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Chapter 6

Chapter 6 Textbook Reading

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Jayne Baker

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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 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 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  Capitalist economies feature cyclical booms and busts, periods of low unemployment and high profits, followed by high unemployment and low profits  During recessions, more people lose their jobs and fall into poverty  Lack of good jobs is a major cause of poverty o Social policy is a factor affecting poverty levels  Minimum wage legislation is a social policy that creates a group of working poor  BUT if minimum wages were to rise too much or too quickly, so too might the level of unemployment because some employers might not be able to afford a sudden big jump in wages  System of tax collection and tax allocation does little to erode poverty  Progressive tax system: greater proportion of income is paid in tax as incomes rise  BUT “Robin Hood” effect is undermined because other taxes (e.g. GST and fuel taxes) are regressive [ i.e. not based on income], and those who earn more are able to shelter much of their income from taxation in registered education saving plans and registered retirement savings plans, through capital gains tax exemptions, etc. o Ideological perspectives  Negative images of various groups lead to undervaluing such groups which leads to discrimination  Discriminations leads to less success in finding jobs and, when jobs are found, to more unsteady and low-paying work  Poverty is inevitable to the extent that inequality is known to exist in all societies  Extent of poverty can be reduced by following example of Western European nations o Established job training and child-care government programs that allow poor people to take jobs with livable wages and benefits  i.e. political choice o But many Canadians argue that providing welfare benefits dampens the work ethic and actually perpetuates poverty Is Stratification Inevitable? Conflict Theory – Karl Marx  Social stratification and accompanying class conflict IS NOT inevitable because capitalist growth would eventually produce a classless society without class conflict  Class: according to Marx, a grouping that is determined by a person’s relationship to the means of production or the source of that person’s income 1. Bourgeoisie: owners of the means of production, including factories, tools, and land. They do not do any physical labour. Their income derives from profits. 2. Proletariat: the working class. They perform physical labour but do not own means of production. They are thus in a position to earn wages.  Some owners were driven out of business by more efficient competitors and forced by become members of the working class. Together with former peasants pouring into the city to take factory jobs, this caused working class to grow.  Owners concentrated workers in increasingly larger factories, kept wages as low as possible, and invested as little as possible in improving working conditions  THUS, as bourgeoisie grew richer and smaller, proletariat grew larger and more impoverished  Proletariat would become aware of exploitation and create unions and workers’ political parties that would create a new “communist society” in which everyone would share wealth  CRITICAL EVALUATION: 1. Industrial societies did not polarize into two opposed classes engaged in bitter conflict, a middle class emerged acting as a stabilizing force 2. Investment in technology made it possible for workers to earn high wages and toil fewer hours under oppressive conditions  improved living standard and availability of welfare state benefits tended to pacify workers 3. Communism took root in semi-industrialized countries and instead of evolving into classless societies, new forms of privilege emerged Functionalist Theory – Davis and Moore  Argues that (1) some jobs are more important that others, (2) people must make sacrifices to train for important jobs, and (3) inequality is required to motivate people to undergo these sacrifices  Social stratification is functional because the prospect of high rewards (money and prestige) motivates people to undergo the sacrifices needed to get a higher education  CRITICAL EVALUATION: 1. None of the jobs regarded as “important” would exist without the physical labour done by people in “less important” jobs  i.e. no clear-cut line on which occupations are most important 2. It stresses how inequality helps society discover talent, but it ignores the pool of talent lying undiscovered because of inequality  Bright adolescents may be forced to drop out of school to help support themselves and their families  Capable and industrious high school graduates m
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