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Chapter 10

Sociology 2140 Chapter Notes - Chapter 10: Corporate Welfare, Single Parent, Dysfunctional Family


Department
Sociology
Course Code
SOC 2140
Professor
Paul Whitehead
Chapter
10

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10- Poverty
November-02-12
12:17 PM
Poverty: lack of resources necessary for material well being (mostly food and water, but also housing
and health care)
Absolute poverty: chronic absence of the basic necessities of life, leading to hunger and physical
deprivation
Relative poverty: deficiency in material and economic resources compared with other populations
International measures of poverty: World Bank sets a ‘poverty threshold’ of $1 per day to compare
poverty in most developing worlds
-2.8 million (half the worlds population) survive on less than $2 per day, and 1/5 of the world have $1
per day
-WHO (world health organization): is based on household’s ability to meet the minimum calorie
requirements of its members
-Household is considered poor if it cannot meet 80% of the minimum caloric requirements
-In poverty countries; a household is considered poor if their household income is less than 50% of
the median household income in that country
-Poverty is multidimensional
HPI (human poverty index): composite measure of poverty based on 3 measures of deprivation
1) Deprivation of a long, healthy life
2) Deprivation of knowledge
3) Deprivation of decent living standards (% of people without access to health services, the % of people
without access to safe water, and the % of malnourished children under 5)
-Measures in poverty tell us how many people are living in poverty in a given year
-We can also note the degree to which those who are poor stay in poverty from year to year
-If the same proportions of people remain poor year after year, there must be reasons beyond individual
characteristics to explain the persistence of poverty
Longevity
Knowledge
Decent standard of living
Social exclusion
Developing
countries
Probability at
birth of not
surviving to age
40
Adult
illiteracy
% of people without access
to safe water; health
services, or who are
underweight under age 5
Industrialized
countries
Probability at
birth of not
surviving to age
60
Adult
functional
illiteracy rate
% of people living below
the income poverty line,
which is set at 50% of
median disposable income
Measured by the rate of
long term
unemployment (greater
then 12 months)
Canadian measures of poverty: stats Canada developed the low income cut offs as a measure of
poverty in 1968
-Agency added 20 percentage points to determine the cut off (because they estimated that poor
families spend 34.7% or more of their pre-tax income on the basic needs)

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-This standard suggests that people who spend 54.7% of their pre-tax income on food, shelter, and
clothing would experience financial difficulty
-Different low income cut off lines are established by Stats Can for different communities as well as for
families of varying sizes within these communities
àMarket basket measure (MBM): based on the concept of ‘necessaries’ as defined by the 18th century
economist Adam Smith
-Assessment of the minimum level of income required to provide for the basic needs that a given
society find it ‘indecent’ to be without
-Necessaries are broader than what is needed for mere subsistence; yet, some necessary items
simply do not count in the MBM
àLow income measure (LIM): stats Canada has established a figure for the needs of one adult and
proceeded on the assumption that family needs increase in proportion to family size, with each
additional adult increasing the family needs by 40% of the first adult and every additional child is 30%
Global Poverty Report: found that globally the proportion of people living on less than $1 per day fell
from 29% in 1987 to 26% in 1998
-Aboriginal populations in Canada remain largely excluded from the nations general prosperity
-Richest 1% of adults in the world own 40% of global household wealth
-Poorest half of the world owns barely 1% of global wealth
-Some improvements but still a huge problem
-Poorest countries are poor because they are insufficiently globalized
Theories
Structural-Functionalist perspective: social stratification serves several positive functions
-Unequal economic reward system helps to ensure that the person who performs a certain role is the
most qualified
-People are motivated to achieve by offering high rewards for higher achievements
-Certain amount of poverty has positive functions for dominant groups
-Stupid jobs (athlete) are highly paid, and important jobs (child care worker) are not
-Accepts poverty as unavoidable and ignores the role of inheritance in the distribution of rewards
Conflict perspective: work in the Marxist framework and think that economic inequality comes from
domination over the proletariat (working class; have no means of production on their own, so they are
reduced to selling their labour power in order to live) by the bourgeoisie (owners)
-Owners get wealth as they profit from the labour of the workers, who earn wages that are very low
àSurplus value: difference in the amount people will pay for a service or consumer good compared to
the cost of its production (produces the profit from exploited labour)
-People continue to be exploited instead of looking at their own needs
àWealthfare: governmental policies and regulations that economically favor the wealthy
-Special subsidies and tax breaks to corporations
àCorporate welfare: laws and policies that favor corporations, such as low interest government loans to
failing businesses and special subsidies and tax breaks to corporations
-Lower wages lead to decreased consumer spending, which leads to more industries closing plants, and
downsizing
-This means higher unemployment rates, and a surplus of workers pushing employers to lower wages
even more
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Symbolic Interactionist Perspective: focuses on how meanings and labels affect and are affected by
social life
-People who are viewed as poor are often stigmatized as lazy and irresponsible
-“Poor but honest”: suggests that we view honesty and low income as an unlikely combination and must
single out those who are poor and honest as exceptions of the rules
-Focuses on the meaning of being poor: experience of poverty involves psyh dimensions, like
powerlessness, and shame
-Meanings and definitions care across time and societies
EX: The Dinka is among the poorest people in a modernized place
-Wealth is measured based on how many cattle a person owns
-“Bridewealth”= 50 cows to the family of his bride
àCulture of poverty: the set of norms, values and beliefs and self-concepts that contribute to the
persistence of poverty among the underclass
-Characterized by female centered households
-Gratification in the present rather than in the future
-Lack of participation in society’s major institutions
àUnderclass: people living in persistent poverty
-Experiences joblessness, welfare dependency, involvement in crime and dysfunctional families
Feminist perspective: being with the observation that poverty is a gendered phenomenon
-Poverty affects women more often then men
àGender based analysis: feminist policy analysts hold gender to by a key feature for understanding
vulnerability to poverty and to the differential effects of poverty (the children one would be parenting)
-Understands the structures that contribute to women’s poverty, and looks to understand why
àNarrative analysis: combining a feminist focus on women’s experiences with a symbolic approach to
data interpretation
-Help shed light on the routes to poverty for women, making the point that disability and illness can be
powerful forces that move women from being working poor, to impoverished as they lose their jobs,
kids and maybe homes
Queer Theory perspective: sexuality is an important variable influencing economic and other measures
of social well being
-When a government service separates issues of social connection from issues of economic well being,
they miss the intersections of sexuality with the experience of well being
-Transgender and lesbians may have a harder time finding and securing employment and housing
Wealth, economic inequality, and poverty in Canada
àWealth in Canada: wealth is the total assets of a person or household, minus liabilities (mortgages,
loans etc)
-Includes the value of a home, investment real estate, cars, life insurance, etc
-Canada is an increasingly polarized country, with the top 20% of families gaining a lot of wealth
àEconomic inequality: 3 decades after WWII were a time of unprecedented economic prosperity
-1950/60s: unemployment and inflation were low; steady increase in person incomes financed the
growth of many things
-1970s: increase in both consumer prices and unemployment levels, and a stop in the growth of real
income
-Income inequality in Canada has been picking up speed in the past decade
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