Social Inequality – Inequality and Ethnicity

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  • Created by: Emma Rudd
  • Created on: 19-06-08 15:50
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3C ­ Ethnicity and Inequality
Ethnic Groups
Ethnic groups are identified according to their distinctive cultural features they usually have a
shared sense of history, a common cultural tradition and a collective identity.
Ethnicity is a useful concept for sociologists because it draws attention to cultural and social
features. But it is not easy to allocate people to ethnic groups. Some sociologists choose to
classify according to territory (e.g. country of origin) on the assumption that people from the
same country will normally share a common culture. But many countries are usually diverse.
People from India for example may be Hindus, Sikhs or Muslims. Consequently, some
sociologists think it is more sensible to classify according to dominant culture or religion rather
than territory.
A minority is a group of people distinguished by physical or cultural characteristics, subject to
different and unequal treatment by the society in which they live and who regard themselves as
victims of collective discrimination. (Wirth, 1945) We are dealing with issues of power as much
as numbers as sometimes the racial minority is actually a numerical majority. The idea of a
minority implies the existence of a more powerful majority which manages to dominate or
marginalise the minority.
Disadvantage and Discrimination in Britain Today
Public Services
Figures show a trend that a vast majority of black people still believe today that they receive
worse treatment than others from the police, immigration services, prisons and courts
Bangladeshi, Pakistani and black pupils achieve less than other pupils at all stages of
compulsory education. Black Caribbean children have equal if not higher abilities than white
children on school entrance but do least well.
African Caribbean pupils are over 4 to 6 times more likely to be excluded.
Infant mortality rate is 100% higher for the children of African Caribbean or Pakistani mothers
than white mothers
50% of Bangladeshi and Pakistani people are more likely to have coronary heart disease
than white people
2000 fully qualified asylumseeking and refugee doctors are either prohibited from working or
are forced into unskilled work.
70% of all people from ethnic minorities live in the 88 most deprived local authority districts.
1/5th of housing occupied by asylum seekers is unfit for human habitation
Some ethnic minority groups are more likely to live in poor housing
The Legal System
Racial harassment incidents are widespread and under reported ­ an estimate of only 5% is
reported to the police.
Ethnic minorities are over represented throughout the criminal justice system, from stop and
searches to prison.
Black people are 8 times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people Asians
were 3 times more likely.

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Black people are over nine times more likely to be in prison than their white counterparts
People from ethnic minorities made up 18% of the male prison population and 24% of the
female prison population
1 in 8 ethnic minority people report discrimination at a job interview
Statistics demonstrate that race discrimination cases remain the least likely to succeed of all
tribunal cases.
Unemployment is considerably higher among ethnic communities.
Ethnic minority men are overrepresented in the service sector.…read more

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A small sample size is a weak basis for making generalisations
If researchers use different classification systems to assign people to ethnic groups then it
will be difficult to make comparisons of findings.
Ethnic Diversity
The ethnic minority population in Britain is not only small, it is also extremely diverse.
Generalisations which apply to some ethnic groups (e.g. Indians) may not apply to others
(e.g. Black Caribbean's)
Internal Diversity
There is diversity within ethnic minority groups as well as between them.…read more

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Roberts (2001)
He states that cultural explanations of economic differences are plausible.
Asian immigrants brought strong entrepreneurial traditions with them and these soon fund
expression in the establishment of ethnic businesses.
But it can be argued that there is an `antienterprise' attitude among AfricanCaribbean
groups, which may be down to their bitter experience of slavery.
Cashmore (1991)
He reports that successful black entrepreneurs are often treated with suspicion in Britain
(e.g.…read more

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Gilroy is recommending an understanding of culture which is radically different from crude
cultural approaches which end up blaming the victim.
The HostImmigrant Model Patterson
This approached stressed the importance of culture.
This theory depicted Britain as a basically stable, orderly society with a high degree of
consensus over norms and values.
This equilibrium was disturbed by the arrival of immigrant `strangers' who subscribed to
different sets of values, leading to a culture clash.…read more

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This new racism does not describe racial minorities as inferior, rather it objects to
minorities on the grounds that they ate culturally different. It alleges that the cultures of ethnic
minorities are incompatible with traditional or white British culture. The mere presence of ethnic
minorities in Britain is treated as a threat to the `British way of life'. Mason suggests that new
racism is hardly new it is one of the oldest forms of racism.…read more

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Status Inequality
There is not only a class struggle for status, income and wealth but there is also an ethnic
struggle. However status and power is in the hands of the majority ethnic group, thereby
making it difficult for ethnicminority groups to compete equally for jobs, housing etc.
Ethnic minorities who do manual jobs are technically part of the working class but are likely
to face prejudice and discrimination from the white working class because they suffer from
status inequality in addition to class inequality.…read more

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Marxist argue that black people are part of the exploited working class and it is this rather than
any lack of status due to ethnicity, that determines their fate in capitalist society. Racial conflicts
are usually the symptoms of some deeper underlying class problem.
Marxists suggest that racism and racial inequality are deliberately encouraged by the capitalist
class for 3 ideological reasons:
1. Legitimisation
Racism helps justify low pay and poor working conditions because black workers are
seen as second class citizens.…read more

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Institutional Racism
Institutional racism is currently the most influential version of the structural approach. The term
suggests that racism is a basic feature of Britain's social institutions (e.g. government, schools,
and employment and housing markets). According to this view racist assumptions are built in to
the rules and routines of these institutions.
This does not mean that every individual working within these institutions supports racist attitudes
and behaviours.…read more

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Still the largest study of ethnic minorities ever carried out in Britain
Was based on detailed interviews with 5196 people of Caribbean, South Asian and Chinese
2867 white people were also surveyed to provide a comparison
It extended the scope of race relations research by investigating several issues in new ways.…read more


Raj Aujla

Hi Emma these notes are really useful :) What was your overall grade for sociology and how did you revise for it? (Unit G674)

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