Stratification, Inequality and Achievement

“Nobody cares more about free enterprise and competition and about the best man winning than the man who inherited his father’s store or farm.”
USF Intro to Sociology April 8, 2008 Chapters 12-13 Practical Skeptic: Core Concepts

But first, a review...
What do we know about deviance? “...crime is normal because a society exempt from it is utterly impossible.” “The criminal commits the crime, society creates the criminal.”

“The criminal commits the crime, society creates the criminal.”
Deviance is not a property inherent in certain forms of behavior; it is a property conferred upon these forms by the audiences which directly or indirectly witness them. The critical variable in the study of deviance, then, is the social audience rather than the individual actor, since it is the audience which eventually determines whether or not any episode or behavior or class of episodes is labeled deviant. (Kai T. Erikson, “Notes on the Sociology of Deviance,” in H. Becker (ed.), The Other Side: Perspectives on Deviance, 1964).

Concepts to cover...
stratification legitimating rationales caste, estate, class systems of stratification Marx’s conception of class bourgeoisie, proletariat Weber’s conception of class life style vs life chances

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power vs authority status & prestige socioeconomic status social mobility
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horizontal and vertical inter- and intragenerational

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open systems vs closed systems exogamy and endogamy

Stratification: What and How

Social stratification is the system, and the outcome of the system, that evaluates and rewards people on the basis of arbitrary characteristics with scarce, desired goods; thus resulting in social strata, or layers, of society where people in lower ranking groups receive less of the desired goods than people in the higher ranking groups

Stratification: What and How

Stratification systems are:

Persistent (they last over long periods of time) Resistant to change Upheld by legitimating rationales (i.e., reasons for accepting social stratification as fair and just)

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Stratification: Marx vs. Weber


Capitalists/Owners of Production (Bourgeoisie); and Laborers (Proletariat) Weber:

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Money, power (e.g., authority) and status (e.g., prestige) shape class position Lifestyle and life chances are functions of class position

Mobility: Or Moving through the Strata
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There is no mobility in closed stratification systems; Open systems may have:

Horizontal mobility: between two positions in the same class Vertical mobility: Up and down between classes Intergenerational: One generation exceeds the position of the previous Intragenerational: Within lifetime mobility

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Inequality and Achievement
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effects of parent’s social class income and wealth Matthew effect cultural explanations of inequality structural explanations of inequality tracking, in schools Pygmalion effect

Income and Wealth

People tend not to surpass their parents’ class standing because income (earnings from employment and investment), and especially wealth (money and all other assets), do not accumulate as easily for the poor as for the rich Wealth begets wealth: having money opens up new opportunities for making more money (The Matthew Effect)

Cultural Explanations of Poverty

Poverty begets poverty: Living in poverty is like having one’s own culture (different beliefs, values, norms, etc.); having been socialized into this culture, the poor lack the necessary skills to become successful

Structural Explanations of Poverty

Lack of opportunities (e.g., jobs, affordable housing, quality healthcare, decent education) hold poor people back; and, in fact, The culture of poverty does not keep people from being successful, but rather is the outgrowth of blocked opportunities

Structure or Culture?

McIntyre relates the story of a student who came from an inner city school and got letters of interest from basketball coaches wanting him to attend summer camps. Not being able to afford the camps, the student never received a scholarship to play basketball. Is this an example of the culture of poverty or a structural explanatin? Does Anderson’s account of “The Code of the Streets” seem to imply a culture or structural explanation of poverty?

The power of labels…

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Tracking and the Pygmalion Effect Is being poor deviant?