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PM Page 09656_07_ch7_p192_225.qxd 11/17/06 2:30 192 CHAPTER 7 Class and Stratification in the United States What Is Social Stratification? Systems of Stratification Slavery The Caste System The Class System Classical Perspectives on Social Class Karl Marx: Relationship to the Means of Production Max Weber: Wealth, Prestige, and Power Contemporary Sociological Models of the U.S. Class Structure The Weberian Model of the U.S. Class Structure The Marxian Model of the U.S. Class Structure Inequality in the United States Distribution of Income and Wealth Consequences of Inequality Poverty in the United States Who Are the Poor? Economic and Structural Sources of Poverty Solving the Poverty Problem Sociological Explanations of Social Inequality in the United States Functionalist Perspectives Conflict Perspectives Symbolic Interactionist Perspectives U.S. Stratification in the Future e treat them in hospitals every day. They are young brothers, often drug dealers, gang members, or small-time criminals, who show up shot, stabbed, or beaten after a hustle gone bad. To some of our medical colleagues, they are just nameless thugs, perpetuating crime and death in neighborhoods that have seen far too much of these things. But when we look into their faces, we see ourselves as teenagers, we see our friends, we see what we easily could have become as young adults. And we're reminded of the thin line that separates us-- three twenty-nine-year-old doctors (an emergencyroom physician, an internist, and a dentist)--from those patients whose lives are filled with danger and desperation. We grew up in poor, broken homes in New Jersey neighborhoods riddled with crime, drugs, and death, and came of age in the 1980s at the height of a crack epidemic that ravaged communities like ours throughout the nation. . . . Two of us landed in juvenile-detention centers before our eighteenth birthdays. But inspired early by caring and imaginative role models, one of us in childhood latched on to a dream of becoming a W This icon signals when ThomsonNOW has important resources available for you to use in conjunction with the text. See the foldout at the front of this text for information on how to access ThomsonNOW. 09656_07_ch7_p192_225.qxd 11/17/06 2:30 PM Page 193 dentist, steered clear of trouble, and in his senior year of high school persuaded his two best friends to apply to a college program for minority students interested in becoming doctors. We knew we'd never survive if we went after it alone. And so we made a pact: we'd help one another through, no matter what. --Drs. Sampson Davis, George Jenkins, and Rameck Hunt (2003: 12), describing their path from the streets of Newark to being named among the forty most influential African Americans by Essence magazine and thus, in the eyes of many people, achieving the American Dream T he remarkable success of Sampson Davis, George Jenkins, and Rameck Hunt as they stuck together and worked diligently to get out of graffiti-covered New Jersey publichousing projects and to ultimately complete their education in medical and dental schools might be described as a contemporary version of the American Dream. What is the American Dream? Simply stated, the American Dream is the belief that if people work hard and play by the rules, they will have a chance to get ahead (see Hochschild, 1995). Moreover, each generation will be able to have a higher standard of living than that of its parents (Danziger and Gottschalk, 1995). The American Dream is based on the assumption that people in the United States have equality of opportunity regardless of their race, creed, color, national origin, gender, or religion. For middle- and upper-income people, the American Dream typically means that each subsequent generation will be able to acquire more material possessions and wealth than people in the preceding generations. To some people, achieving the American Dream means having a secure job, owning a home, and getting a good education for their children. To others, it is the promise that anyone may rise from poverty to wealth (from "rags to riches") if he or she works hard enough. In this chapter, we examine systems of social stratification, particularly the U.S. class structure, to see how people's opportunities are affected by their position in that structure. However, before we explore class and stratification, test your knowledge of wealth, poverty, and the American Dream by taking the quiz in Box 7.1. Anthony Barboza 09656_07_ch7_p192_225.qxd 11/17/06 2:30 PM Page 194 "Now, I say to you today my friends, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal." (Martin Luther King, Jr.) A record $45 trillion will move from one generation to another over the next 55 years. That adds up to $7,000 for every person on Earth. About one-third of the money will go to baby boomers, while the rest will flow mainly to their children. (Fortune) What Is Social Stratification? Social stratification is the hierarchical arrangement of large social groups based on their control over basic resources (Feagin and Feagin, 2003). Stratification involves patterns of structural inequality that are associated with membership in each of these groups, as well as the ideologies that support inequality. Sociologists examine the social groups that make up the hierarchy in a society and seek to determine how inequalities are structured and persist over time. men. From society to society, people are treated differently as a result of their religion, race/ethnicity, appearance, physical strength, disabilities, or other distinguishing characteristics. All of these differentiations result in inequality. However, systems of stratification are also linked to the specific economic and social structure of a society and to a nation's position in the system of global stratification, which is so significant for understanding social inequality that we will devote the next chapter to this topic (Chapter 8). Systems of Stratification Learn more about social stratification by going through the Social Stratification in the United States Data Experiment. Max Weber's term life chances refers to the extent to which individuals have access to important societal resources such as food, clothing, shelter, education, and health care. According to sociologists, more-affluent people typically have better life chances than the less-affluent because they have greater access to quality education, safe neighborhoods, high-quality nutrition and health care, police and private security protection, and an extensive array of other goods and services. In contrast, persons with low- and povertylevel incomes tend to have limited access to these resources. Resources are anything valued in a society, ranging from money and property to medical care and education; they are considered to be scarce because of their unequal distribution among social categories. If we think about the valued resources available in the United States, for example, the differences in life chances are readily apparent. As one analyst suggested, "Poverty narrows and closes life chances. The victims of poverty experience a kind of arteriosclerosis of opportunity. Being poor not only means economic insecurity, it also wreaks havoc on one's mental and physical health" (Ropers, 1991: 25). Our life chances are intertwined with our class, race, gender, and age. All societies distinguish among people by age. Young children typically have less authority and responsibility than older persons. Older persons, especially those without wealth or power, may find themselves at the bottom of the social hierarchy. Similarly, all societies differentiate between females and males: Women are often treated as subordinate to Class and Stratification in the United States Around the globe, one of the most important characteristics of systems of stratification is their degree of flexibility. Sociologists distinguish among such systems based on the extent to which they are open or closed. In an open system, the boundaries between levels in the hierarchies are more flexible and may be influenced (positively or negatively) by people's achieved statuses. Open systems are assumed to have some degree of social mobility. Social mobility is the movement of individuals or groups from one level in a stratification system to another (Rothman, 2001). This movement can be either upward or downward. Intergenerational mobility is the social movement experienced by family members from one generation to the next. For example, Sarah's father is a carpenter who makes good wages in good economic times but is often unemployed when the construction industry slows to a standstill. Sarah becomes a neurologist, earning $350,000 a year, and moves from the working class to the upper-middle class. Between her father's generation and her own, Sarah has experienced upward social mobility. Learn more about social mobility by going through the Effects of Social Mobility: A Personal Journey Video Exercise. By contrast, intragenerational mobility is the social movement of individuals within their own lifetime. Consider, for example, RaShandra, who began her career as a high-tech factory worker and through increased experience and taking specialized courses in her field became an entrepreneur, starting her own highly successful "" business. RaShandra's ad- 194 Chapter 7 09656_07_ch7_p192_225.qxd 11/17/06 2:30 PM Page 195 Active Learning: Ask students to work on the "Sociology in Everyday Life" quiz on their own and then compare their answers in groups of two or three. Go over the correct answers on p. 196, and talk about those that were most frequently missed. Use these to guide your lectures and presentations during the rest of the chapter. "The blunting effects of slavery upon the slaveholder's moral perceptions are known and conceded the world over; and a privileged class, an aristocracy, is but a band of slaveholders under another name." (Mark Twain) BOX 7.1 Sociology and Everyday Life How Much Do You Know About Wealth, Poverty, and the American Dream? True T T T T T T T T False F F F F F F F F 1. People no longer believe in the American Dream. 2. Individuals over age 65 have the highest rate of poverty. 3. Men account for two out of three impoverished adults in the United States. 4. About 5 percent of U.S. residents live in households whose members sometimes do not get enough to eat. 5. Income is more unevenly distributed than wealth. 6. People who are poor usually have personal attributes that contribute to their impoverishment. 7. A number of people living below the official poverty line have fulltime jobs. 8. One in three U.S. children will be poor at some point of their childhood. Answers on page 196. vancement is an example of upward intragenerational social mobility. However, both intragenerational mobility and intergenerational mobility may be downward as well as upward. In a closed system, the boundaries between levels in the hierarchies of social stratification are rigid, and people's positions are set by ascribed status. Open and closed systems are ideal-type constructs; no actual stratification system is completely open or closed. The systems of stratification that we will examine--slavery, caste, and class--are characterized by different hierarchical structures and varying degrees of mobility. Let's examine these three systems of stratification to determine how people acquire their positions in each and what potential for social movement they have. ery was extensive: ancient Greece, the Roman Empire, the United States, the Caribbean, and Brazil (Finley, 1980). Others suggest that slavery also existed in the social stratification the hierarchical arrangement of large social groups based on their control over basic resources. life chances Max Weber's term for the extent to which individuals have access to important societal resources such as food, clothing, shelter, education, and health care. social mobility the movement of individuals or groups from one level in a stratification system to another. intergenerational mobility the social movement (upward or downward) experienced by family members from one generation to the next. intragenerational mobility the social movement (upward or downward) of individuals within their own lifetime. slavery an extreme form of stratification in which some people are owned by others. Slavery Slavery is an extreme form of stratification in which some people are owned by others. It is a closed system in which people designated as "slaves" are treated as property and have little or no control over their lives. According to some social analysts, throughout recorded history only five societies have been slave societies-- those in which the social and economic impact of slav- Systems of Stratification 195 09656_07_ch7_p192_225.qxd 11/17/06 2:30 PM Page 196 "Slavery can only be abolished by raising the character of the people who compose the nation; and that can be done only by showing them a higher one." (Maria W. Chapman) Lecture Idea: Address global child labor practices as a modern form of slavery. Access information online from the United Nations and the World Bank for part of your presentation. BOX 7.1 Sociology and Everyday Life Answers to the Sociology Quiz on Wealth, Poverty, and the American Dream 1. False. The American Dream appears to be alive and well. U.S. culture places a strong emphasis on the goal of monetary success, and many people use legal or illegal means to attempt to achieve that goal. As a group, children have a higher rate of poverty than the elderly. Government programs such as Social Security have been indexed for inflation, whereas many of the programs for the young have been scaled back or eliminated. However, many elderly individuals still live in poverty. Women, not men, account for two out of three impoverished adults in the United States. Reasons include the lack of job opportunities for women, lower pay than men for comparable jobs, lack of affordable day care for children, sexism in the workplace, and a number of other factors. It is estimated that about 5 percent of the U.S. population (1 in 20 people) resides in household units where members do not get enough to eat. Wealth is more unevenly distributed among the U.S. population than is income. However, both wealth and income are concentrated in very few hands compared with the size of the overall population. According to one widely held stereotype, the poor are lazy and do not want to work. Rather than looking at the structural characteristics of society, people cite the alleged personal attributes of the poor as the reason for their plight. Many of those who fall below the official poverty line are referred to as the "working poor" because they work full time but earn such low wages that they are still considered to be impoverished. According to recent data from the Children's Defense Fund, one in three U.S. children will live in a family that is below the official poverty line at some point in their childhood. For some of these children, poverty will be a persistent problem throughout their childhood and youth. 2. False. 3. False. 4. True. 5. False. 6. False. 