Unformatted text preview: 6/29/2021 Poverty | Boundless Sociology Boundless Sociology
Stratification, Inequality, and Social Class in the U.S. Poverty 1/22 6/29/2021 Poverty | Boundless Sociology SASE se
Ad Learn a
hybrid netw Ad Cloudflare
6 minute Poverty
Poverty is the condition of not having access to material resources, income, or wealth. LEARNING OBJECTIVES Assess how poverty relates to social mobility KEY TAKEAWAYS Key Points The United States officially defines poverty using the
poverty line. The poverty line is set at an income level
that is three times the approximate cost of a subsistence level food budget.
Poverty can also refer to the lack of opportunity to improve one’s standard of living (or poor life chances ). 2/22 6/29/2021 Poverty | Boundless Sociology The term ” near poverty ” refers to earnings that are
above the poverty line, but by no more than 25%.
Social mobility describes a person’s flexibility to change
their economic status.
If there is a high level of social mobility, it is relatively
easy for people to escape poverty; if social mobility is
low, it is very challenging for people to escape poverty.
Key Terms The Poverty Line: The threshold of poverty, below which one’s income does not cover necessities.
Near Poverty: The classification “near poverty” de- scribes a demographic group in the United States that
earns 25% above the poverty line. Poverty describes the state of not having access to material resources,
wealth, or income. The United States officially defines poverty using the
poverty line. The poverty line is set at an income level that is three times
the approximate cost of a subsistence level food budget. This definition
has been in use in the United States to track demographic changes and
allocate welfare aid since the 1960s.
“Near poverty” is the term for an income level that is just above the
poverty line; it refers to incomes that are no more than 25% above the
“Relative poverty” refers to economic disadvantage compared to wealthier members of society, whereas ” absolute poverty ” refers to a family
(or an individual) with an income so low that they cannot afford basic necessities of survival, such as food and shelter.
Poverty may correspond not only to lack of resources, but to the lack of
opportunity to improve one’s standard of living and acquire resources.
“Life chances” is a term used to describe someone’s access to marketplace resources—essentially, how likely it is in their environment that
they might be able to find employment or have a social safety net. 3/22 6/29/2021 Poverty | Boundless Sociology Someone who is living in poverty but has high life chances may be able
to improve their economic standing, but someone with low life chances
will likely have a consistently low standard of living. The term for a
person’s ability to change their economic status in a society is known as
“social mobility. ”
If there is a high level of social mobility, it is relatively easy for people to
leave poverty. Easy access to higher education and prevalence of wellpaying jobs contribute to social mobility. While some factors that contribute to poverty are the result of individual choices, such as dropping out
of school or committing a crime, other factors affect poverty that are beyond individual control. In the United States, minorities and women are
more likely to be living in poverty. Measuring Poverty
Poverty is defined by deprivation, and can be measured with economic
or social indicators. LEARNING OBJECTIVES Compare the differences between absolute and relative
poverty KEY TAKEAWAYS Key Points Economic measures of poverty include access to material needs, typically necessities such as food, clothing,
shelter, and safe drinking water, measures of income, or
measure of wealth. 4/22 6/29/2021 Poverty | Boundless Sociology Social measures of poverty include access to information, education, health care, or political power.
Absolute poverty refers to a fixed threshold based on
access to income and material resources, while relative
inequality is measured using a region’s median income
and standard of living and therefore reflects income
Relative poverty explains poverty as socially defined
and dependent on social context. Usually, relative
poverty is measured as the percentage of the population with income less than some fixed proportion of median income.
