SOCI 1002 E
Foundations of Sociology
Week 7: Class, Stratification and Work
Income Inequality in Canada
• Canada is one of the best places to live because of our economy.
• Income inequality is increasing but different definitions why because poverty is hard to
• Income: economic gain from wages, salaries and ownership of property.
• Wealth: includes property like buildings, land, farms, houses, factories, cars and other
assets (investments, bank accounts, insurance).
• Factors in economic success:
o Degree of natural talent
o Degree of effort
o Level of education (importance of education stressed by human capital theory)
o Social capital (networks or connections)
o Cultural capital (skills and learning picked up through life)
• Human capital: sum of useful skills and knowledge that an individual possesses (peers,
school, training, jobs, university, family, education etc).
• Low-income cutoff: if more than 70% of income is spent on food, shelter and clothing
(varies by family and community size). Definition based on Statistics Canada in a way to
• Absolute: focuses on essentials (figures all families and communities are the same).
• Relative: defines poverty either narrowly in terms of economic measures (ex, income) or
in terms of community standards (ex, environmental quality).
• Debate of poverty: defined on basis of income or consumption. • Poverty: has different definitions based on measures and people’s opinions.
Explanations of individual level and structural.
• Politics: able to reshape distribution of income by legislations for businesses, welfare
benefits, tax policies, failing to maintain/expand welfare.
• Individual-level: focuses on attributes of people who are poor and see how these people
differ (lack of motivation, lack of achievement etc). Evidence is not there.
Who are the Poor?
• 14% of the Canadian population (not randomly distributed).
• 14% is highly concentrated in women, children, persons with disabilities and aboriginal
• Structural explanations: stress social organization of society that contribute to poverty
including the economy (life cycle), social policy (ex, minimum wage), tax
collection/allocation and ideological perspectives (ex, discrimination in hiring).
• Consequences of inequality:
o Physical and mental health
o Crime and lack of safety
• Social stratification: hierarchical arrangement of social groups based on their control
over basic resources. Based on four basic principles:
o Trait of society, not a reflection of individual differences
o Carries over from generation to generation
o Universal but variable (present in all societies around the world but may be
organized differently by more and less power) It is a variable because it takes
different shapes in different countries.
o Involves beliefs as well as inequality
• Ascription-based stratification system: allocation of rank depends on characteristics a
person is born with (no influence over these). • Achievement-based stratification system: allocation of rank depends on a person’s
• Caste system: pure ascription-based, occupations and marriage partners are assigned
on basis of caste membership.
• Class system: based on ownership and control of resources