7. True. 8. True. Class and Stratification in the United States Sources: Based on Children's Defense Fund, 2001; Gilbert, 2003; and U.S. Census Bureau, 2006. Americas prior to European settlement, and throughout Africa and Asia (Engerman, 1995). Those of us living in the United States are most aware of the legacy of slavery in our own country. Beginning in the 1600s, slaves were forcibly imported to the United States as a source of cheap labor. Slavery was defined in law and custom by the 1750s, making it possible for one person to own another person (Healey, 2002). In fact, early U.S. presidents including George Washington, James Madison, and Thomas Jefferson owned slaves. As practiced in the United States, slavery had four primary characteris- tics: (1) it was for life and was inherited (children of slaves were considered to be slaves); (2) slaves were considered property, not human beings; (3) slaves were denied rights; and (4) coercion was used to keep slaves "in their place" (Noel, 1972). Although most slaves were powerless to bring about change, some were able to challenge slavery--or at least their position in the system--by engaging in activities such as sabotage, intentional carelessness, work slowdowns, or running away from owners and working for the abolition of slavery (Healey, 2002). Despite the fact that slavery in this country officially ended many 196 Chapter 7 09656_07_ch7_p192_225.qxd 11/17/06 2:30 PM Page 197 Although chocolate is sweet for us, it can be heartbreaking for the hundreds of thousands of child laborers who pick the cocoa that goes into some of our favorite treats. In 2001 the U.S. State Department, the International Labor Organization, and others reported child slavery on many cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast, source of 43 percent of the world's cocoa. ( Discussion Topic: What are your life chances, and what aspects are out of your control? What are your plans to change your life chances? Systems of stratification include slavery, caste, and class. As shown in these photos, the life chances of people living in each of these systems differ widely. Alan Sussman/The Image Works SuperStock Bojan Brecelj/CORBIS Systems of Stratification years ago, sociologists such as Patricia Hill Collins (1990) believe that its legacy is deeply embedded in current patterns of prejudice and discrimination against African Americans. Slavery is not simply an unfortunate historical legacy. Although legal slavery no longer exists, econo- mist Stanley L. Engerman (1995: 175) believes that the world will not be completely free of slavery as long as there are "debt bondage, child labor, contract labor, and other varieties of coerced work for limited periods of time, with limited opportunities for mobility, and with limited political and economic power." 197 09656_07_ch7_p192_225.qxd 11/17/06 2:30 PM Page 198 Lecture Idea: Provide your class with some examples of horizontal and vertical mobility. Ask the class to think about which kind of mobility is more prevalent in the United States and why. India, the world's second most populous nation and its tenth largest economy, is on the rise and bidding for superpower status. After years of having a virtually closed economy, the world's largest democracy flung open its doors to the world in 1991. IT hubs, Mercedes cars, and a burgeoning middle class have taken over from the popular image of saris, snake-charmers, and slums. But many in the countryside have become mere spectators to the drama unfolding in the cities, with 390 million living on less than $1 per day. (CNN, September 2005) The Caste System Like slavery, caste is a closed system of social stratification. A caste system is a system of social inequality in which people's status is permanently determined at birth based on their parents' ascribed characteristics. Vestiges of caste systems exist in contemporary India and South Africa. In India, caste is based in part on occupation; thus, families typically perform the same type of work from generation to generation. By contrast, the caste system of South Africa was based on racial classifications and the belief of white South Africans (Afrikaners) that they were morally superior to the black majority. Until the 1990s, the Afrikaners controlled the government, the police, and the military by enforcing apartheid--the separation of the races. Blacks were denied full citizenship and restricted to segregated hospitals, schools, residential neighborhoods, and other facilities. Whites held almost all of the desirable jobs; blacks worked as manual laborers and servants. In a caste system, marriage is endogamous, meaning that people are allowed to marry only within their own group. In India, parents traditionally have selected marriage partners for their children. In South Africa, interracial marriage was illegal until 1985. Cultural beliefs and values sustain caste systems. Hinduism, the primary religion of India, reinforced the caste system by teaching that people should accept their fate in life and work hard as a moral duty. Caste systems grow weaker as societies industrialize; the values reinforcing the system break down, and people start to focus on the types of skills needed for industrialization. As we have seen, in closed systems of stratification, group membership is hereditary, and it is almost impossible to move up within the structure. Custom and law frequently perpetuate privilege and ensure that higher-level positions are reserved for the children of the advantaged (Rothman, 2001). In class systems, people may become members of a class other than that of their parents through both intergenerational and intragenerational mobility, either upward or downward. 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. For example, a person may get a pay increase and a more prestigious title but still not move from one class to another. By contrast, movement up or down the class structure is vertical mobility. Martin, a commercial artist who owns his own firm, is an example of vertical, intergenerational mobility: My family came out of a lot of poverty and were eager to escape it. . . . My [mother's parents] worked in a sweatshop. My grandfather to the day he died never earned more than $14 a week. My grandmother worked in knitting mills while she had five children. . . . My father quit school when he was in eighth grade and supported his mother and his two sisters when he was twelve years old. My grandfather died when my father was four and he basically raised his sisters. He got a man's job when he was twelve and took care of the three of them. (qtd. in Newman, 1993: 65) Martin's situation reflects upward mobility; however, people may also experience downward mobility, caused by any number of reasons, including a lack of jobs, low wages and employment instability, marriage to someone with fewer resources and less power than oneself, and changing social conditions (Newman, 1988, 1993). Class and Stratification in the United States Classical Perspectives on Social Class Early sociologists grappled with the definition of class and the criteria for determining people's location in the class structure. Both Karl Marx and Max Weber viewed class as an important determinant of social inequality and social change, and their works have had a profound influence on how we view the U.S. class system today. The Class System The class system is a type of stratification based on the ownership and control of resources and on the type of work people do (Rothman, 2001). At least theoretically, a class system is more open than a caste system because the boundaries between classes are less distinct than the boundaries between castes. In a class system, status comes at least partly through achievement rather than entirely by ascription. Chapter 7 Learn more about social class by going through the Layers of Social Class Animation. 198 09656_07_ch7_p192_225.qxd 11/17/06 2:30 PM Page 199 "Society does not consist of individuals but expresses the sum of interrelations, the relations within which these individuals stand." (Karl Marx) Lecture Idea: Compare Marx's idea of alienation to Weber's idea of disenchantment. Discussion Topic: What are the causes of alienation in society? What are some remedies? What aspects of work today lead to feelings of alienation? Although some of Karl Marx's ideas have been discredited, his concept of class conflict between the capitalist and working classes continues to be visible in events such as strikes. Mexican, Mexican American, and many other workers in the United States took a day off from work to express their concern about stricter immigration laws in this country. According to Marx, class relationships involve inequality and exploitation. The workers are exploited as capitalists maximize their profits by paying workers less than the resale value of what they produce but do not own. This exploitation results in workers' alienation--a feeling of powerlessness and estrangement from other people and from oneself. In Marx's view, alienation develops as workers manufacture goods that embody their creative talents but the goods do not belong to them. Workers are also alienated from the work itself because they are forced to perform it in order to live. Because the workers' activities are not their own, they feel self-estrangement. Moreover, the workers are separated from others in the factory because they individually sell their labor power to the capitalists as a commodity. In Marx's view, the capitalist class maintains its position at the top of the class structure by control of the society's superstructure, which is composed of the government, schools, churches, and other social institutions that produce and disseminate ideas perpetuating the existing system of exploitation. Marx predicted that the exploitation of workers by the capitalist class would ultimately lead to class conflict-- the struggle between the capitalist class and the working class. According to Marx, when the workers realized that capitalists were the source of their oppression, they would overthrow the capitalists and their agents of social control, leading to the end of caste system a system of social inequality in which people's status is permanently determined at birth based on their parents' ascribed characteristics. class system a type of stratification based on the ownership and control of resources and on the type of work that people do. Classical Perspectives on Social Class Karl Marx: Relationship to the Means of Production According to Karl Marx, class position and the extent of our income and wealth are determined by our work situation, or our relationship to the means of production. As we have previously seen, Marx stated that capitalistic societies consist of two classes--the capitalists and the workers. The capitalist class (bourgeoisie) consists of those who own the means of production--the land and capital necessary for factories and mines, for example. The working class (proletariat) consists of those who must sell their labor to the owners in order to earn enough money to survive (see Figure 7.1). Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images capitalist class (or bourgeoisie) Karl Marx's term for the class that consists of those who own and control the means of production. working class (or proletariat) those who must sell their labor to the owners in order to earn enough money to survive. alienation a feeling of powerlessness and estrangement from other people and from oneself. class conflict Karl Marx's term for the struggle between the capitalist class and the working class. 199 09656_07_ch7_p192_225.qxd 11/17/06 2:30 PM Page 200 Lecture Idea: Compare and contrast Weber's and Marx's approach to defining social class. What are the strengths and weaknesses of each method? "At the upper end of the social and economic scale, a different issue arises. Many people object to business managers who take away in pay, bonuses, and stock options hundreds of millions of dollars from their companies. Indeed, there is a legitimate question whether the behavior of today's capitalists promotes the general acceptance of capitalism. But individual wealth becomes a problem only if and when it can be used to restrict others' chances of participation." (Ralf Dahrendorf) Figure 7.1 Marx's View of Stratification Capitalists Own and control means of production Achieve wealth through capital Marx had a number of important insights into capitalist societies. First, he recognized the economic basis of class systems (Gilbert, 2003). Second, he noted the relationship between people's social location in the class structure and their values, beliefs, and behavior. Finally, he acknowledged that classes may have opposing (rather than complementary) interests. For example, capitalists' best interests are served by a decrease in labor costs and other expenses and a corresponding increase in profits; workers' best interests are served by well-paid jobs, safe working conditions, and job security. Workers Work for wages Vulnerable to displacement by machines or cheap labor Max Weber: Wealth, Prestige, and Power Max Weber's analysis of class builds upon earlier theories of capitalism (particularly those by Marx) and of money (particularly those by Simmel, as discussed in Chapter 2). Living in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Weber was in a unique position to see the transformation that occurred as individual, competitive, entrepreneurial capitalism went through the process of shifting to bureaucratic, industrial, corporate capitalism. As a result, Weber had more opportunity than Marx to see how capitalism changed over time. Weber agreed with Marx's assertion that economic factors are important in understanding individual and group behavior. However, Weber emphasized that no single factor (such as economic divisions between capitalists and workers) was sufficient for defining the location of categories of people within the class structure. According to Weber, the access that people have to important societal resources (such as economic, social, and political power) is crucial in determining people's life chances. To highlight the importance of life chances for categories of people, Weber developed a multidimensional approach to social stratification that reflects the interplay among wealth, prestige, and power. In his analysis of these dimensions of class structure, Weber viewed the concept of "class" as an ideal type (that can be used to compare and contrast various societies) rather than as a specific social category of "real" people (Bourdieu, 1984). capitalism. The workers would then take over the government and create a more egalitarian society. Why has no workers' revolution occurred? According to the sociologist Ralf Dahrendorf (1959), capitalism may have persisted because it has changed significantly since Marx's time. Individual capitalists no longer own and control factories and other means of production; today, ownership and control have largely been separated. For example, contemporary transnational corporations are owned by a multitude of stockholders but run by paid officers and managers. Similarly, many (but by no means all) workers have experienced a rising standard of living, which may have contributed to a feeling of complacency. During the twentieth century, workers pressed for salary increases and improvements in the workplace through their activism and labor union membership. They also gained more legal protection in the form of workers' rights and benefits such as workers' compensation insurance for job-related injuries and disabilities (Dahrendorf, 1959). For these reasons, and because of a myriad of other complex factors, the workers' revolution predicted by Marx never came to pass. However, the failure of his prediction does not mean that his analysis of capitalism and his theoretical contributions to sociology are without validity. Chapter 7 Class and Stratification in the United States Learn more about life chances by going through the Life Chances: The Guerry Family Video Exercise. 