Key Terms World Bank: A group of five financial organizations whose purpose is economic development and the elimination of poverty.
absolute poverty: A measure of poverty based on a set standard that is consistent over time and between
countries, referring to the ability of individuals or groups
to meet their basic needs.
relative poverty: A measure of wealth inequality, de- scribing an individual or group’s wealth relative to an
other individual or group. Economic measures of poverty focus on material needs, typically including the necessities of daily living such as food, clothing, shelter, or safe
drinking water. Poverty in this sense may be understood as a condition
in which a person or community is lacking in the basic needs for a minimum standard of well-being, particularly as a result of a persistent lack of
Social measures of poverty may include lack of access to information,
education, health care, or political power. Poverty may also be understood as an aspect of inequitable social relationships, experienced as 5/22 6/29/2021 Poverty | Boundless Sociology social exclusion, dependency, and/or diminished capacity to participate
According to the World Bank, definitions of poverty include low income
and the inability to acquire the basic goods and services necessary for
survival with dignity. Poverty also encompasses low levels of health and
education, poor access to clean water and sanitation, inadequate physical security, lack of voice, and insufficient capacity and opportunity to
better one’s life.
Poverty is usually measured as either absolute or relative poverty. Absolute poverty refers to a set standard which is consistent over time and
between countries. The World Bank uses this definition of poverty to label extreme poverty as living on less than US $1.25 per day, and moderate poverty as less than $2 or $5 a day.
Relative poverty explains poverty as socially defined and dependent on
social context. Usually, relative poverty is measured as the percentage of
the population with income less than some fixed proportion of median
income. Relative poverty measures are used as official poverty rates in
several developed countries and are measured according to several different income inequality metrics, including the Gini coefficient and the
Theil Index. Measurements are usually based on a person’s yearly income and frequently take no account of total wealth. Explaining Poverty: The Sociological Debate
Sociologists take two opposing approaches to explaining economic
stratification: structural-functionalism and conflict theory. LEARNING OBJECTIVES Discuss the critiques of structural-functionalist approaches to
social stratification 6/22 6/29/2021 Poverty | Boundless Sociology KEY TAKEAWAYS Key Points According to structural-functionalists, stratification and
inequality are actually constructive phenomena that
benefit society —specifically, that the privileges attached to high- status incentive motivated, qualified
people to work to achieve those positions.
According to this logic, inequality ensures that the most
functionally important jobs are filled by the best qualified people.
Conflict theorists argue that stratification is dysfunctional and harmful to society, and that it results in competition between the rich and the poor as individuals
act for their own economic advantage.
Conflict theorists hold that competition and inequality
are not inevitable but are created and maintained by
people trying to gain access to scarce resources.
Key Terms social stratification: The hierarchical arrangement of social classes, or castes, within a society.
structural-functionalist approach: A sociological ap- proach to poverty that maintains that all parts of society
(even poverty) contribute in some way or another to the
larger system’s stability.
conflict-theory approach: A sociological theory of poverty that argues that stratification is dysfunctional
and harmful to society but persists because it benefits
the rich and powerful. Two classic sociological approaches to poverty and social stratification
are structural-functionalism and conflict theory. 7/22 6/29/2021 Poverty | Boundless Sociology The structural-functionalist approach to stratification asks the question:
what function or purpose does stratification serve? The theory’s answer
is that all parts of society, even poverty, contribute in some way or another to the larger system’s stability. According to structural-functionalists, stratification and inequality are actually constructive phenomena
that benefit society: they ensure that the best people are at the top of
the hierarchy and those who are less worthy are at the bottom. Those at
the top are given power and rewards because of high abilities, and the
high rewards exist to provide incentive for qualified people to do the
most important work in high status occupations. According to this logic,
inequality ensures that the most functionally important jobs are filled by
the best qualified people.
The conflict-theory approach offers a critique of structural-functionalism.
First, the critique asserts that it is difficult to determine the functional importance of any job, as a system of interdependence makes every position necessary to the functioning of society. Second, this approach assumes that the system of stratification is fair and rational, and that the
‘best’ people end up on top because of their superiority. But, according
to conflict theorists, in reality the system does not work so easily or perfectly and there are barriers to qualified people ascending the hierarchy.
