Category Archives: Social Stratification

Social Mobility

America is very well known as a social system in which the position of each individual is influenced by his or her achieved status (defined in Jon Witt’s Soc 2013 textbook) (“open system”). The United States is constructed of five social standings, which are all based on individuals economic ranking (upper, upper-middle, middle, working and under class). An interconnected concept is social mobility. So what are social mobility and stratification in reality? Social mobility is described by example below:

Starting with the most desirable; upward vertical mobility. Oprah Winfrey a famous entrepreneur accomplishes the dream of movement from poverty to upper class. As quoted in Good Reads, Oprah opines, “I’ve come to believe that each of us has a personal calling that’s as unique as a fingerprint – and that the best way to succeed is to discover what you love and then find a way to offer it to others in the form of service, working hard, and also allowing the energy of the universe to lead you”. It is obvious that holding the ascribed status of an African American woman in the sixties, created a great burden in social class movement for Oprah. The movement in economic class that Winfrey achieved is inspiring. Her mother had her as a teenager and had to look for work elsewhere. Until age six Oprah lived with her Grandmother. Suddenly her world took a twist and she was living in Milwaukee with her mother who worked long days as a housemaid. While her mother was away, she repeatedly was raped and abused by the men allowed in their apartment. Thankfully, at age fifteen, she was rescued by her disciplined father whom she is still thankful for. After all, the rules her father insisted on have paid off. Oprah became a successful teenager on the honor roll and even was nominated as Miss Black Tennessee Beauty. She went to college and studied performing arts and speech. Suddenly she began to receive many opportunities. After all of this, America adored Oprah which allowed her to create her own successful television show (“The Oprah Winfrey Show”). Quoted from the Academy of Achievement, “The business press measures her wealth in numerous superlatives: the highest-paid performer on television, the richest self-made woman in America, and the richest African-American of the 20th century”.

Yes, all of these are great achievements but there is no way to measure all of the humanitarian acts she has done over the years. If we look at Oprah’s life now, we could agree that she is successful according to the fact that she owns her own production of Television program and organizations of charity.  Oprah is upper class in all three ideas (class, status group and party). She is the wealthiest black woman in America, our population sees her as an inspiring, successful icon and she has many followers that agree with the goal she has for our world.

Moving from class to class is difficult in many ways. The people of the upper class tend to all participate in the same expensive activities and minimal opportunities. Looking back on Oprah Winfrey, one of the big steps in her mobility in social class was when she moved in with her father and finally had the opportunities with school, awards and the pageant she won. This created a different world of people and places besides the poverty she lived in before ending in a social class movement.

— Emily

Works Cited

Witt, Jon. Soc 2013. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2013. Print.

“Oprah Winfrey Quotes.” Good Reads. Good Reads Inc. 2014. Web. 29 Nov. 2014.

“Oprah Winfrey Biography” Academy of Achievement. American Academy of Achievement, 2014. Web. 2 Dec. 2014.

 

Global Divide

The world is smaller than we realize. To Americans, a country like China, may seem so far away, and if you measure it in distance, it really is. However, there are many things that connect us. Even though we have different languages, food habits and cultural expectations, there are also many things America has in common with other countries; like certain technologies, religions, and even educational foundations. However, despite these similarities, there are many more things that separate countries from each other. Some of these major differences include the gap between wealth, technology, distribution of resources, and overall economy. And, not only is the world as a whole broken up by these differences, but there is a whole other level of inequalities right in our own backyard. These differences in well-being around the world make up the concept known as the Global Divide.

As previously mentioned, one of the most prominent areas of global divide is financial. The world of wealth is an imperfect system. Countries hit a high of economic growth and wealth, only to suffer a collapse, resulting in bail-out plans for large banks. Governments have to act and rescue these financial institutions, often adding more financial problems to their own institutions in the process, causing even more problems for the taxpaying citizens living in the societies of these crisis. It begs the question: where is a safe place in the cycle?

When looking at these types of issues, one could use a theory called the World Systems Analysis to understand and graph anything from reading levels across countries, to economic growth and decay. It has been found that the richest 1% of people in the world own more than half of the wealth of the entire world. (www.theguardian.com) But why is this the case? Well, as MarketWatch.com describes it, “the rich are rich because what they do is so valuable.” One may argue that celebrity actors shouldn’t be rich because they really don’t do all that much for humanity. However, people still pay to see their work, and on a large scale as well. The majority of those in the top 1% are corporate executives for financial firms, and lawyers for those firms. Because of the fact that the rich thrive in only the top percent, that means after the most recent recession, they were able to fully bounce back, while those in the poor category remained the same, or only got worse. This isn’t only happening here in America. Millions of people all over the world are struggling just to survive through the next day, while others lead privileged and secure lives.

Here is a short video that shows a simplified look into the wealth divide around the world, and mostly in the United States. It really makes you think twice about the way our country works.