200 09656_07_ch7_p192_225.qxd 11/17/06 2:30 PM Page 201 Discussion Topic: Why do people with high levels of prestige and power tend to spend their time with others who hold similar levels of prestige and power? What are some examples? Active Learning: Bring to class an example of an occupational prestige scale. Use this to help students understand the construction of SES. First see how students rate various occupations themselves; then compare their responses with the SES rating. Use this activity to help students understand the relationship among occupational prestige, income, and education. Wealth is the value of all of a person's or family's economic assets, including income, personal property, and income-producing property. Weber placed categories of people who have a similar level of wealth and income in the same class. For example, he identified a privileged commercial class of entrepreneurs-- wealthy bankers, ship owners, professionals, and merchants who possess similar financial resources. He also described a class of rentiers--wealthy individuals who live off their investments and do not have to work. According to Weber, entrepreneurs and rentiers have much in common. Both are able to purchase expensive consumer goods, control other people's opportunities to acquire wealth and property, and monopolize costly status privileges (such as education) that provide contacts and skills for their children. Weber divided those who work for wages into two classes: the middle class and the working class. The middle class consists of white-collar workers, public officials, managers, and professionals. The working class consists of skilled, semiskilled, and unskilled workers. The second dimension of Weber's system of stratification is prestige--the respect or regard with which a person or status position is regarded by others. Fame, respect, honor, and esteem are the most common forms of prestige. A person who has a high level of prestige is assumed to receive deferential and respectful treatment from others. Weber suggested that individuals who share a common level of social prestige belong to the same status group regardless of their level of wealth. They tend to socialize with one another, marry within their own group of social equals, spend their leisure time together, and safeguard their status by restricting outsiders' opportunities to join their ranks (Beeghley, 2000). The other dimension of Weber's system is power-- the ability of people or groups to achieve their goals despite opposition from others. The powerful can shape society in accordance with their own interests and direct the actions of others (Tumin, 1953). According to Weber, social power in modern societies is held by bureaucracies; individual power depends on a person's position within the bureaucracy. Weber suggested that the power of modern bureaucracies was so strong that even a workers' revolution (as predicted by Marx) would not lessen social inequality (Hurst, 1998). Weber stated that wealth, prestige, and power are separate continuums on which people can be ranked from high to low, as shown in Figure 7.2. Individuals may be high on one dimension while being low on another. For example, people may be very wealthy but have little political power (for example, a recluse who has inherited a large sum of money). They may also have prestige but not wealth (for instance, a college professor who receives teaching excellence awards but lives on a relatively low income). In Weber's multidimensional approach, people are ranked on all three dimensions. Sociologists often use the term socioeconomic status (SES) to refer to a combined measure that attempts to classify individuals, families, or households in terms of factors such as income, occupation, and education to determine class location. Weber's analysis of social stratification contributes to our understanding by emphasizing that people behave according to both their economic interests and their values. He also added to Marx's insights by developing a multidimensional explanation of the class structure and by identifying additional classes. Both Marx and Weber emphasized that capitalists and workers are the primary players in a class society, and both noted the importance of class to people's life chances. However, they saw different futures for capitalism and the social system. Marx saw these structures being overthrown; Weber saw the increasing bureaucratization of life even without capitalism. wealth the value of all of a person's or family's economic assets, including income, personal property, and income-producing property. prestige the respect or regard with which a person or status position is regarded by others. power according to Max Weber, the ability of people or groups to achieve their goals despite opposition from others. 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. Classical Perspectives on Social Class 201 09656_07_ch7_p192_225.qxd 11/17/06 2:30 PM Page 202 "Between richer and poorer classes in a free country a mutually respecting antagonism is much healthier than pity on the one hand and dependence on the other, as is, perhaps, the next best thing to fraternal feeling." (Charles Horton Cooley) The average cash retainer for corporate board members jumped 72 percent, to $44,000, over the past year, with some raises far outstripping stock price gains. Biotech firm Nastech Pharmaceutical hiked directors' pay 400 percent, to $15,000; its stock price gained 22 percent. (BusinessWeek) Figure 7.2 Weber's Multidimensional Approach to Social Stratification High level Wealth Rentiers Entrepreneurs Power Positions of high power within a bureaucracy: able to carry out own goals despite opposition Prestige High social status: entitled to deferential and respectful treatment Middle class Mid-range Skilled labor Semiskilled labor Low level Positions lacking authority: must carry out the goals of others Low social status: receives very little respectful treatment Unskilled labor According to Max Weber, wealth, power, and prestige are separate continuums. Individuals may rank high in one dimension and low in another, or they may rank high or low in more than one dimension. Also, individuals may use their high rank in one dimension to achieve a comparable rank in another. How does Weber's model compare with Marx's approach as shown in Figure 7.1? Contemporary Sociological Models of the U.S. Class Structure Class and Stratification in the United States The Weberian Model of the U.S. Class Structure Expanding on Weber's analysis of class structure, the sociologists Dennis Gilbert (2003) and Joseph A. Kahl developed a widely used model of social classes based on three elements: (1) education, (2) occupation of family head, and (3) family income (see Figure 7.3). THE UPPER (CAPITALIST) CLASS The upper class is the How many social classes exist in the United States? What criteria are used for determining class membership? No broad consensus exists about how to characterize the class structure in this country. In fact, many people deny that class distinctions exist (see Eisler, 1983; Parenti, 1994). Most people like to think of themselves as middle class; it puts them in a comfortable middle position--neither rich nor poor. Sociologists have developed two models of the class structure: One is based on a Weberian approach, the other on a Marxian approach. We will examine both models briefly. Learn more about the U.S. class structure by going through the American Class Structure Learning Module. wealthiest and most powerful class in the United States. About 1 percent of the population is included in this class, whose members own substantial incomeproducing assets and operate on both the national and international levels. According to Gilbert (2003), people in this class have an influence on the economy and society far beyond their numbers. Some models further divide the upper class into upper-upper ("old money") and lower-upper ("new money") categories (Warner and Lunt, 1941; Coleman and Rainwater, 1978; Kendall, 2002). Members of the upper-upper class come from prominent families which possess great wealth that they have held for sev- 202 Chapter 7 09656_07_ch7_p192_225.qxd 11/17/06 2:30 PM Page 203 "Throughout recorded time . . . there have been three kinds of people in the world, the High, the Middle, and the Low. They have been subdivided in many ways, they have borne countless different names, and their relative numbers, as well as their attitude towards one another, have varied from age to age: but the essential structure of society has never altered. Even after enormous upheavals and seemingly irrevocable changes, the same pattern has always reasserted itself, just as a gyroscope will always return to equilibrium, however far it is pushed one way or the other. The aims of these three groups are entirely irreconcilable." (George Orwell) Figure 7.3 Stratification Based on Education, Occupation, and Income Upper-upper class 0.5% Investments/inheritance Lower-upper class 0.5% Executives; media/sports personalities Upper-middle class 14% Professional, managerial positions (Warner and Lunt, 1941; Mills, 1959a; Domhoff, 1983; Kendall, 2002). Members of the lower-upper class may be extremely wealthy but not have attained as much prestige as members of the upper-upper class. The "new rich" have earned most of their money in their own lifetime as entrepreneurs, presidents of major corporations, sports or entertainment celebrities, or top-level professionals. For some members of the lower-upper class, the American Dream has become a reality. Others still desire the respect of members of the upper-upper class. THE UPPER-MIDDLE CLASS Persons in the uppermiddle class are often highly educated professionals who have built careers as physicians, attorneys, stockbrokers, or corporate managers. Others derive their income from family-owned businesses. According to Gilbert (2003), about 14 percent of the U.S. population is in this category. A combination of three factors qualifies people for the upper-middle class: university degrees, authority and independence on the job, and high income. Of all the class categories, the uppermiddle class is the one that is most shaped by formal education. Over the past fifty years, Asian Americans, Latinos/as, and African Americans have placed great importance on education as a means of attaining the American Dream. Many people of color have moved into the upper-middle class by acquiring higher levels of education. THE MIDDLE CLASS In past decades, a high school Contemporary Sociological Models of the U.S. Class Structure Middle class 30% White-collar, highly skilled blue-collar jobs Working class 30% Factory, clerical, retail jobs Working poor 20% Laborers, service industry jobs Underclass 5% Temporary, seasonal, part-time jobs; public or private assistance eral generations. Family names--such as Rockefeller, Mellon, Du Pont, and Kennedy--are well known and often held in high esteem. Persons in the upper-upper class tend to have strong feelings of ingroup solidarity. They belong to the same exclusive clubs and support high culture (such as the opera, symphony orchestras, ballet, and art museums). Children are educated in prestigious private schools and Ivy League universities; many acquire strong feelings of privilege from birth, as upper-class author Lewis H. Lapham (1988: 14) states: Together with my classmates and peers, I was given to understand that it was sufficient accomplishment merely to have been born. Not that anybody ever said precisely that in so many words, but the assumption was plain enough, and I could confirm it by observing the mechanics of the local society. A man might become a drunkard, a concert pianist or an owner of companies, but none of these occupations would have an important bearing on his social rank. Children of the upper class are socialized to view themselves as different from others; they also learn that they are expected to marry within their own class diploma was necessary to qualify for most middle-class jobs. Today, two-year or four-year college degrees have replaced the high school diploma as an entry-level requirement for employment in many middle-class occupations, including medical technicians, nurses, legal and medical assistants, lower-level managers, semiprofessionals, and nonretail salesworkers. An estimated 30 percent of the U.S. population is in the middle class even though most people in this country think of themselves as middle class. Nowhere is this myth of the vast middle class more prevalent than in television situation comedies, which for decades have focused on idealized notions of the middle class or the debunking of that myth. Traditionally, most middle-class occupations have been relatively secure and have provided more opportunities for advancement (especially with increasing 203 09656_07_ch7_p192_225.qxd 11/17/06 2:31 PM Page 204 Discussion Topic: What are pink-collar occupations? Why are women in these kinds of occupations? In what ways are women socialized into various occupational choices? "Historically and politically, the petit-bourgeois is the key to the century. The bourgeois and proletariat classes have become abstractions: the petite-bourgeoisie, in contrast, is everywhere, you can see it everywhere, even in the areas of the bourgeois and the proletariat, what's left of them." (Roland Barthes) mobility on the job, and (4) the costof-living squeeze that has penalized younger workers, even when they have more education and better jobs than their parents (Newman, 1993). THE WORKING CLASS An estimated 30 Wealth and poverty influence all aspects of our daily lives, from where we live to how we think about opportunities for social mobility. Children in wealthy families typically have many opportunities that children in poverty-level families do not. What are the long-term consequences of such inequality for individuals and for societies? percent of the U.S. population is in the working class. The core of this class is made up of semiskilled machine operators who work in factories and elsewhere. Members of the working class also include some workers in the service sector, as well as clerks and salespeople whose job responsibilities involve routine, mechanized tasks requiring little skill beyond basic literacy and a brief period of on-the-job training (Gilbert, 2003). Some people in the working class are employed in pink-collar occupations--relatively low-paying, nonmanual, semiskilled positions primarily held by women, such as day-care workers, checkout clerks, cashiers, and waitpersons. How does life in the working-class family compare with that of individuals in middle-class families? According to sociologists, working-class families not only earn less than middle-class families, but they also have less financial security, particularly because of high rates of layoffs and plant closings in some regions of the country. Few people in the working class have more than a high school diploma, and many have less, which makes job opportunities scarce for them in a "high-tech" society (Gilbert, 2003). Others find themselves in low-paying jobs in the service sector of the economy, particularly fast-food restaurants, a condition that often places them among the working poor. Class and Stratification in the United States Chapter 7 204 levels of education and experience) than working-class positions. Recently, however, four factors have eroded the American Dream for this class: (1) escalating housing prices, (2) occupational insecurity, (3) blocked THE WORKING POOR The working poor account for about 20 percent of the U.S. population. Members of the working-poor class live from just above to just below the poverty line; they typically hold unskilled jobs, Jean-Yves Rabeuf/The Image Works