In contrast to structural-functionalists, conflict theorists argue that stratification is dysfunctional and harmful in society. According to this theory,
stratification benefits the rich and powerful at the expense of the poor—
those in high-status positions continually build on their wealth, only further entrenching the gap between high-status and low-status people.
For example, many wealthy families pay low wages to nannies to care
for their children, gardeners to tend to their yards, and maids to clean
their homes. Conflict theorists believe that this competitive system, together with structural barriers to upward mobility ends up creating and
perpetuating stratification systems. Conflict theorists hold that competition and inequality are not inevitable but are created and maintained by
people. Meanwhile, structural-functionalists rebut that people do not always act solely out of economic self-interest. 8/22 6/29/2021 Poverty | Boundless Sociology Surgeons: The job of a surgeon is highly regarded and well compensated
but requires years of training, long work hours, and high stress. Structuralfunctionalists argue that the high status that comes with the job acts as
incentive for highly qualified people to pursue it. Social Exclusion
Social exclusion occurs when individuals and communities are blocked
from rights and opportunities that are available to others. LEARNING OBJECTIVES Discuss the causes of social exclusion KEY TAKEAWAYS Key Points 9/22 6/29/2021 Poverty | Boundless Sociology Social exclusion is distinct from poverty. Poverty is a distributional outcome, whereas exclusion can be defined
as the process of declining participation, solidarity, and
access to opportunities.
Unemployment or lack of transportation can be causes
of social exclusion.
The problem of social exclusion is usually tied to that of
equal opportunity, as some people are more subject to
such exclusion than others.
Sociologists see strong links between crime and social
exclusion in industrialized societies such as the United
Key Terms equal opportunity: equal opportunity is a stipulation that all people should be given access to opportunities
for advancement and treated similarly when competing
for jobs, housing, and other resources.
Social exclusion: processes through which individuals and entire communities of people are systematically
blocked from rights, opportunities, and resources that
are normally available to members of society and that
are key to social integration.
due process: a legal concept where a person is en- sured all legal rights when deprived of life, liberty, and
the pursuit of happiness for a given reason. Social exclusion is a concept used in many parts of the world to characterize forms of social disadvantage. It refers to processes through which
individuals and entire communities of people are systematically blocked
from rights, opportunities, and resources that are normally available to
members of society and that are key to social integration. These include
housing, employment, healthcare, civic engagement, democratic participation, and legal due process. 10/22 6/29/2021 Poverty | Boundless Sociology Poverty and exclusion are two different concepts. Poverty is a distributional outcome, whereas exclusion can be defined as process of declining participation, solidarity, and access. It is quite difficult to measure social exclusion quantitatively, as social exclusion is relative, sensitive, and
The causes of social exclusion vary from country to country, but there
are general causes that social scientists have identified. In modern industrialized societies, paid work is not only the principal source of income with which to buy goods and services, but is also the fount of individuals’ identity and feelings of self-worth. Therefore, unemployment is
considered a cause of social exclusion. In some circumstances, lack of
transportation can lead to social exclusion. For instance, if lack of access
to public transport or a vehicle prevents a person from getting to a job,
training course, job center, school, or entertainment venue they may be
shut out from opportunities.
The problem of social exclusion is usually tied to that of equal opportunity, as some people are more subject to exclusion than others.
Marginalization of certain groups is a problem even in many economically developed countries, including the United Kingdom and the United
States, where the majority of the population enjoys considerable economic and social opportunities.
Sociologists see strong links between crime and social exclusion in industrialized societies including the United States. Growing crime rates
may reflect the fact that an increasing number of people do not feel valued or included in the societies in which they live. Socially excluded populations may not benefit from the avenues for income and advancement
that are open to others, so they resort to illegal means of obtaining
resources. 11/22 6/29/2021 Poverty | Boundless Sociology Punk: Punk social groups are often considered marginal and are excluded
from certain mainstream social spaces. The Dynamics of Poverty
Poverty operates in a dynamic cycle, with the effects of poverty increasing the likelihood that it will be transferred between generations. LEARNING OBJECTIVES 12/22 6/29/2021 Poverty | Boundless Sociology Explain the cyclical impact of the consequences of poverty KEY TAKEAWAYS Key Points Poor people are less likely than others to have financial
capital, education, and social capital (connections to
people with specialized knowledge or in powerful positions). Without these resources, poverty -stricken individuals experience disadvantages which in turn increase their poverty.
