Sociology Paper 2: Social Inequality Pt 2
Sociology Paper 2: Social Inequality Pt 2
Life chances = people's chances of having positive or negative outcomes over their lifetime - e.g. in education, health, income, employment and housing.
Are distributed unequally between individuals and groups because they are affected by social factors (e.g. class position, gender and ethnicity) - people in higher social classes will have more chance than those in other classes of accessing good quality healthcare and decent housing
A key aspect of studying social inequality and social stratification
Are shaped by inequalities in wealth, income, power and status
Social class as a form of stratification
Identified two main classes in capitalist society: the bourgeoisie (capitalist or ruling class) and the proletariat (the working class).
Class membership = determined by economic factors (ownership or non-ownership).
the bourgeoisie = owned the property, big businesses, land and factories
The proletariat = owned no property and were forced to sell their labour power to survive
These classes had different interests: bourgeoisie = wanted higher profits, the proletariat = higher wages - this led to conflict between them.
Like Marx, Weber saw class as based on economic factors such ass wealth
However, Weber also stressed the importance of status (prestige) and power in determining life chances
Identified four main classes: property owners, professionals, the petty bourgeoisie (e.g. shop keepers) and the working class. These classes had different life chances in the labour market.
The Functionalist Approach
These top positions must provide scarce rewards such as high pay and status to attract the most able people.
So the stratification system fulfils the function of ensuring that the most important jobs are filled by the most talented and highly qualified people
Modern society needs a system of unequal rewards = motivates the most talented people to train for the key occupations that are essential for society to continue
Gender, Ethnicity and Age
Inequality based on gender
Today, women are increasingly likely to achieve high level educational qualifications, high status jobs and good salaries. However, Feminist approaches argue that gender remains the most significant social division in contemporary society
Some feminist approaches see society as patriarchal - a patriarchal society is one in which men; have a lot of power within families, politics and the workplace; generally receive a bigger share of rewards such as wealth and status
Governments have introduced anti-discrimination laws such as the Equal Pay Act (1970) and the Sex Discrimination Act (1975) to reduce gender inequalities
Femminist approaches explore gender inequalities in society - over the last 40 years, reforms in areas such as education and employment have addressed aspects of gender inequality
Inequality based on ethnicity
Over the last 40 years, reforms and have addressed inequality based on ethnicity in areas such as education, employment, and criminal justice
E.g. many employers have equal opportunities policies to support equality and diversity; The 1976 Race Relations Act outlawed discrimination based on ethnicity; The Equality and Human Rights Commission has powers to enforce the equality laws and to shape public policy on equality issues; Within organisations awareness of institutional racism has been raised
As a result of these changes - some commentators argue that inequalities based on ethnicity are less significant today than they were 40 years ago
Others argue that there has been very little change in the fields of education, employment and criminal justice. E.g. unemployment rates in England and Wales are higher among people of Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Black Caribbean heritage than among White British or White Irish people. Research has also found that men and women of Pakistani and Bangladeshi heritage have much worse chances of getting professional and managerial jobs than their white peers of the same age and educational level
Inequality based on age
The status of older people can vary between cultures - in some cultures, getting old is seen as something to be avoided. In other cultures, old age is seen as something to look forward to and older people have a high status in society
The term ageism (or age discrimination) describes a situation in which someone is treated differently and less favourably based on their age. In Britain, there are now regulations against age discrimination in employment and training
Sociologists argue that age (like gender and ethnicity) is socially constructed. This can be seen in historical and cross-cultural differences inn expectations surrounding age. E.g. although child labour is now illegal in Britain, it was the norm among working-class families in the 19th century and exists in some parts of the world today
The National Statistics Socio-economic Classification:
Addresses some of the problems associated with the Registrar General's Scale - it uses occupation but covers the full population including students and long-term unemployed people
the NS-SEC groups together occupations that are similar in; rewards they provide (e.g. pay, career prospects and job security); employment status (takes into account whether someone is an employer, self-employed or an employee; levels of authority and control (takes into account whether someone is responsible for other workers or whether they are supervised by others).
Measuring Social Class: occupation is often used to measure social class because it is linked to factors such as levels of pay, working conditions and social status
The Registrar General's Scale
Used in the past by many sociologists to measure social class
The scale allocated people to a class based on their occupation - it distinguished between manual and non-manual occupations. Manual = required some physical effort and at be skilled, semi-skilled or unskilled - were seen as working-class on Registrar General's scale. Non-manual occupations do not require physical effort
Skilled non-manual, managerial and technical and professional occupations were seen as middle-class in this scale
Problems with the Registrar General's Scale:
Based on occupation - difficult to place people without jobs
Class position of a jobless married women was assessed on the basis of the husbands occupation = might be misleading
Although it was used for many years, there are problems with this scale!
Wealthy upper-class people and property owners were difficult to place on a scale based on occupation
Two people may have the same occupation or job title (e.g. lecturer) but there can be huge differences in their wealth, income, status and qualifications