Slim Aarons/Getty Images 09656_07_ch7_p192_225.qxd 11/17/06 2:31 PM Page 205 Discussion Topic: What categories of people make up the underclass? What stands in the way of the underclass experiencing upward social mobility? "Of all the nasty outcomes predicted for women's liberation . . . none was more alarming, from a feminist point of view, than the suggestion that women would eventually become just like men." (Barbara Ehrenreich) seasonal migrant jobs in agriculture, lower-paid factory jobs, and service jobs (such as counter help at restaurants). Employed single mothers often belong to this class; consequently, children are overrepresented in this category. African Americans and other people of color are also overrepresented among the working poor. To cite only one example, in the United States today, there are two white hospital orderlies to every one white physician, whereas there are twenty-five African American orderlies to every one African American physician (Gilbert, 2003). For the working poor, living from paycheck to paycheck makes it impossible to save money for emergencies such as periodic or seasonal unemployment, which is a constant threat to any economic stability they may have. Social critic and journalist Barbara Ehrenreich (2001) left her upper-middle-class lifestyle for a period of time to see if it was possible for the working poor to live on the wages that they were being paid as restaurant servers, sales clerks at discount department stores, aides at nursing homes, house cleaners for franchise maid services, or similar jobs. She conducted her research by actually holding those jobs for periods of time and seeing if she could live on the wages that she received. Through her research, Ehrenreich persuasively demonstrated that people who work full time, year-round, for poverty-level wages must develop survival strategies that include such things as help from relatives or constantly moving from one residence to another in order to have a place to live. Like many other researchers, Ehrenreich found that minimum-wage jobs cannot cover the full cost of living, such as rent, food, and the rest of an adult's monthly needs, even without taking into consideration the needs of children or other family members (see also Newman, 1999). THE UNDERCLASS According to Gilbert (2003), people in the underclass are poor, seldom employed, and caught in long-term deprivation that results from low levels of education and income and high rates of unemployment. Some are unable to work because of age or disability; others experience discrimination based on race/ethnicity. Single mothers are overrepresented in this class because of the lack of jobs, lack of affordable child care, and many other impediments to the mother's future and that of her children. People without a "living wage" often must rely on public or private assistance programs for their survival. About 3 to 5 percent of the U.S. population is in this category, and the chances of their children moving out of poverty are about fifty-fifty (Gilbert, 2003). Studies by various social scientists have found that meaningful employment opportunities are the critical missing link for people on the lowest rungs of the class ladder. According to these analysts, job creation is essential in order for people to have the opportunity to earn a decent wage; have medical coverage; live meaningful, productive lives; and raise their children in a safe environment (see Fine and Weis, 1998; Nelson and Smith, 1999; Newman, 1999; W. Wilson, 1996). These issues are closely tied to the American Dream we have been discussing in this chapter. The Marxian Model of the U.S. Class Structure The earliest Marxian model of class structure identified ownership or nonownership of the means of production as the distinguishing feature of classes. From this perspective, classes are social groups organized around property ownership, and social stratification is created and maintained by one group in order to protect and enhance its own economic interests. Moreover, societies are organized around classes in conflict over scarce resources. Inequality results from the more powerful exploiting the less powerful. Contemporary Marxian (or conflict) models examine class in terms of people's relationship to others in the production process. For example, conflict theorists attempt to determine the degree of control that workers have over the decision-making process and the extent to which they are able to plan and implement their own work. They also analyze the type of supervisory authority, if any, that a worker has over other workers. According to this approach, most employees are a part of the working class because they do not control either their own labor or that of others. pink-collar occupations relatively low-paying, nonmanual, semiskilled positions primarily held by women, such as day-care workers, checkout clerks, cashiers, and waitpersons. 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. Contemporary Sociological Models of the U.S. Class Structure 205 09656_07_ch7_p192_225.qxd 11/17/06 2:31 PM Page 206 Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates has famously called high schools "obsolete" and warned about their effect on U.S. competitiveness. Now, his company has a chance to prove that it can help fix the woes of public education. After three years of planning, the Microsoft Corp.designed "School of the Future" opened its doors Thursday, a gleaming white modern facility looking out of place amid rows of ramshackle homes in a working-class West Philadelphia neighborhood. The school is being touted as unlike any in the world, with not only a high-tech building--students have digital lockers and teachers use interactive "smart boards"--but also a learning process modeled on Microsoft's management techniques. (CNN, September 2006) Erik Olin Wright (1979, 1985, 1997), one of the leading stratification theorists to examine social class from a Marxian perspective, has concluded that Marx's definition of "workers" does not fit the occupations found in advanced capitalist societies. For example, many top executives, managers, and supervisors who do not own the means of production (and thus would be "workers" in Marx's model) act like capitalists in their zeal to control workers and maximize profits. Likewise, some experts hold positions in which they have control over money and the use of their own time even though they are not owners. Wright views Marx's category of "capitalist" as being too broad as well. For instance, small-business owners might be viewed as capitalists because they own their own tools and have a few people working for them, but they have little in common with largescale capitalists and do not share the interests of factory workers. Wright (1979) argues that classes in modern capitalism cannot be defined simply in terms of different levels of wealth, power, and prestige, as in the Weberian model. Consequently, he outlines four criteria for placement in the class structure: (1) ownership of the means of production, (2) purchase of the labor of others (employing others), (3) control of the labor of others (supervising others on the job), and (4) sale of one's own labor (being employed by someone else). Wright (1978) assumes that these criteria can be used to determine the class placement of all workers, regardless of race/ethnicity, in a capitalist society. Let's take a brief look at Wright's (1979, 1985) four classes--(1) the capitalist class, (2) the managerial class, (3) the small-business class, and (4) the working class--so that you can compare them to those found in the Weberian model. THE CAPITALIST CLASS According to Wright, this class holds most of the wealth and power in society through ownership of capital--for example, banks, corporations, factories, mines, news and entertainment industries, and agribusiness firms. The "ruling elites," or "ruling class," within the capitalist class hold political power and are often elected or appointed to influential political and regulatory positions (Parenti, 1994). This class is composed of individuals who have inherited fortunes, own major corporations, or are top corporate executives with extensive stock holdings or control of company investments. Even though many top executives have only limited legal ownership of their corporations, they have substantial economic ownership and exert extensive control over investments, distribution of profits, and management of resources. The major sources of income for the capitalist class are profits, interest, and very high salaries. Members of this class make important decisions about the workplace, including which products and services to make available to consumers and how many workers to hire or fire (Feagin and Feagin, 2003). According to Forbes magazine's 2005 list of the richest people in the world, Bill Gates (co-founder of Microsoft Corporation, the world's largest microcomputer software company) was the wealthiest capitalist, with a net worth of $46.5 billion, down about onefourth from his $63 billion figure in 2000 as a result of charitable gifts and decreases in the stock market (Forbes, 2005b). Investor Warren Buffet came in second with $44 billion. The number of billion-dollar fortunes in the United States rose from 129 in 1995 to 346 in 2005 (Forbes, 1996, 2005a). Although some of the men who made the Forbes list of the wealthiest people have gained their fortunes through entrepreneurship or being CEOs of large corporations, women who made the list have acquired their wealth Class and Stratification in the United States Bill Gates (co-founder and head of Microsoft Corporation and the world's wealthiest person) is representative of twentyfirst-century capitalism, which increasingly is based on information techonology. 206 Chapter 7 AP Images 09656_07_ch7_p192_225.qxd 11/17/06 2:31 PM Page 207 Discussion Topic: How does Erik Olin Wright's perspective on social class differ from the view of Karl Marx? How do these two perspectives differ from functionalist explanations of social class? Discussion Topic: Why do members of the managerial class occupy a contradictory class location? typically through inheritance, marriage, or both. In 2003, only eight women were heads of Fortune 500 companies (Catalyst, 2003). THE MANAGERIAL CLASS People in the managerial class have substantial control over the means of production and over workers. However, these upper-level managers, supervisors, and professionals typically do not participate in key corporate decisions such as how to invest profits. Lower-level managers may have some control over employment practices, including the hiring and firing of some workers. Top professionals such as physicians, attorneys, accountants, and engineers may control the structure of their own work; however, they typically do not own the means of production and may not have supervisory authority over more than a few people. Even so, they may influence the organization of work and the treatment of other workers. Members of the capitalist class often depend on these professionals for their specialized knowledge. THE SMALL-BUSINESS CLASS This class consists of small-business owners and craftspeople who may hire a small number of employees but largely do their own work. Some members own businesses such as "mom and pop" grocery stores, retail clothing stores, and jewelry stores. Others are doctors and lawyers who receive relatively high incomes from selling their own services. Some of these professionals now share attributes with members of the capitalist class because they have formed corporations that hire and control the employees who produce profits for the professionals. It is in the small-business class that we find many people's hopes of achieving the American Dream. Recent economic trends, including corporate downsizing, telecommuting, and the movement of jobs to other countries, have encouraged more people to think about starting their own business. As a result, more people today are self-employed or own a small business than at any time in the past (U.S. Department of Labor, 2003). More women of all races and people of color are in the small-business class than was true previously. According to recent statistics, for example, women own 34 percent of all small businesses. However, gaps in revenues persist between businesses owned by women and those owned by men, with women-owned businesses earning on aver- Billy Hustace/Getty Images In which segment of the class structure would sociologists place clerical workers such as those in this office mail room? What are the key elements of that social class? age about 40 percent less than businesses owned by men (U.S. Department of Labor, 2003). Throughout U.S. history, immigrants and people of color have owned small businesses (Butler, 1991), seeing such enterprises as a way to achieve the American Dream. Over the past decade, the number of businesses owned by subordinate-group members has increased dramatically, but the share of such businesses owned by people of color is still not proportionate to their numbers in the overall population. African Americans make up more than 12 percent of the U.S. population but own less than 4 percent of businesses; Latinos/as make up more than 13 percent of the population yet own slightly more than 4 percent of all businesses. Asian Americans are closest to being proportional in business ownership: They constitute about 3.6 percent of the population and own about 3.5 percent of all U.S. businesses (U.S. Department of Labor, 2003). THE WORKING CLASS The working class is made up of Contemporary Sociological Models of the U.S. Class Structure a number of subgroups, one of which is blue-collar workers, some of whom are highly skilled and well paid and others of whom are unskilled and poorly paid. Skilled blue-collar workers include electricians, plumbers, and carpenters; unskilled blue-collar workers include janitors and gardeners. White-collar workers are another subgroup of the working class. Referred to by some as a "new middle 207 09656_07_ch7_p192_225.qxd 11/17/06 2:31 PM Page 208 "Can anybody remember when the times were not hard and money not scarce?" (Ralph Waldo Emerson) Active Learning: Use the "American FactFinder" section of the U.S. Census 2000 website to learn the economic characteristics of zip codes represented by students in your class. class," these workers are actually members of the working class because they do not own the means of production, do not control the work of others, and are relatively powerless in the workplace. Secretaries, other clerical workers, and salesworkers are members of the white-collar faction of the working class. They take orders from others and tend to work under constant supervision. Thus, these workers are at the bottom of the class structure in terms of domination and control in the workplace. The working class contains about half of all employees in the United States. Although Marxian and Weberian models of the U.S. class structure show differences in people's occupations and access to valued resources, neither fully reflects the nature and extent of inequality in the United States. In the next section, we will take a closer look at the unequal distribution of income and wealth in the United States and the effects of inequality on people's opportunities and life chances. we get is a fair reward for our effort and hard work. Recently, social analysts have pointed out that (except during temporary economic downturns) the old maxim "the rich get richer" continues be to valid in the United States. To understand how this happens, we must take a closer look at the distribution of income and wealth