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SWRK 423 (13)
Lecture 17

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Social Work
SWRK 423
Suzanne Gray

Ethnicity, Culture, and Social Structure: -race is biology as ethnicity is to culture -a race is a socially defined category of people whose perceived physical markers are deemed significant -an ethnic group comprises people whose perceived cultural markers are deemed significant -differ in terms of language, religion, customs, values, ancestors, etc. -just as physical distinctions don’t cause differences in behaviour of various races, so cultural distinctions are often not by themselves the major source of differences in behaviour of different ethnic groups -b/c social structural differences frequently underlie cultural differences -ex. the social-structural disadvantages to blacks and aboriginals-not their culture-made them less economically successful than Jews and Koreans on average -much of Canadian research supports arguments that culture is unimportant in determining economic success of racial and ethnic groups -differences in annual income b/w racial groups is largely due to factors such as years of education and number of years immigrants have been in the country Ethnic and racial stratification in Canada: -what matters in determining the economic success of an ethnic or racial group are the resources people possess such as education, literacy, financial assets (as seen w/ the Jews and Koreans compared to the Aboriginals) -another factor is the kinds of economic opportunities open to people -ex. in mid-twentieth century Canada was a society sharply stratified along ethnic and racial lines -people w/ most power and privileges were of British origin -WASPs controlled big corporations and dominated politics -later immigrants had less power and privilege (European had higher status than Asians) John Porter: -called this ethnic and racial stratification of Canada a “vertical mosaic” -thought retention of ethnic and racial culture was a problem b/c it hampered upward mobility of immigrants -thus making Canada a low-mobility society -by 1970s many Canadian sociologists, as well as Porter, had to qualify their view that ethnic and racial culture determines economic success or failure -after WWII many ethnic and racial minority groups were economically successful despite prejudice and discrimination -economic differences b/w ethnic, and to a lesser degree racial, groups diminished -ethnic and racial diversity increased among wealthy, politicians and professionals -thus, ethnic and racial culture mattered less than the structure of mobility opportunities in determining economic success -in addition to the resources a person possesses, the structure of opportunities for economic advancement determines annual income and occupational and educational attainment -ethnic or racial culture has little to do w/ it Canadian-American differences: -immigrants face barriers to upward mobility, some more than others -over generations, offspring diffuse more widely across class structure -Canada has a policy of multiculturalism which emphasizes tolerance of ethnic and racial differences -United States has a melting point ideology, which values the disappearance of ethnic and racial difference -Reitz and Breton: -reviewed a large body of evidence comparing the experience of immigrants in 2 countries -found that differences were minor and contradicted claims that Canada and the US differ -ex. ethnic intermarriages are high in both countries, fluency in non-official languages falls rapidly w/ succeeding generations, foreign-born and first-generation immigrants remain separate from the majority group but their offspring face greatly diminished barriers -thus, differences in ideology and policy b/w the two countries have little effect on creating different patterns in the retention of immigrant culture -substantial cultural blending takes place b/w immigrants and natives w/n 1 or 2 generations after they arrive -summary: -racial and ethnic inequality is more deeply rooted in social structure than in biology and culture -social definitions, not biology or culture, determine whether a group
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