SOC 08221 Lecture Notes - Lecture 2: Social Safety Net, Poverty Threshold, Extreme Poverty
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Chapter 2 Poverty and class inequality:
Poverty- Deficiencies in necessary material goods or desirable qualities, including economics,
social, political, and cultural.
• Absolute measure- a threshold or line at or below which individuals or groups identified
as living poverty
- Based on threshold, usually annual income
• Relative measure- A measure that looks at individuals or groups relative to the rest of
their community or society rather than setting an absolute line.
- Compares person or group to the rest of the community or society
• Census Bureau considers age, family size, and number of dependent children
• In 2016, poverty thresholds
- 4-person household (two children): US $24,339
- 3-person houseful (two children): US $19,337
Extreme poverty neighborhood
• Areas with poverty rates of 40+ percent
• Often have higher crimes, poor health outcomes, fewer education, and job opportunities.
Social safety net
• Programs emerged to ameliorate problems related to the Great Depression
• Charitable programs had been private
• Example: social security, Medicare, means-tested programs.
• Groups stratified by their access to resources
- Wealth, income, education, employment, land
• Many Americans see United States as egalitarian (same equal opportunity) and classless
- myth of the self-made man
• The belief that anyone can rise from humble beginnings to become wealthy and
successful simply by applying him or herself.
Class as a social concept: According to Marx, social position revolves around one important
factor- ownership of the means of production
- Capitalists own factories and other mechanisms to produce goods.
- Working class sells their labor to capitalists in exchange for wage.
3 aspects of social structure (stratification) according to Weber
• Class refers to a person’s position relative to the economic sector such as proprietor,
wage, laborer, or renter