in this country. Distribution of Income and Wealth Money is essential for acquiring goods and services. People without money cannot purchase food, shelter, clothing, medical care, legal aid, education, and the other things they need or desire. Money--in the form of both income and wealth--is very unevenly distributed in the United States. Median household income varies widely from one state to another, for example (see Map 7.1). Among prosperous nations, the United States is number one in inequality of income distribution (Rothchild, 1995). INCOME INEQUALITY Income is the economic gain derived from wages, salaries, income transfers (governmental aid), and ownership of property (Beeghley, 2000). Or, to put it another way, "income refers to Inequality in the United States Throughout human history, people have argued about the distribution of scarce resources in society. Disagreements often center around whether the share Map 7.1 Median Income by State What factors contribute to the uneven distribution of income in the United States? Class and Stratification in the United States WA MT OR ID SD WI MI PA IL IN KS MO KY NC TN AR MS AL GA SC OH MD UT CA CO WV VA NJ DE NY WY NE IA ND MN VT NH MA CT RI ME Hawaii NV Alaska AZ NM OK Chapter 7 Less than $35,000 $35,000 to $39,999 $40,000 to $44,999 $45,000 or more Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2006. TX LA FL 208 09656_07_ch7_p192_225.qxd 11/17/06 2:31 PM Page 209 Active Learning: Ask students to identify wealthy and poor school districts in the region. Have students in work in small groups to talk about the characteristics of these districts and what distinguishes schools in poor districts from those in wealthy districts. "Every day I get up and look through the Forbes list of the richest people in America. If I'm not there, I go to work." (Robert Orben) money, wages, and payments that periodically are received as returns for an occupation or investment" (Kerbo, 2000: 19). Sociologist Dennis Gilbert (2003) compares the distribution of income to a national pie that has been sliced into portions, ranging in size from stingy to generous, for distribution among segments of the population. As shown in Figure 7.4, in 2006 the wealthiest 20 percent of households received more than 50 percent of the total income "pie" while the poorest 20 percent of households received less than 4 percent of all income. The top 5 percent alone received more than 20 percent of all income--an amount greater than that received by the bottom 50 percent of all households (Bucks, Kennickell, and Moore, 2006). In the last two decades of the twentieth century and the first few years of the twenty-first century, the gulf between the rich and the poor widened in the United States. Since the early 1990s, the poor have been more likely to stay poor, and the affluent have been more likely to stay affluent. Between 1993 and 2003, the income of the top one-fifth of U.S. families increased by more than 31 percent; during that same period of time, the income of the bottom one-fifth of families increased by only 13 percent (Tax Policy Center, 2006) (see Figure 7.5). Income distribution varies by race/ethnicity as well as class. Figure 7.6 compares median income by race/ethnicity, showing not only the disparity among groups but also the consistency of that disparity. Over half of African American (57.2 percent) and Latino/a Figure 7.4 (51.8 percent) households fall within the lowest two income categories; slightly over one-third (38.0 percent) of whites are in these categories (DeNavas-Walt, Cleveland, and Webster, 2003). In all categories, differences in the median income of married couples and female-headed households are striking. WEALTH INEQUALITY Income is only one aspect of wealth. Wealth includes property such as buildings, land, farms, houses, factories, and cars, as well as other assets such as bank accounts, corporate stocks, bonds, and insurance policies. Wealth is computed by subtracting all debt obligations and converting the remaining assets into cash (U.S. Congress, 1986). For most people in the United States, wealth is invested primarily in property that generates no income, such as a home or car. By contrast, the wealth of an elite minority is often in the form of income-producing property. To see how wealth inequality has increased in recent decades, let's compare two studies. A study by the Joint Economic Committee of Congress divided the population into four categories: (1) the super-rich (0.5 percent of households), who own 35 percent of the nation's wealth, with net assets averaging almost $9 million; (2) the very rich (the next 0.5 percent of households), who own about 7 percent of the nation's wealth, with net assets ranging from $1.4 million to $2.5 million; income the economic gain derived from wages, salaries, income transfers (governmental aid), and ownership of property. Distribution of Pretax Income in the United States Next 20% of U.S. population Wealthiest 20% of U.S. population Next-wealthiest 15% of U.S. population Next 40% of U.S. population Wealthiest 5% of U.S. population Thinking of personal income in the United States (before taxes) as a large pizza helps us to see which segments of the population receive the largest and smallest portions. What part do taxes play in redistributing parts of the pizza? Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2006. Inequality in the United States Poorest 20% of U.S. population 209 09656_07_ch7_p192_225.qxd 11/17/06 2:31 PM Page 210 Lecture Idea: Discuss federal, state, and local tax policies to help students see the relationship among class, employment, and taxes. Debate the merits of the "flat tax" and "consumption tax" ideas. How would these kinds of tax plans affect the middle class, the working class, and the wealthy? Three-quarters of U.S. workers feel satisfied with their pay, but 44 percent would alter the blend of money and benefits if offered the chance, according to the Hudson Highland Group. The largest segment, 33 percent, would choose more flexible hours. (Fortune) Figure 7.5 $950,000 $900,000 Average After-Tax Family Income in the United States 1993 2003 $800,000 $700,000 $600,000 $500,000 $400,000 $300,000 $200,000 As contrasted with Figure 7.4, this chart shows the distribution of after-tax family income in the United States. Notice the dramatic increase in income for the top 1 percent of U.S. families. During the past decade the difference in income between the richest and poorest people in this nation has become even more pronounced. Source: Tax Policy Center, 2006. $100,000 $75,000 $50,000 $25,000 0 Bottom fifth Fourth fifth Third fifth Second fifth Top fifth Top 1% Income percentiles (3) the rich (9 percent of households), who own 30 percent of the wealth, with net assets of a little over $400,000; and (4) everybody else (the bottom 90 percent), who own about 28 percent of the nation's wealth. However, by 1995, another study indicated that the holdings of super-rich households had risen from 35 percent to almost 40 percent of all assets in the nation (stocks, bonds, cash, life insurance policies, paintings, jewelry, and other tangible assets) (Rothchild, 1995). For the upper class, wealth often comes from interest, dividends, and inheritance (Haseler, 2000). One analysis of the Forbes 400 list of the wealthiest U.S. citizens found that 42 percent of the people on that list had inherited sufficient wealth to put them on the list (Gilbert, 2003). Inheritors are often three or four generations removed from the individuals who amassed the original wealth (Odendahl, 1990). After inheriting a fortune, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., stated that "I was born into [wealth] and there was nothing I could do about it. It was there, like air or food or any other element. The only question with wealth is what to do with it" (qtd. in Glastris, 1990: 26). Disparities in wealth are more pronounced when compared across racial and ethnic categories. According to the Census Bureau, the net worth of the average white household in 2000 was more than ten times that of the average African American household and more than eight times that of the average Latina/o household (Orzechowski and Sepielli, 2001). Married couples have a higher net worth than the unmarried, and households headed by people age 55 and older are wealthier than those headed by younger persons (Orzechowski and Sepielli, 2001). 210 Chapter 7 Class and Stratification in the United States 09656_07_ch7_p192_225.qxd 11/17/06 2:31 PM Page 211 "That the poor are invisible is one of the most important things about them. They are not simply neglected and forgotten as in the old rhetoric of reform; what is much worse, they are not seen." (Michael Harrington) Lecture Idea: Talk about the relationship between education and opportunities for minority citizens. Help students to understand why education has proven to be a great equalizer in our society. Figure 7.6 Median Household Income by Race/Ethnicity in the United States African American $30,134 $23,558 2004 1992 Hispanic $34,241 $28,384 $48,977 $40,458 $57,518 $47,482 0 $10,000 $20,000 $30,000 $40,000 $50,000 $60,000 White Asian and Pacific Islander Note: Amounts shown in constant dollars. Source: DeNavas-Walt, Cleveland, and Webster, 2003; DeNavas-Walt; Proctor, and Lee, 2005. Consequences of Inequality Income and wealth are not simply statistics; they are intricately related to the American Dream and our individual life chances. Persons with a high income or substantial wealth have more control over their own lives. They have greater access to goods and services; they can afford better housing, more education, and a wider range of medical services. Persons with less income, especially those living in poverty, must spend their limited resources to acquire the basic necessities of life. PHYSICAL HEALTH, MENTAL HEALTH, AND NUTRITION People who are wealthy and well educated and who have high-paying jobs are much more likely to be healthy than are poor people. As people's economic status increases, so does their health status. The poor have shorter life expectancies and are at greater risk for chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, as well as infectious diseases such as tuberculosis. Children born into poor families are at much greater risk of dying during their first year of life. Some die from disease, accidents, or violence. Others are unable to survive because they are born with low birth weight, a condition linked to birth defects and increased probability of infant mortality (Rogers, 1986). Low birth weight in infants is attributed, at least in part, to the inadequate nutrition received by many low-income pregnant women. Most of the poor do not receive preventive medical and dental checkups; many do not receive adequate medical care after they experience illness or injury. Many high-poverty areas lack an adequate supply of doctors and medical facilities. Even in areas where such services are available, the inability to pay often prevents people from seeking medical care when it is needed. Some "charity" clinics and hospitals may provide indigent patients (those who cannot pay) with minimal emergency care but make them feel stigmatized in the process. For many of the working poor, medical insurance is out of the question. Approximately 45.8 million people in the United States were without health insurance coverage in 2004--an increase of 800,000 from the preceding year (DeNavasWalt, Proctor, and Lee, 2005). Many people rely on their employers for health coverage; however, some employers are cutting back on health coverage, particularly for employees' family members. Despite passage of the 1996 KassebaumKennedy bill by Congress, which makes insurance more readily available for millions of people who change their jobs or lose them, many unemployed workers and their families remain without medical coverage. However, the uninsured are a changing group in the United States--not everyone who becomes uninsured for a month or more remains uninsured throughout a Inequality in the United States 211 09656_07_ch7_p192_225.qxd 11/17/06 2:31 PM Page 212 PHOTO ESSAY What Keeps the American Dream Alive? Although the American Dream of rags to riches may be an illusive goal for many people, most of us still believe that a person in the United States can get ahead by gaining a good education, through hard work, by marketing a creative idea, by winning the lottery, or by some other means. Whether or not they can ultimately rise to the top economic and social tiers of society, many people still strive to attain their personal--although perhaps scaled down--version of the American Dream. Some sociological perspectives suggest that vast inequalities between the rich and the poor create such a large divide that upward mobility is virtually impossible for those in the lower economic tiers of society. However, other perspectives are based on the assumption that human capital--in the form of education, hard work, and outstanding achievement--can help a person move up the socioeconomic ladder. Regardless of which perspective you or I might subscribe to, millions of people in the United States and around the world see this country as the land in which dreams can come true and in which a person can create a better life for his or her family. As you view the pictures on these two pages, think about the ways in which various people seek out their own American Dream. Doing so helps us gain a better understanding of some of the issues relating to social stratification Quick and easy ways to attain the American Dream--such as winning a very large lottery drawing-- have great appeal to many people in the United States and throughout the world. However, despite the widespread publicity that winners receive, only a very small fraction of those persons who attain the American Dream of wealth do so through lotteries or gambling. Tannen Maury /The Image Works 09656_07_ch7_p192_225.qxd 11/17/06 2:31 PM Page 213 Small Businesses and the American Dream We often think of "big-ticket" entrepreneurs such as Bill Gates or Michael Dell as having achieved the American Dream. However, sidewalk vendors who own their own business may believe that they, too, have achieved their dream, especially when they come from nations where no similar dream would have even been possible. Long Hours and Hard Work This single mother with four children seeks the American Dream by working three different jobs as a practical nurse while attending college. For some people, getting ahead requires 24/7 commitment, but she believes that it will be worth the effort to become a registered nurse and earn better pay with fewer hours than she now works. AP Images Liz Hafalia/ San Francisco Chronicle Katherine McGlynn/ The Image Works AP Images Social Interaction and Resilience From homeless person to millionaire stockbroker sounds like the plot line of a movie, which it is: The Pursuit of Happyness (2006), starring Will Smith. But it is also the real-life story of Chris Gardner, chief executive of Gardner Rich LLC, a multi-million-dollar Chicago brokerage firm, on whose autobiography The Pursuit of Happyness is based. Although Gardner never attended college, he has been highly successful in his financial endeavors and is now hoping to get investors to help him create a billion-dollar investment fund to promote economic opportunities for South Africans. Here you see him on a visit to the soup kitchen at Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco, California, where he used to eat. The Cost of an Education For individuals who were not born into affluent families, education is important for attaining the American Dream of upward mobility. Here you see a Latina high school student looking over a federal application for student aid during a conference held at the University of New Hampshire. The university is hosting the conference to encourage minority students to consider attending their school. Students often turn to student aid programs as a source of funding in the hope that they can obtain a college education. What will happen to the American Dream for students such as the woman shown here if such funding is reduced or eliminated in the future? 