SOC102H1 Lecture Notes - Lecture 4: Poverty In Canada, Symbolic Interactionism

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11 Apr 2012
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Lecture 4: Class, Poverty, and Economic Inequality
Text: Social Problems, Chapter 2 & Sense of Sociability, Chapter 6
Economic Inequality: Large differences in the income and wealth across
individuals and groups within a society; differences in the economic power
of nations.
Karl Marx first introduced the notion of ‘social class’ and its relation to
poverty and inequality
o Capitalists (own the means of production) and Proletarians (sell
their labour for wages)
o Capitalists maximize their profits by paying the workers as little as
possible and selling the product for as high as price as possible
Classes are groups of people who share a common economic condition
(relationship to the means of production)
Have and have-not relationship is fundamental to all social relations
(forever locked in conflict)
Classes should band together workers to protect their wages and
working conditions, and employers to protect their wages and working
conditions
o Developing this class awareness is difficult
Employers take steps to prevent formation of workers unions
TODAY, it is no longer necessary to own a business to control the means
of production
Working class is international, a result of global ownership
‘Functional Theory of Stratification’ we judge worth of a job based on
societal values
o This theory fails to consider a few things
Why the difference between top-paid and bottom-paid
workers is wide or narrow
Why the range of salaries in one capitalist nation is wider
than in others
Why some people get high salaries regardless of whether
they confer a social benefit
Class Consciousness
o Must identify themselves as members of an exploited class
o See that the owners of the means of production are their enemies
o Realize that everything is at stake in the battle for inequality
o Recognize that societal change is possible through conflict
Social Mobility: The movement of individuals from one social class to
another during the course of one’s life time
o Little chance of entering the top 1%, little chance of escaping the
bottom 1%
o Educational credentials are the key to social mobility
Educated people are more likely to have large, diverse social
networks, and gain opportunities this way
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MEASURING POVERTY
Absolute Poverty: lack of the basic necessities (food, shelter, medicine)
for basic survival. Starvation is an example of absolute starvation
Relative Poverty: Survival, but far below the general living standards of
the society or social group in which the poor live; affect’s people’s lives in
dramatic ways
Poverty Line: It represents a usual standard of living and differs across
countries. The definition of poverty varies by society, within societies, and
also over time
o Poverty line is elastic, responding to changes in real income and to
the success of advocates fighting to increase social welfare
Low-Income Cut-Offs: A formal definition used by Statistics Canada for
measuring relative poverty based on the percentage of income evoted ot
daily necessities (food, shelter, clothing) and determined both regionally
and by population
Low-Income Measures: A set of figures representing 50% of the median
‘adjusting family income’. Actual incomes are compared with MINs to
determine whether or not a family can be considered ‘low-income’
Market-Basket Measure: A way of measuring income and poverty that
was added in 2003 to Statistics Canada’s methods of measuring income
and poverty. It is based on an imaginary based of market priced goods
and services and on the income needed to purchase the items in the
basket. The determination of what doges into this imaginary basket tends
to exclude all but the absolute essentials of bare survival
MEASURING WELL-BEING AND INEQUALITY
Other socioeconomic variables contribute to well being (not just income)
Human Development Index: A combined measure of achievement in
three basic areas of human development life expectancy at birth;
literacy; and GDP per capita used by the United Nations Development
Program to monitor social and economic progress across countries
o Doesn’t always reflect the extent of differences in most developed
countries use second variant of human poverty index (assesses
relative deprivation in these same dimensions)
Canada’s ranking falls to 9th in the world our high standard
of living is not distributed equally across society (Suggests
inequality)
GINI Coefficient: measure of inequality (score of 0 reflects total income
equality and score of 1 reflects total income inequality)
o Canada currently has a Gini Index Score of 0.32 or 0.33
POVERTY IN CANADA
Poverty and economic inequality in Canada has been described as ‘racial
zed, destitute, and young’
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