Introduction to Inequality Class and Status Inequality
• Social inequality
• Social Inequality
• Social Stratification
• Social Structures
• Social Class
• Socioeconomic Status (SES)
• Social capital
• Cultural capital
• Income inequality
• Wealth inequality
• Social mobility
• Working Poor
Common Sense Belief about Inequality
• Anyone can achieve material success if they work hard enough
• Everyone has the same opportunity to get ahead
• If you are not successful it is a result of personal failing
• Getting ahead is based on individual merit, which is generally viewed as a
combination of factors including innate abilities, working hard, having the right
attitude, and having high moral character and integrity
The myth of Meritocracy
• Great many factors that impact on a person’s ability to succeed
• Ascribed statuses play a large role in the opportunities and barriers that people
face (the deck is stacked)
• There are structural, not individual!
• Our ascribed statuses impact on our achieved statuses
Privilege • “…unearned assets that I can count on cashing in each day, but about which I was
‘meant’ to remain oblivious… like an invisible weightless knapsack of special
provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools and blank checks.”
• The way in which society is organized into predictable relationships, patterns of
• Social structure shapes the distribution of inequality
• A system by which a society ranks categories of people in a hierarchy (based on
property, prestige, and power)
Principles of Social Stratification
• Five principles:
1. It’s social, not “natural.”
2. It’s persistent, even as societies change.
3. It’s omnipresent in nearly all complex societies.
4. It’s supported by ideology.
5. It’s micro as well as a macrolevel.
• The long term existence of significant differences in access to goods and services
among social groups.
• Differences in wealth, prestige and power
Dimensions of Social Inequality
• Social class
• Sexual identity
• And more
People are Treated Differently
• Social inequality results in and from the prejudice, discrimination, and oppression
of certain people and groups
• Social Oppression exists when one group exploits another for its own benefits
• Arbitrary attitudes or beliefs and unfair bias towards or against a person/group. • Based on little or no experience and projected onto entire group.
• Prejudice is an individual’s internal perspective.
• Action based on prejudice. Excluding, ignoring, avoiding, threatening, ridiculing,
jokes, slurs, violence, unfair treatment.
• Discrimination is an individual’s external behavior
• Embedded in institutions such as: media, family, religion, education, language,
economics, criminal justice and in cultural definitions of what is normal, real,
correct, beautiful and valuable.
• Socially sanctioned and maintains an imbalance of power
Impacts of Social Inequality
• Micro and Macro Consequences including:
– Quality of life
– Political unrest Critical Thinking Assignmet #2
Topic: The myth of Meritocracy
• Your assignment is to argument that Canada is NOT a meritocracy by exploring
social inequality and explaining how people’s positioning in the social categories
that we discuss in class (gender, class, and/or race) impact their opportunities (or
• You can pick one topic to explore (i.e. gender) or you can look at multiple topics.
You must use:
1. At least one class reading (you can use more if you like), and
2. At least TWO Carleton library sources to support your position (you can use
more if you like).
• These library sources must be found in the Carleton library (this includes online
journals and ebooks accessed through the library website).
• The relative location of a person or group within a larger society, based on wealth,
power, prestige, or other valued resources
• In a class system people can move ‘up’ (or ‘down’), but it is