09656_07_ch7_p192_225.qxd 11/17/06 2:31 PM Page 214 Lecture Idea: Get your class thinking about some of the health risks that people at the bottom of the economic ladder typically experience (manual labor, poor living conditions, lack of access to health care). It can be difficult at times for students to be fully aware of the living conditions of other social classes. given year. Of all age groups, persons age 18 to 24 are the most likely to be uninsured; Medicare and other benefit programs provide medical care to most persons 65 and over (DeNavas-Walt, Proctor, and Lee, 2005). As shown in Figure 7.7, a high percentage of poor persons do not have health insurance. Many lower-paying jobs are often the most dangerous and have the greatest health hazards. Black lung disease, cancer caused by asbestos, and other environmental hazards found in the workplace are more likely to affect manual laborers and low-income workers, as are job-related accidents. Although the precise relationship between class and health is not known, analysts suggest that people with higher income and wealth tend to smoke less, exercise more, maintain a healthy body weight, and eat nutritious meals. As a category, more-affluent persons tend to be less depressed and face less psychological stress, conditions that tend to be directly proportional to income, education, and job status (Mental Medicine, 1994). Good health is basic to good life chances; in turn, adequate nutrition is essential for good health. Hunger is related to class position and income inFigure 7.7 Percentage of U.S. Population Without Health Insurance, 2002 All persons Poor persons equality. Recent surveys estimate that 13 percent of children under age 12 are hungry or at risk of being hungry. Among the working poor, almost 75 percent of the children are thought to be in this category. After spending 60 percent of their income on housing, low-income families are unable to provide adequate food for their children. Between one-third and onehalf of all children living in poverty consume significantly less than the federally recommended guidelines for caloric and nutritional intake (Children's Defense Fund, 2002). Lack of adequate nutrition has been linked to children's problems in school. Moreover, recent changes in welfare laws have adversely affected millions of U.S. children (see Box 7.2). HOUSING As discussed in Chapter 4 ("Social Struc- Class and Stratification in the United States 65 and over 0.8% 1.9% 13.5% 33.1% 17.7% 46.0% 24.9% 48.6% 29.6% 43.9% 11.6% 20.1% 4564 3544 ture and Interaction in Everyday Life"), homelessness is a major problem in the United States. The lack of affordable housing is a pressing concern for many low-income individuals and families. With the economic prosperity of the 1990s, low-cost housing units in many cities were replaced with expensive condominiums and luxury single-family residences for affluent people. As unemployment rose dramatically beginning in 2001, partly due to terrorism and a faltering economy, housing costs remained high compared to many families' ability to pay for food, shelter, clothing, and other necessities. Lack of affordable housing is one central problem brought about by economic inequality. Another concern is substandard housing, which refers to facilities that have inadequate heating, air conditioning, plumbing, electricity, or structural durability. Structural problems--due to faulty construction or lack of adequate maintenance--exacerbate the potential for other problems such as damage from fire, falling objects, or floors and stairways collapsing. EDUCATION Educational opportunities and life chances are directly linked. Some functionalist theorists view education as the "elevator" to social mobility. Improvements in the educational achievement levels (measured in number of years of schooling completed) of the poor, people of color, and white women have been cited as evidence that students' abilities are now more important than their class, race, or gender. From this perspective, inequality in education is declining, and students have an opportunity to achieve upward mo- 2534 1824 Chapter 7 Under 18 Source: Mills and Bhandari, 2003. 214 09656_07_ch7_p192_225.qxd 11/17/06 2:31 PM Page 215 The 2000 Census Supplementary Survey found the following: 17.06 percent of households received public assistance or noncash benefit(s). 3.83 percent received supplemental security income. 2.60 percent received cash public assistance benefits. 6.12 percent received food stamp benefits in the past 12 months. 8.18 percent received free or reduced price school meals benefits in the past 12 months. BOX 7.2 Sociology and Social Policy Welfare Reform and Its Aftermath I'm a hard worker. I'm friendly. I'm dependable. I'm a fast learner. When I was working in the schools, I was there every day on time. And whenever somebody needed me, I was there and I stayed late. --Linda Bailey, a thirty-three-year-old mother of two young sons, had been on welfare for eight years when she began participating in a job-readiness program in New York City (qtd. in Swarns, 1997: 1). With her training, Linda found a part-time job in a supermarket. Upon receiving her first paycheck, she stated that "Now I don't feel like a failure anymore" (qtd. in Swarns, 1997: 1). But how far can Linda and other women like her go in supporting themselves and their children on the earnings they receive from jobs that are part time or pay only the federal minimum wage, which has remained at $5.15 per hour since 1997? When dramatic changes to this nation's welfare laws were enacted by Congress and signed into law by President Clinton in 1996, the stated purposes of that new law included not only getting people off the welfare rolls by requiring welfare recipients to find paid employment but also bringing families together by encouraging parental responsibility. When the law was enacted, more than 14 million U.S. children--one in five--lived in poverty. Today, although children younger than age six remain the poorest age group in the nation, the percentage of U.S. children living in poverty has been reduced (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2000). How well has welfare reform worked? According to a variety of social analysts, the results are mixed. There has been a dramatic reduction in the number of people on welfare, which was one of the goals of welfare reform. About 60 percent of the mothers who have left the welfare rolls have found jobs, which was another of the goals of the legislation. However, the Children's Defense Fund (2002) argues that getting people off the welfare rolls and into low-wage work alone is not enough to help these people overcome hardship and poverty. It cites, among others, these examples: More than half of those persons who left welfare since 1996 for work no longer have a job. For those parents who had left a job, lack of child care was the reason most often reported. More than half of the employed parents had been unable to pay the rent, buy food, afford medical care, or pay for their telephone or electric service. What will be the future of women and children who formerly depended, at least temporarily, on the government for assistance? We do not have a definitive answer for this pressing question. However, some social analysts believe that people typically bring their own political and economic agendas with them when they analyze such concerns as what effects welfare reform will have on families with young children. For some, cutting the welfare rolls is the goal, and this goal is being met. For others, the effects of these welfare changes can be measured only in terms of whether or not they put more women and their children at risk. At the bottom line, eliminating child poverty is crucial not only on the grounds of humanity and compassion, but also as an investment in this nation's future (Children's Defense Fund, 2002). bility through achievements at school. Functionalists generally see the education system as flexible, allowing most students the opportunity to attend college if they apply themselves (Ballantine, 2001). In contrast, most conflict theorists stress that schools are agencies for reproducing the capitalist class system and perpetuating inequality in society. From this perspective, education perpetuates poverty. Parents with limited income are not able to provide the same educational opportunities for their children as are families with greater financial resources. Today, great disparities exist in the distribution of educational resources. Because funding for education comes primarily from local property taxes, school districts in wealthy suburban areas generally pay higher teachers' salaries, have newer buildings, and provide state-of-the-art equipment. By contrast, schools in poorer areas have a limited funding base. Students in central-city schools and poverty-stricken rural areas often attend dilapidated schools that lack essential equipment and teaching materials. Author Jonathan Kozol (1991, qtd. in Feagin and Feagin, Inequality in the United States 215 09656_07_ch7_p192_225.qxd 11/17/06 2:31 PM Page 216 Lecture Idea: Talk about some of the structural sources of poverty. As examples, tell students about some of the specific jobs that have been deskilled in our economy. "The poverty of our century is unlike that of any other. It is not, as poverty was before, the result of natural scarcity, but of a set of priorities imposed upon the rest of the world by the rich. Consequently, the modern poor are not pitied . . . but written off as trash. The twentieth-century consumer economy has produced the first culture for which a beggar is a reminder of nothing." (John Berger) Poverty in the United States When many people think about poverty, they think of people who are unemployed or on welfare. However, many hardworking people with full-time jobs live in poverty. The U.S. Social Security Administration has established an official poverty line, which is based on what is considered to be the minimum amount of money required for living at a subsistence level. The poverty level is computed by determining the cost of a minimally nutritious diet (a low-cost food budget on which a family could survive nutritionally on a shortterm, emergency basis) and multiplying this figure by three to allow for nonfood costs. In 2004, 37 million people lived below the official government poverty level of $19,484 for a family of 4, an increase of more than 1.1 million people in poverty since 2003 (DeNavasWalt, Proctor, and Lee, 2005). Tom Rosenthal/SuperStock Learn more about poverty in the United States by going through the % of Persons Below the Poverty Level Map Exercise. People's life chances are enchanced by access to important societal resources such as education. How will the life chances of students who have the opportunity to pursue a college degree differ from those of young people who do not have the chance to go to college? Class and Stratification in the United States 1994: 191) documented the effect of a two-tiered system on students: Kindergartners are so full of hope, cheerfulness, high expectations. By the time they get into fourth grade, many begin to lose heart. They see the score, understanding they're not getting what others are getting. . . . They see suburban schools on television. . . . They begin to get the point that they are not valued much in our society. By the time they are in junior high, they understand it. "We have eyes and we can see; we have hearts and we can feel. . . . We know the difference." Poverty extracts such a toll that many young people will not have the opportunity to finish high school, much less enter college. When sociologists define poverty, they distinguish between absolute and relative poverty. Absolute poverty exists when people do not have the means to secure the most basic necessities of life. This definition comes closest to that used by the federal government. Absolute poverty often has life-threatening consequences, such as when a homeless person freezes to death on a park bench. By comparison, relative poverty exists when people may be able to afford basic necessities but are still unable to maintain an average standard of living. A family must have income substantially above the official poverty line in order to afford the basic necessities, even when these are purchased at the lowest possible cost. At about 155 percent of the official poverty line, families could live on an economy budget. What is it like to live on the economy budget? John Schwarz and Thomas Volgy (1992: 43) offer the following distressing description: Members of families existing on the economy budget never go out to eat, for it is not included in the food budget; they never go out to a movie, concert, or ball game or indeed to any public or private establishment that charges admission, for there is no entertainment budget; they have no 216 Chapter 7 09656_07_ch7_p192_225.qxd 11/17/06 2:31 PM Page 217 Discussion Topic: Why do children run a much greater risk of living in poverty than older persons? Discussion Topic: What is the official poverty line, and why is it somewhat misleading? "Nothing you do for children is ever wasted. They seem not to notice us, hovering, averting our eyes, and they seldom offer thanks, but what we do for them is never wasted." (Garrison Keillor) cable television, for the same reason; they never purchase alcohol or cigarettes; never take a vacation or holiday that involves any motel or hotel or, again, any meals out; never hire a baby-sitter or have any other paid child care; never give an allowance or other spending money to the children; never purchase any lessons or home-learning tools for the children; never buy books or records for the adults or children, or any toys, except in the small amounts available for birthday or Christmas presents ($50 per person over the year); never pay for a haircut; never buy a magazine; have no money for the feeding or veterinary care of any pets; and, never spend any money for preschool for the children, or educational trips for them away from home, or any summer camp or other activity with a fee. AGE Today, children are at a much greater risk of living in poverty than are older persons. A generation ago, persons over age 65 were at the greatest risk of being poor; however, government programs such as Social Security and pension plans have been indexed for inflation and thus provide for something closer to an adequate standard of living than do other social welfare programs. Even so, older women are twice as likely to be poor as older men; older African Americans and Latinos/as are much more likely to live below the poverty line than are non-Latino/a whites. The age category most vulnerable to poverty today is the very young. One out of every three persons below the poverty line is under 18 years of age, and a large number of children hover just above the official Who Are the Poor? Poverty in the United States is not randomly distributed, but rather is highly concentrated according to age and race/ethnicity, as indicated in Table 7.1, as well as gender. 