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Chapter 6

SOC100H5 Chapter Notes - Chapter 6: Social Stratification, Working Poor, Cultural Capital

10 pages63 viewsWinter 2013

Department
Sociology
Course Code
SOC100H5
Professor
Jayne Baker
Chapter
6

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Stratification
Poverty and its Feminization
Explanations of Income Inequality
For the vast majority, genes play a relatively minor role in determining income (for a
minority, natural talent could provide for excellence within an occupation, e.g. sports or
entertainment, or genetic conditions could prevent individuals from earning big salaries, e.g.
down syndrome or schizophrenia)
Diligence and perseverance are necessary conditions for rewards, but they are not sufficient
alone (e.g. practice, long hours at work, working overtime)
Education determines occupation and income; therefore, in order to earn higher incomes,
people need to make investments in human capital (investment in education and training;
just as productivity increases by upgrading manufacturing plants and introducing new
technology, productivity gains can also result from investment in the skills and abilities of
people)
Individuals are more likely to succeed if they have strong bonds of trust, cooperation,
mutual respect, and obligation with well-positioned individuals or families, i.e. to have higher
incomes people must have good social capital (the networks or connections that individuals
possesses)
In addition to social capital, people must also have cultural capital (the widely shared, high-
status cultural signals, i.e. attitudes, preferences, formal knowledge, behaviours, goals, and
credentials, used for social and cultural inclusion and exclusion) emphasizes impression
management skills and influence on others
o Social and cultural capital demonstrates the idea that families higher in the social
hierarchy enjoy more capital of all types, which helps them find a good job
SUMMARY: natural talent and effort are important, but for most, level of education/
developed skill is a critical factor in finding continuous, well-paying employment; to achieve
economic success, social and cultural capital are essential
Defining Poverty
Poverty: lacks an agreed-on definition. Analysts disagree whether poverty should be defined
in absolute or relative terms and whether it should be based on income or consumption.
o Absolute definition focuses on essentials, suggesting poor families have inadequate
resources to acquire the necessities of life
agreement on “essentials” depends on values and judgments, which changes
between time, place, and groups
o Relative poverty: relative to what and how relative (what fraction of average
income)?
Should poverty be defined narrowly in terms of economic measures (e.g.
income) or more broadly with respect to community standards (e.g. safety of
working conditions, environmental quality, type of housing)
o Income and consumption are correlated, but wealthy people can live off their savings
even with low-income THEREFORE should poverty be defined on the basis of income
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or consumption (cost of purchasing bare essentials; deprivation occurs when a family
cannot acquire the essentials, not necessarily when income is too low)?
Definition of poverty matters to homeless because social policies are enacted, or not
enacted, based on levels and trends in poverty
o Politics can reshape the distribution of income and inequality by changing laws
governing people’s right to own property
o Politicians can alter inequality by entitling people to various welfare benefits and by
redistributing income through tax policies
o Definition showing fewer poor Canadians implies little need for government action
whereas a definition showing a growing proportion of poor people would be
beneficial for politicians and political parties supporting the poor
Poverty definitions are important for political reasons
o The proportion of individuals who are poor is one measure of how well democracy is
working democracy depends on the full participation of all citizens but can poor
people participate fully in national affairs?
Canada does not have an official poverty line. Statistics Canada reports a low-income cut-off
that marks the income level at which a family may be in straitened circumstances because it
has be spend a greater proportion of its income on necessities than the average family of
similar size.
o i.e. Canada does not have an official definition of poverty
o threshold differs for family sizes and community sizes straitened circumstances
depend on the number of people in your family and where you live
o advocates for the poor interpret these thresholds as poverty lines
Myths about Poverty
society often views the poor in a negative light (don’t make positive attributions, such as
honest or virtuous)
o depicts the poor especially those receiving welfare as lazy, irresponsible, and
lacking in motivation, abilities, and moral values
Myth 1: People are poor because they don’t want to work.
o Ignores that many poor people can’t work due to a disability or because they must
take care of young children due to inadequate child-care provisions
o Many poor work full-time and many more work part-time, but having a job is no
guarantee of escaping poverty (minimum wage is set too low)
Minimum wage has decreased from the mid-1970s to the mid-2000s which
ensures widespread low income and poverty
Myth 2: Most poor people are immigrants.
o Only recent immigrants experience poverty rates significantly higher than the
Canadian-born (recent immigrants are only a small fraction of all immigrants)
o Once immigrants are established, they have lower poverty rates than people born in
Canada
Myth 3: Most poor people are trapped in poverty.
o Most people with low income escape poverty in less than two years
o Therefore, most people try to move out of difficult financial circumstances and most
succeed, at least for a time
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The Feminization of Poverty
The theory that women were more likely to be low-income earners than men were, and
the low-income gap between women and men was growing
This trend is seen when comparing single-parent families headed by a woman to single-
parent families headed by a man
o Divorce typically results in decreased income for the wife and increased income for
the husband
Children typically wind up residing with the wife, while child support
payments from higher-earning husbands are often inadequate
Canada provides little affordable child care that would make it easier for
single mothers to work full-time in the paid labour force
This trend is most evident when comparing Canadians over the age of 64
Women typically spend fewer years working in the paid labour force than
men do (assume bulk of domestic and childrearing responsibilities)
accumulate smaller pensions and more modest savings than men do
Women typically earn less than men do in the paid labour force minimizes
the size of pensions and savings
Women live longer than men do, so resources have more time to become
depleted
o In absolute terms, older women are better off (low-income rate fell)
o Relative to men, women are worse off (men’s poverty rates fell much faster)
Feminists point out these trends will continue until labour force inequalities based on
gender are sharply reduced
Explaining Poverty
Individual-level Explanations
o Focus on attributes of people who are poor, such as low intelligence or a behaviour
abnormality
Accounts for small amount of poverty because people with disabilities do
have a higher risk of living poverty
BUT not all people with disabilities live in poverty and the vast
majority living in poverty don’t have a disability
o Focus on attitudes of individuals, such as low self-esteem, lack of achievement
motivation, and an inability to delay gratification
Stresses “culture of poverty,” a way of thinking and acting shared by poor
families and is perpetuated through poor upbringing and ill-formed
personalities
People who are poor may develop bad attitudes, but these may
result from poverty and not be causes of poverty
Many people who are poor do work, are religious, don’t smoke or
drink, etc.; i.e. explanations found on personal deficits is lacking
Sociological-level Explanations
o Organization of economy affects poverty
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