cheap labor locations, effort is not made to create better quality of living and development projects in poor countries. ● Strict laws protecting the environment and the rights of workers, which must be followed in the U.S. and Europe, do not have to be followed in many poor countries. This is attractive for a TNC so that bottom line profits can increase.