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. absolute poverty a level of economic deprivation that exists when people do not have the means to secure the most basic necessities of life. relative poverty a condition that exists when people may be able to afford basic necessities but are still unable to maintain an average standard of living. Learn more about who are the poor by going through the % of Female Households Below the Poverty Line Map Exercise. Table 7.1 Percentage Distribution of Poverty in the United States ALL RACESa WHITEb 10.5 14.5 7.8 7.0 7.5 15.7 9.4 7.0 3.7 AFRICAN AMERICAN 33.6 28.1 20.2 16.8 23.9 34.8 22.0 14.9 7.1 ASIAN AMERICAN 10.0 17.9 8.1 7.9 13.6 15.8 11.3 11.5 6.1 HISPANICc 28.9 22.6 18.4 14.4 18.7 Poverty in the United States By Age Under 18 years 1824 years 2544 4564 65 and above By Education No high school diploma 4 years of high school Some college (no degree) College degree or more a b c 17.8 18.1 11.2 8.8 9.8 21.8 11.9 8.5 4.3 26.7 15.4 10.6 7.5 Includes other races/ethnicities not shown separately. Non-Hispanic white. Includes Hispanic persons of any race. Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2005c. 217 09656_07_ch7_p192_225.qxd 11/17/06 2:31 PM Page 218 Women constituted 65 percent of the rural poor age 65 and older in 2003. In rural areas, 8 percent of men versus 13 percent of women age 65 and older were poor. Among nonmetro women age 65 and older, poverty rates were three times higher for widows than for married women. Many widowed persons live alone, and women are more likely to be widowed than men. Among the oldest old (a term used to define those 85 years and older), 10 percent of men and 17 percent of women in nonmetro areas were poor. (Carolyn Rogers, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, September 2006) and 49 percent of African American children in the same category (DeNavas-Walt, Proctor, and Mills, 2004). Nor does the future look bright: Many governmental programs established to alleviate childhood poverty and malnutrition have been seriously cut back or eliminated altogether. GENDER About two-thirds of all adults living in Many women are among the "working poor," who, although employed full time, have jobs in service occupations that are typically lower paying and less secure than jobs in other sectors of the labor market. Does the nature of women's work contribute to the feminization of poverty in the United States? poverty line. The precarious position of African American and Latino/a children is even more striking. In 2004, 33.6 percent of all African Americans under age 18 lived in poverty; 28.9 percent of Latino/a children were also poor, as compared with 10.5 percent of non-Latino/a white children (U.S. Census Bureau, 2006). What do such statistics indicate about the future of our society? Children as a group are poorer now than they were at the beginning of the 1980s, whether they live in one- or two-parent families. The majority live in two-parent families in which one or both parents are employed. However, children in single-parent households headed by women have a much greater likelihood of living in poverty: Approximately 29 percent of white (non-Latino/a) children under age 18 in femaleheaded households live below the poverty line, as sharply contrasted with about 50 percent of Latina/o poverty are women. In 2004, single-parent families headed by women had a 35 percent poverty rate as compared with a 10 percent rate for two-parent families. Sociologist Diana Pearce (1978) coined a term to describe this problem: The feminization of poverty refers to the trend in which women are disproportionately represented among individuals living in poverty. According to Pearce (1978), women have a higher risk of being poor because they bear the major economic and emotional burdens of raising children when they are single heads of households but earn between 70 and 80 cents for every dollar a male worker earns. More women than men are unable to obtain regular, full-time, year-round employment, and the lack of adequate, affordable day care exacerbates this problem. Does the feminization of poverty explain poverty in the United States today? Is poverty primarily a women's issue? On the one hand, this thesis highlights a genuine problem--the link between gender and poverty. On the other hand, several major problems exist with this argument. First, women's poverty is not a new phenomenon. Women have always been more vulnerable to poverty (see Katz, 1989). Second, all women are not equally vulnerable to poverty. Many in the upper and upper-middle classes have the financial resources, education, and skills to support themselves regardless of the presence of a man in the household. Third, event-driven poverty does not explain the realities of poverty for many women of color, who instead may experience "reshuffled poverty"--a condition of deprivation that follows them regardless of their marital status or the type of family in which they live. Research by Mary Jo Bane (1986; Bane and Ellwood, 1994) demonstrates that two out of three African American families headed by a woman were poor before the family event that made the woman a single mother. In addition, the poverty risk for a two-parent African American family is more than twice that for a white two-parent family. 218 Chapter 7 Class and Stratification in the United States Sonda Dawes/The Image Works 09656_07_ch7_p192_225.qxd 11/17/06 2:31 PM Page 219 Overall, nearly 50,000 poor New Orleanians lived in neighborhoods where the poverty rate exceeded 40 percent. New Orleans ranked second among the nation's 50 largest cities on the degree to which its poor families, mostly African American, were clustered in extremely poor neighborhoods like the Lower Ninth Ward. In these places, the average household earned barely more than $20,000 annually, only one in twelve adults held a college degree, four in five children were raised in single-parent families, and four in ten working-age adults--many of them disabled--were not connected to the labor force. (Alan Berube and Bruce Katz of the Brookings Institution, October 2006) Finally, poverty is everyone's problem, not just women's. When women are impoverished, so are their children. Moreover, many of the poor in our society are men, especially the chronically unemployed, older persons, the homeless, persons with disabilities, and men of color who have spent their adult lives without hope of finding work. RACE/ETHNICITY According to some stereotypes, most of the poor and virtually all welfare recipients are people of color. However, this stereotype is false; white Americans (non-Latinos/as) account for approximately two-thirds of those below the official poverty line. However, such stereotypes are perpetuated because a disproportionate percentage of the impoverished in the United States are made up of African Americans, Latinos/as, and Native Americans. About 24 percent of African Americans and 22 percent of Latinas/os were among the officially poor in 2004, as compared with about 8 percent of non-Latino/a whites (DeNavas-Walt, Proctor, and Lee, 2005). Native Americans are among the most severely disadvantaged persons in the United States. About one-third live below the poverty line, and some of these individuals live in conditions of extreme poverty. job that leads to a corresponding reduction in the wages for that job--has resulted from the introduction of computers and other technology (Hodson and Parker, 1988). The shift from manufacturing to service occupations has resulted in the loss of higher-paying positions and their replacement with lower-paying and less-secure positions that do not offer the wages, job stability, or advancement potential of the disappearing manufacturing jobs. Many of the new jobs are located in the suburbs, thus making them inaccessible to central-city residents. The problems of unemployment, underemployment, and poverty-level wages are even greater for people of color and young people in declining central cities. The unemployment rate for African Americans is almost double that of whites (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2003). African Americans have also experienced gender differences in employment that may produce different types of economic vulnerability. African American men who find employment typically earn more than African American women; however, the men's employment is often less secure. In the past decade, African American men have been more likely to lose their jobs because of declining employment in the manufacturing sector (Bane, 1986; Collins, 1990; Bane and Ellwood, 1994). Economic and Structural Sources of Poverty Social inequality and poverty have both economic and structural sources. The low wages paid for many jobs is the major cause: Half of all families living in poverty are headed by someone who is employed, and one-third of those family heads work full time. A person with full-time employment in a minimum-wage job cannot keep a family of four from sinking below the official poverty line. Structural problems contribute to both unemployment and underemployment. Corporations have been disinvesting in the United States, displacing millions of people from their jobs. Economists refer to this displacement as the deindustrialization of America (Bluestone and Harrison, 1982). Even as they have closed their U.S. factories and plants, many corporations have opened new facilities in other countries where "cheap labor" exists because people will, of necessity, work for lower wages. Job deskilling--a reduction in the proficiency needed to perform a specific Solving the Poverty Problem The United States has attempted to solve the poverty problem in several ways. One of the most enduring is referred to as social welfare. When most people think of "welfare," they think of food stamps and programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or the earlier program it replaced, Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). However, the primary beneficiaries of social welfare programs are not poor. Some analysts estimate that approximately 80 percent of all social welfare benefits are paid to people who do not qualify as "poor." For Poverty in the United States feminization of poverty the trend in which women are disproportionately represented among individuals living in poverty. 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. 219 09656_07_ch7_p192_225.qxd 11/17/06 2:31 PM Page 220 Active Learning: Assign your students to small groups, and have them design a model meritocracy in which all positions are rewarded based on people's ability and credentials. Ask each group these questions: What kinds of ability would you reward most highly? Least? What types of credentials are most important for the society? Least? Discussion Topic: According to conflict theorists, which occupational categories make up the working class? Would functionalists agree with this categorization? Why or why not? example, many recipients of Social Security are older people in middle- and upper-income categories. When older persons, including members of Congress, accept Social Security payments, they are not stigmatized. Similarly, veterans who receive benefits from the Veterans Benefits Administration are not viewed as "slackers," and farmers who profit because of price supports are not considered to be lazy and unwilling to work. Unemployed workers who receive unemployment compensation are viewed with sympathy because of the financial plight of their families. By contrast, poor women and children who receive minimal benefits from welfare programs tend to be stigmatized and sometimes humiliated. Sociological Explanations of Social Inequality in the United States Obviously, some people are disadvantaged as a result of social inequality. Therefore, is inequality always harmful to society? Davis and Moore use the physician as an example of a functionally unique position. Doctors are very important to society and require extensive training, but individuals would not be motivated to go through years of costly and stressful medical training without incentives to do so. The DavisMoore thesis assumes that social stratification results in meritocracy--a hierarchy in which all positions are rewarded based on people's ability and credentials. Critics have suggested that the DavisMoore thesis ignores inequalities based on inherited wealth and intergenerational family status (Rossides, 1986). The thesis assumes that economic rewards and prestige are the only effective motivators for people and fails to take into account other intrinsic aspects of work, such as self-fulfillment (Tumin, 1953). It also does not adequately explain how such a reward system guarantees that the most qualified people will gain access to the most highly rewarded positions. Conflict Perspectives From a conflict perspective, people with economic and political power are able to shape and distribute the rewards, resources, privileges, and opportunities in society for their own benefit. Conflict theorists do not believe that inequality serves as a motivating force for people; they argue that powerful individuals and groups use ideology to maintain their favored positions at the expense of others. Core values in the United States emphasize the importance of material possessions, hard work, individual initiative to get ahead, and behavior that supports the existing social structure. These same values support the prevailing resource distribution system and contribute to social inequality. Are wealthy people smarter than others? According to conflict theorists, certain stereotypes suggest that this is the case; however, the wealthy may actually be "smarter" than others only in the sense of having "chosen" to be born to wealthy parents from whom they could inherit assets. Conflict theorists also note that laws and informal social norms support inequality in the United States. For the first half of the twentieth century, both legalized and institutionalized segregation and discrimination reinforced employment discrimination and produced higher levels of economic inequality. Although laws have been passed to make Functionalist Perspectives According to the DavisMoore thesis (Davis and Moore, 1945), stratification exists in all societies, and some inequality is not only inevitable but also necessary for the ongoing functioning of society. The DavisMoore thesis, which has become the definitive functionalist explanation for social inequality, can be summarized as follows: 1. All societies have important tasks that must be accomplished and certain positions that must be filled. 2. Some positions are more important for the survival of society than others. 3. The most important positions must be filled by the most qualified people. 4. The positions that are the most important for society and that require scarce talent, extensive training, or both must be the most highly rewarded. 5. 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. 