social inequality and difference

Notes on social inequality and difference unit for OCR A2 level Sociology.

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Unit One ­ Basic Concepts
Life chances ­ Max Weber used this term to describe people's opportunites for obtaining
material goods, services & cultural experiences. Sociological way of talking about `living
standards'. Covers things like possessions, decent education, health care, pleasures. Weber
thinks an individual's class depicts you life chances
o life chances can be linked to capital.
Economic capital ­ refers to material wealth, money & property. High economic
capital = better life chances.
human capital ­ refers to job skills, knowledge & educational qualifications, these
are regarded as a form of investment.
cultural capital ­ Bourdieu (1984) social classes have different sets of tastes,
preferences & linguistic competences.
social capital ­ Putnam (2000) used term to describe social networks & levels of
trust in communities. `old boy network' can help people find jobs. Communities with
good social capital have less crime.
Stratification ­ Beteille (1977) social inequality existed even among small groups based on
hunting and gathering societies.
o Stratification is a system of unstructured inequality between social groups.
o People may move from one class to another known as social mobility.
o Class gender and ethnicity ­ as well as a class division society is also stratified by
gender and ethnicity.

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Unit two ­Income & Wealth
2.1 Income
Income is usually regarded as best measure of economic wellbeing.
Income is a `flow' of money a person receives within a given time period.
Original income refers to income from employment, pensions & interest on savings.
Disposable income original income plus state benefits minus direct taxes.
Sources of income ­ most important is from employment. 50% of income in UK was from
wages and salaries (2002).…read more

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Labour market ­ most important reason for widening income gap because majority
of household income is derived from employment. Goodmand & Shephard (2002)
highlight following factors
Polarisation of `work rich households' and `workless households' . Women
have joined the workforce so number of `work rich households' are
increasing. However, at the same time, participation rate of men has
declined so numbers of `workless households' are increasing.
Growth of wage inequality. Technological change has created demand for
skilled workers.…read more

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Reid (1998).…read more

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The changing economy
Globalisation ­ McGrew (1992) defines globalisation as the process by which decisions and
activities in one part of the world come to have significant consequences for people in other
parts of the globe. The world becomes more and more `connected'. Interaction between
nations becomes more frequent and intense as goods, capital, people, knowledge, culture
fashions and beliefs flow across territorial boundaries.…read more

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Numerical flexibility
refers to various ways in which firms try to match number of workers to volume of work.
Numerical flexibility - shedding workers is most dramatic form of numerical flexibility.
Redundancy was once used as a result of cyclical downturns in the economy, it is now used as
a cost cutting measure even when business is profitable. According to Hutton (2002)
shareholders in Britain think of short term profits rather than long term welfare of the
company & its workers.…read more

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Bryson & Gomez,
o Occupational challenge ­ first half of the twentieth century saw increase in clerical
work and expansion of professions but manual work still dominated. 2nd half of
twentieth century saw devline in manual workers and expansion of professional and
managerial groups. Old working class employed in coal mines, shipyards etc now in
supermarkets, cleaners and fast food restaurants.
o Class inequalities - class differences = huge income inequalities.…read more

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Forms of work ­ men are more likely to be self employed 70% of self employed are men.
Women are more likely than men to be part time workers, 40% of female workers are
Horizontal segregation ­ men and women likely to be employed in different sorts of
industries and occupations. There is evidence that this is declining ­ women moving into
men's fields.
Vertical segregation ­men and women seem to be concentrated at different levels. Women
under-represented at most senior posts.…read more

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Problems of interpretation ­
o Not enough information available.
o Limited sample sizes ­ ethnic minorities only 8% of population.
o Classifications ­ how are people assigned to ethnic groups?
o Ethnic diversity ­ ethnic population is small yet very diverse, need to be aware when
making generalisations.
o Internal diversity- diversity within ethnicities such as class.
o Like-for-like comparisons are hard but best type to use.
Ethnic minority employment ­
o Employment rates ­ lower than for whites but varies between groups.…read more

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Crompton (1993).
there are problems with measuring class by occupation; no automatic link between
occupation and income, some manual workers earn more than non-manual workers. Link
between occupation and power is not always obvious. Doesn't include people outside the
occupational system such as; housewives, idle rich and people unable to work. Also
postmodern theorists argue we now have more freedom and choice so there is no longer a
connection between occupation and class.…read more


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