 

Our world is not only divided by wealth, but also by the lifestyles and attitudes of the people involved in these categories. In this class, we have learned about the Social Class System. The Social class system is the division of people into categories based on their income, and while this does have to do with wealth, there is a whole other cultural side to these classes. The way people are able to express themselves, the way they conduct their everyday lives, strongly depends on their social class. This is where we tend to experience and see Social Inequality and Social Stratification. Obviously someone who makes $5,000 a year is going to live quite a different life from someone who makes $100,000. And there are many reasons for this gap. Education, connections, family ties, all are involved in the fate of a person’s financial status. In class we’ve also discussed the stratification side: the fact that “social inequality is built into the structure of society”. (Witt, SOC pg. 238)

  • From here one is able to truly visualize how the Global Divide effects us. Allow me to break it down one last time:
  • The 1% rule more than half the wealth around the world.
  • Income, Resources, and Technology are unevenly dispersed around the world.
  • This causes another gap, not just amongst countries, but amongst the states
  • And then, there are even more divisions in our own state of Michigan
  • In our own towns even
  • There is always going to be a divide

Here is an image that charts the amount of internet access and usage around the world. The yellow being the highest rank, and the red and orange being the lowest. Just another example of the Global Divide.

Now that we’ve covered a more in-depth look at wealth and it’s relationship to the global divide, we will now turn our attention to a quick glimpse at what is probably the second most talked about areas affected by the global divide: digitalization. This divide is considered a social inequality, and is taken in reference to the access to, use of, and knowledge of the internet and modern digital technologies. This is a division that has really grown over the last couple decades. The inequality goes beyond just countries, but also to businesses and households. There are four arguments on why we should “bridge the gap”. They are: economic equality, social mobility, democracy, and economic growth. Connections have been made between the way a government is run, in correlation to a society’s internet usage and availability. ICT (information communications technology) centers are working to help developing countries in the adaptation and integration of technologies that we take for granted. There is also a lot of controversy surrounding this, especially from those who believe that our modern technologies are unneeded and polluting. What do you think? Do you think every country should have the same equal access to these technologies? What will be gained? What will be lost in the process?

Now that you know of just a few areas effected by the global divide, you will be able to easily analyze your own life, and where you stand on the scale. We see these divisions not only world wide, but on a small scale as well, within our own country, our own state, and our own neighborhood. We’re all affected by social inequality, whether we are in the top percent, or the bottom. Because of our easy access to the internet, we are exposed to hundreds of charts, graphs, and informational databases that can further explain these and many other world wide divisions. And while some may think that the coming technological world wide revolution is unneeded, I’m sure we’ve all appreciated our modern technologies at one point or another.

–Kellie

SOCIAL ROLE

All societies in the world are socially stratified meaning wealth, power, and honor are unequally distributed among different groups. In other words all communities are separated into different social classes. The most frequently used basis for categorizing different forms of stratification systems is the way status is acquired.

In sociology social roles are expectations for the ways in which people are expected to behave in specific situations. These expectations are created and defined by the societies in which the people live. Different societies have dissimilar social roles. Role expectations include both actions and qualities.  For example, a teacher may be expected not only to deliver lectures, assign homework, and prepare examinations but also to be dedicated, concerned, and responsible.

We cannot talk about social role without explaining social status. According to sociologists, social status is the honor or prestige attached to one’s position in society.  It may also refer to a rank or position that one holds in a group. For example, we are all students in this class and each one of us is either a son or daughter of somebody. The position or rank of a person or group within the society can be determined in two ways. A person can earn their social status by their own achievements also known as achieved or attained status. Alternatively, a person can be placed in the position. This inherited position is known as ascribed status meaning they are predefined for an individual at birth. For example prince William of England will have many high expectations compare to any poor child born in England.

In modern societies like ours, occupation or job is usually thought of as the main determinant of status. Other factors such as ethnic group, religion, gender, voluntary associations and hobby can have an influence also. This achieved status is when people are placed on the stratification structure based on their individual merits; the most commonly used here in America is education. The amount and kind of education people attain determine the kinds of jobs they get. The kind of work people do is the main determinant of their income.  Therefore, one’s place within the stratification structure is determined by financial, academic or political success. The higher a person is in rank, the better off he is. Moreover, the education, occupation, and income of parents largely determine the kinds of advantages or disadvantages they create for their own children. These situations are the roots of social inequality we observe in every society. Based on that observation, the gap can only grow deeper and deeper with time. For example Blacks are substantially less well educated than Whites just because the parents of blacks are poorly educated themselves. The sharp difference between blacks and whites is the continuing legacy of slavery. For centuries whites could educate themselves, passing that huge advantage to their children while it was forbidden for blacks to get any kind of education.

In the United States of America, there is no difference in the opportunity given to both girls and boys to have access to education. After graduation comes the reality of the work world. In fact, according to Donald J. Treiman, a sociologist, at equal levels of education, women earn about 60 percent of what men earn. This is explained by the gender preference for men over women that prevails in the work place. Women’s potential seems to be undermined by their so called women to-do task. In fact, the work lives for many women are interrupted for childbearing. Consequently many corporations want to avoid the stress of training and hiring somebody else for her job to replace women whenever they have to be put on leave. Moreover when it comes to gender in American society, women and men are assigned predetermined cultural roles. Women assume the roles of mothers, housekeepers, and servants to their husbands and kids, while men are providers, protectors, and heads of the household. More and more, we see a change in society today regarding the gender roles. Indeed, in modern homes, husbands and wives work both outside of the house. Both are providers for their family and both do the housekeeping job for the well being of the all family.

Works cited

Treiman, Donald J. “Status Attainment.” Encyclopedia of Sociology. 2nd ed. Vol. 5. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2001. 3042-3049. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 13 Feb. 2013