220 Chapter 7 Class and Stratification in the United States 09656_07_ch7_p192_225.qxd 11/17/06 2:31 PM Page 221 "The individual may desire, earn, and deserve deference, but by and large he is not allowed to give it to himself, being forced to seek it from others. In seeking it from others, he finds he has added reason for seeking them out, and in turn society is given added assurance that its members will enter into interaction and relationships with one another. If the individual could give himself the deference he desired there might be a tendency for society to disintegrate into islands inhabited by solitary cultish men, each in continuous worship at his own shrine." (Erving Goffman, "The Nature of Deference and Demeanor") these overt acts of discrimination illegal, many forms of discrimination still exist in educational and employment opportunities. Symbolic Interactionist Perspectives Symbolic interactionists focus on microlevel concerns and usually do not analyze larger structural factors that contribute to inequality and poverty. However, many significant insights on the effects of wealth and poverty on people's lives and social interactions can be derived from applying a symbolic interactionist approach. Using qualitative research methods and influenced by a symbolic interactionist approach, researchers have collected the personal narratives of people across all social classes, ranging from the wealthiest to the poorest people in the United States. A few studies provide rare insights into the social interactions between people from vastly divergent class locations. Sociologist Judith Rollins's (1985) study of the relationship between household workers and their employers is one example. Based on in-depth interviews and participant observation, Rollins examined rituals of deference that were often demanded by elite white women of their domestic workers, who were frequently women of color. According to the sociologist Erving Goffman (1967), deference is a type of ceremonial activity that functions as a symbolic means whereby appreciation is regularly conveyed to a recipient. In fact, deferential behavior between nonequals (such as employers and employees) confirms the inequality of the relationship and each party's position in the relationship relative to the other. Rollins identified three types of linguistic deference between domestic workers and their employers: use of the first names of the workers, contrasted with titles and last names (Mrs. Adams, for example) of the employers; use of the term girls to refer to female household workers regardless of their age; and deferential references to employers, such as "Yes, ma'am." Spatial demeanor, including touching Steve Rubin/ The Image Works According to a functional perspective, people such as these Harvard Law School graduates attain high positions in society because they are the most qualified and they work the hardest. Is our society a meritocracy? How would conflict theorists answer this question? and how close one person stands to another, is an additional factor in deference rituals across class lines. Rollins (1985: 232) concludes that The employer, in her more powerful position, sets the essential tone of the relationship; and that tone . . . is one that functions to reinforce the inequality of the relationship, to strengthen the employer's belief in the rightness of her advantaged class and racial position, and to provide her with justification for the inegalitarian social system. DavisMoore thesis the functionalist theory that stratification exists in all societies and that some inequality is not only inevitable but also necessary for the ongoing functioning of society. meritocracy a hierarchy in which all positions are rewarded based on people's ability and credentials. Sociological Explanations of Social Inequality in the United States 221 09656_07_ch7_p192_225.qxd 11/17/06 2:31 PM Page 222 "If you can't feed a hundred people, then just feed one." (Mother Teresa) "It's really very simple, Governor. When people are hungry they die. So spare me your politics and tell me what you need and how you're going to get it to these people." (Bob Geldof) "There is a spiritual hunger in the world today--and it cannot be satisfied by better cars on longer credit terms." (Adlai Stevenson) BOX 7.3 You Can Make a Difference Feeding the Hungry The great fear among us all is that we are going to have to feed even more people. . . . It's not enough to just hand food out anymore. --Robert Egger, director of the nonprofit Central Kitchen in Washington, D.C. (qtd. in Clines, 1996) Egger is one of the people responsible for an innovative chef's training program that feeds hope as well as hunger. At the Central Kitchen, located in the nation's capital, staff and guest chefs annually train around 48 homeless persons in three-month-long kitchen-arts courses. While the trainees are learning about food preparation, which will help them get starting jobs in the restaurant industry, they are also helping feed about 3,000 homeless persons each day. Much of the food is prepared using donated goods such as turkeys that people have received as gifts at office parties and given to the kitchen, and leftover food from grocery stores including 7-Eleven stores, restaurants such as Pizza Hut, hotel food services, and college cafeterias. Central Kitchen got its start using leftovers from President George H. W. Bush's inaugural banquet in the late 1980s (Clines, 1996). Recently, donated food has gotten a boost from the Good Samaritan law passed in 1996, which exempts nonprofit organizations and gleaners-- volunteers who collect what is left in the field after harvesting--from liability for problems with food that they contribute in good faith (see Burros, 1996). Can you think of ways that leftover food could be recovered from places where you eat so the food could be redistributed to persons in need? Have you thought about suggesting that members of an organization to which you belong might donate their time to help the Salvation Army, Red Cross, or other voluntary organization to collect, prepare, and serve food to others? If you would like to know more, "A Citizens Guide to Food Recovery" is available to help individuals participate in food recovery. Call 800-GLEAN-IT, or call the Salvation Army in your community. On the Internet: Joseph Sohm/CORBIS Class and Stratification in the United States Many community volunteers try to make a difference during holiday seasons by providing food for people who otherwise might have none. Serving dinner for the homeless at a Los Angeles mission is an example. However, some programs empower homeless persons by teaching them kitchen arts so that they can prepare food for themselves and for others. World Hunger Year has projects such as Reinvesting in America that try to end hunger: Contact the American Red Cross: 222 Chapter 7 09656_07_ch7_p192_225.qxd 11/17/06 2:31 PM Page 223 "Employers have to understand that if they want to attract and keep good people, they've got to treat those people as whole people who have lives outside work." (Robert Reich) Active Learning: Ask students to brainstorm in small groups for ideas about how to make the American Dream a greater reality for more people in this society. Push students to think of realistic solutions--based on what they have learned from the course thus far. Concept Table 7.A Sociological Explanations of Social Inequality in the United States Some degree of social inequality is necessary for the smooth functioning of society (in order to fill the most important functions) and thus is inevitable. Powerful individuals and groups use ideology to maintain their favored positions in society at the expense of others, and wealth is not necessary in order to motivate people. The beliefs and actions of people reflect their class location in society. Functionalist perspectives Conflict perspectives Symbolic interactionist perspectives Many concepts introduced by the sociologist Erving Goffman (1959, 1967) could be used as springboards for examining microlevel relationships between inequality and people's everyday interactions. What could you learn about class-based inequality in the United States by using a symbolic interactionist approach to examine a setting with which you are familiar? Concept Table 7.A summarizes the three major perspectives on social inequality in the United States. U.S. Stratification in the Future Will social inequality in the United States increase, decrease, or remain the same in the future? Many social scientists believe that existing trends point to an increase. First, the purchasing power of the dollar has stagnated or declined since the early 1970s. As families started to lose ground financially, more family members (especially women) entered the labor force in an attempt to support themselves and their families (Gilbert, 2003). Economist and former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich (1993) has noted that in recent years the employed have been traveling on two escalators--one going up and the other going down. The gap between the earnings of workers and the income of managers and top executives has widened. Second, wealth continues to become more concentrated at the top of the U.S. class structure. As the rich have grown richer, more people have found themselves among the ranks of the poor. Third, federal tax laws in recent years have benefited corporations and wealthy families at the expense of middleand lower-income families. Finally, structural sources of upward mobility are shrinking, whereas the rate of downward mobility has increased. Are we sabotaging our future if we do not work constructively to eliminate poverty? It has been said that a chain is no stronger than its weakest link. If we apply this idea to the problem of poverty, then it is to our advantage to see that those who cannot find work or do not have a job that provides a living wage receive adequate training and employment. Innovative programs can combine job training with producing something useful to meet the immediate needs of people living in poverty. Children of today--the adults of tomorrow--need nutrition, education, health care, and safety as they grow up (see Box 7.3). Some social analysts believe that the United States will become a better nation if it attempts to regain the American Dream by attacking poverty. According to the sociologist Michael Harrington (1985: 13), if we join in solidarity with the poor, we will "rediscover our own best selves . . . we will regain the vision of America." U.S. Stratification in the Future 223 09656_07_ch7_p192_225.qxd 11/17/06 2:31 PM Page 224 Chapter Review Maximize your study time by using ThomsonNOW's diagnostic study plan to help you review this chapter. The Study Plan will help you identify areas on which you should concentrate; provide interactive exercises to help you master the chapter concepts; and provide a post-test to confirm you are ready to move on to the next chapter. have fewer life chances and must spend their limited resources to acquire basic necessities. How do sociologists view poverty? What is social stratification, and how does it affect our daily life? Sociologists distinguish between absolute poverty and relative poverty. Absolute poverty exists when people do not have the means to secure the basic necessities of life. Relative poverty exists when people may be able to afford basic necessities but still are unable to maintain an average standard of living. Who are the poor? Social stratification is the hierarchical arrangement of large social groups based on their control over basic resources. People are treated differently based on where they are positioned within the social hierarchies of class, race, gender, and age. What are the major systems of stratification? Stratification systems include slavery, caste, and class. Slavery, an extreme form of stratification in which people are owned by others, is a closed system. The caste system is also a closed one in which people's status is determined at birth based on their parents' position in society. The class system, which exists in the United States, is a type of stratification based on ownership of resources and on the type of work that people do. Class and Stratification in the United States Age, gender, and race tend to be factors in poverty. Children have a greater risk of being poor than do the elderly, and women have a higher rate of poverty than do men. Although whites account for approximately two-thirds of those below the poverty line, people of color account for a disproportionate share of the impoverished in the United States. What is the functionalist view on class? How did classical sociologists such as Karl Marx and Max Weber view social class? Karl Marx and Max Weber acknowledged social class as a key determinant of social inequality and social change. For Marx, people's relationship to the means of production determines their class position. Weber developed a multidimensional concept of stratification that focuses on the interplay of wealth, prestige, and power. What are some of the consequences of inequality in the United States? Functionalist perspectives view classes as broad groupings of people who share similar levels of privilege on the basis of their roles in the occupational structure. According to the DavisMoore thesis, stratification exists in all societies, and some inequality is not only inevitable but also necessary for the ongoing functioning of society. The positions that are most important within society and that require the most talent and training must be highly rewarded. What is the conflict view on class? Conflict perspectives on class are based on the assumption that social stratification is created and maintained by one group (typically the capitalist class) in order to enhance and protect its own economic interests. Conflict theorists measure class according to people's relationships with others in the production process. What is the symbolic interactionist view on class? The stratification of society into different social groups results in wide discrepancies in income and wealth and in variable access to available goods and services. People with high income or wealth have greater opportunity to control their own lives. People with less income Chapter 7 Unlike functionalist and conflict perspectives that focus on macrolevel inequalities in societies, symbolic interactionist views focus on microlevel inequalities 224 09656_07_ch7_p192_225.qxd 11/17/06 2:31 PM Page 225 such as how class location may positively or negatively influence one's identity and everyday social interactions. Symbolic interactionists use terms such as social cohesion and deference to explain how class binds some individuals together while categorically separating out others. Key Terms absolute poverty 216 alienation 199 capitalist class (bourgeoisie) 199 caste system 198 class conflict 199 class system 198 DavisMoore thesis 220 feminization of poverty 218 income 208 intergenerational mobility 194 intragenerational mobility 194 job deskilling 219 life chances 194 meritocracy 220 official poverty line 216 pink-collar occupations 204 power 201 prestige 201 relative poverty 216 slavery 195 social mobility 194 social stratification 194 socioeconomic status (SES) 201 underclass 205 wealth 201 working class (proletariat) 199 Questions for Critical Thinking 1. Based on the Weberian and Marxian models of class structure, what is the class location of each of your ten closest friends or acquaintances? What is their location in relationship to yours? To one another's? What does their location tell you about friendship and social class? 2. Should employment be based on meritocracy, need, or affirmative action policies? 3. What might happen in the United States if the gap between rich and poor continues to widen? The Kendall Companion Website Supplement your review of this chapter by going to the companion website to take one of the tutorial quizzes, use the flash cards to master key terms, and check out the many other study aids you'll find there. You'll also find special features such as GSS Data and Census 2000 information that will put data and resources at your fingertips to help you with that special project or help you do some research on your own. Chapter Review 225 ... View Full Document

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