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Social Inequalities Lesson 4: Class, Poverty, and Economic Inequality Date: September 18, 2011 - Economic Inequality: large differences in income and wealth across groups within a society; and differences in economic power of nations - From Karl Marx Two different ‘classes’: people who own the means of production and people who work for those who own the means of production - Profit making depends on low wages and keeping prices high - The working class; through unions, and legislations, try to improve their wages, job security etc… - However, it is often hard for workers to agree on how to band to together, and often people have different mentalities and outlooks, conflict arises here - Usually families preserve and transfer wealth from one generation to another - Functional theory of stratification that certain jobs (doctors, judges etc…) deserve more pay and praise then other jobs (store clerk, garbage man) - Class formation required the growth of class-consciousness through four important changes in the thinking of workers: 1. Identifying themselves as an exploited class 2. Seeing that the owners of means of production are their enemy 3. Seeing everything is at stake in the battle for equality 4. Realizing societal change is possible through conflict - Social Mobility: Movement of individuals from one social class to another during the course of ones lifetime Measuring Poverty - Absolute Poverty: Lack of basic requirements (food, shelter, clothes) for basic survival - Relative Poverty: Can survive, but have living standards below the society to which they belong - Poverty Line: Represents a usual standard of living, and differs from countries - Low-Income Cut-Offs (LICO): Used by Statistics Canada for measuring relative poverty based on the percentage of income devoted to food, shelter, clothes and is determined by region and population  If a family of four spend 50% of their income on these necessities, they are considered to have ‘low income’ - Low-Income Measure (LIM): A set of figures representing 50% of the median ‘adjusted family income’. Actual income are compared with LIMs to determine if a family has low income or not Measuring Well-Being and Inequality - Human Development Index (HDI): Used by UN, measures achievement in three basic areas: life expectancy at birth, literacy and GDP per capita - Gini Index: 0  Wealth is evenly displaced. 1  Wealth belongs to one person Poverty: - Racial counterparts, immigrants and Aboriginals usually earn less on average than their white counterparts - Aboriginals make far less income, and have a higher unemployment rate - Structural mechanisms ensure that the poorest Canadians remain poor and that they lose the most during times of recession and gain the less during times of prosperity - Large numbers of Canadians move in and out of poverty throughout their lifetime - Affordable housing is considered to take up less than 1/3 of a household income - Affordable housing is scarce, and many people have to rely on urban housing, sadly, in these places there is a lot of gang violence, drugs, and crime - It is believed that there are almost 300,000 homeless people across Canada - A lot of these people are not homeless because they don’t have a good enough income, many are young runaways from home, who try to escape sexual/physical abuse, and other difficulties at home - They remain on the streets because they believe if they go anywhere else, the same problem will arise, and they spend their entire lives on the streets - The poor class perpetuates itself by teaching its kids self-defeating values - People in poverty feel powerless, inferior and unworthy Theoretical Perspective on Poverty Structural Functionalism: - Inequality and poverty serve as important functions in society - Those who invest the most time and effort get the best paying jobs and working conditions - This view is applicable in situations where ‘effort corresponds with reward’ Conflict Theory - Structural power imbalance exists between capitalists and employees - Employees needs wages to survive, and thus are vulnerable to exploitation - Owners amass more wealth to themselves by exploiting their workers in bad working conditions and poor pay Symbolic Interactionism - Focuses on labels attributed to the ‘wealthy’ and ‘poor’ - Labels attached to poor such as ‘lazy’ are usually unfair stereotypes - However, widespread subscription to these stereotypes makes them real in their consequences Social Consequences of Inequality and Poverty - Many families now-a-days have to rely on two or more incomes to help them survive, although, sometimes even this many incomes can’t support families - Many work lives are characterized by periods of employment followed by stretches of unwanted idleness (seen in jobs such as cab driver, unskilled laborer) - As a result of not making enough money, many people with low income sometimes resort to crimes (petty crime, burglary). However, crimes are not always done by the poor, violations of the law are also done by the wealthy - It is more likely to be seen by poorer people to resort to drugs abuse, and they do this to deal with what is known as ‘anomie”  gap between what they have been taught to want, and what they are able to get - Child poverty is usually the most blameless problem, because it is usually never their fault. Three things can be done to aid these kids. 1. Raise income of poor families just a little over the poverty line 2. Raising educational level of poor parents 3. Raising income and educational levels of poor parents will have the greatest effect - Child trafficking for sex and work is one the largest problems facing poor children Health Consequences of Poverty and Economic Inequality - Poverty affects the type of food quality in places  lack of nutrients, vitamins, minerals - Because of this, people become sick (rickets, scurvy, infections), have problems concentrating and other behavioral problems - It can be seen in Canada, that inequality itself, is a cause for health problems  Relative Income Hypothesis proposes that incom
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