The cycle of poverty can trap families in poverty for
generations, and often becomes widespread when
economies undergo restructuring from manufacturingbased economies to service-based economies.
Low-quality education, hunger, and homelessness can
all perpetuate poverty by creating barriers to individual
Key Terms economic restructuring: Economic restructuring refers to the phenomenon of shifting between two types of
economies, such as from a manufacturing to service
economy or agricultural to manufacturing economy.
Cycle of poverty: The idea that poverty operates in a dynamic cycle, with the effects of poverty increasing the
likelihood that it will be transferred between
generations. The basic premise of the poverty cycle the idea that poverty is a dynamic process—its effects may also be its causes. In economics, the cy- 13/22 6/29/2021 Poverty | Boundless Sociology cle of poverty has been defined as a phenomenon where poor families
become trapped in poverty for at least three generations. These families
have either limited or nonexistent social and economic resources. There
are many disadvantages that collectively work in a circular process to
make it virtually impossible for individuals to break the cycle of poverty.
Definitionally, poor people are less likely to have financial capital, education, and social capital (connections to people with specialized knowledge or in powerful positions). Without these resources, poverty-stricken
individuals experience disadvantages that, in turn, increase their poverty.
Sociologists have argued that the economic restructuring of the U.S. and
other developed nations from manufacturing to service-based economies has led to chronic joblessness in inner cities. In a service economy,
there is a higher proportion of high-skill jobs than in a manufacturing
economy. Thus, people who have lost their manufacturing positions are
unqualified for the jobs available in the new economy. This disparity between available jobs and workforce skill is a driver of cyclical poverty.
Research shows that schools with students who perform worse than the
norm are also those hiring the least-qualified teachers, because teachers
tend to work in schools in the area where they grew up—teachers who
are educated in poor schools come back to teach in the same low quality schools, keeping the schools from improving. Students who attend
these low quality schools graduate with little human capital (skills and
knowledge), and are thus unqualified for high status occupations. In this
way, inadequate or lack of education can perpetuate poverty.
Additionally, those living in poverty suffer disproportionately from
hunger, or in extreme cases starvation, and also exhibit disproportionately high rates of disease. These illnesses can be disabling, preventing
people in poverty from working in certain occupations or at certain capacities, thus reducing one’s opportunities to improve their social and
Finally, poverty increases the risk of homelessness. Slum-dwellers, who
make up a third of the world’s urban population, live in poverty no better,
if not worse, than rural people, who are the traditional victims of poverty
in the developing world. People who are homeless or live in slums have 14/22 6/29/2021 Poverty | Boundless Sociology low access to neighborhood resources, high status social contacts, or
basic services such as a phone line. This limits their ability to improve
their economic position, again perpetuating poverty. Afghan Girl Begging: A young Afghan girl begging in the street in Kabul, 8
September 2008. Photo by Mikhail Evstafiev Children in Poverty: Street Child, Srimangal Railway Station, Srimangal,
Maulvi Bazar, Bangladesh. 15/22 6/29/2021 Poverty | Boundless Sociology The Feminization of Poverty
The feminization of poverty refers to the fact that women represent a
disproportionate share of the world’s poor. LEARNING OBJECTIVES Discuss three causes of female poverty KEY TAKEAWAYS Key Points The feminization of poverty is not only a consequence
of lack of income, but is also the result of the deprivation of opportunities and gender biases present in both
societies and governments.
Women’s increasing share of poverty is related to the
View Full Document