Patterns & Trends in Social Class Inequality

  • Created by: nelliott
  • Created on: 04-01-21 11:45

Social Class & Employment

  • Weberian Sociologists believe privileged workers tend to be in more skilled/high status occupations
  • They can choose higher pay and other rewards
  • Less skilled do not have this bargain power
  • Marxist sociologists believe that inequalities come from employers who keep wages down and profits up
  • They say there is inequalities not only in pay but also in:

Financial rewards (bonuses and paid holidays for managers)

Power and control (different uniforms for managers, different use of facilities)

Opportunity (managers controlling working hours, closely supervising them and how they perform)

Job satisfaction (skilled workers earn more and make bigger decisions, while workers beneath them have repetitive routines)

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Social Class & Wealth

  • Wealth is a 'stock' concept: it measures resources and posessions such as housing, land, assets, money in bank accounts, savings, investments and pension wealth
  • It is difficult to measure wealth
  • The poorest 50% of the population have only 10% of wealth between them (average of £1.3 million)
  • The poorest 10% have virtually no wealth at all (less than £28,000)
  • Some people accumulate wealth as they get older, such as homes and pensions
  • Atkinson (2013) argued that lot of income now comes from inherited wealth
  • This suggests that inequalities in wealth do not just come from the different skills people have, but also from what they recieve/inherit from family members and parents, which links to class
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Social Class & Income

  • A persons income affects food, housing, transport (e.g. car ownership), consumer goods (e.g. iPhone, iPad) and leisure activities (eating out, holidays)
  • Information on income is often from: Family Resources Survey (FRS), The Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) and British Household Panel Survey
  • Britain is one of the most unequal societies in Europe in terms of income and has got worse in the past 30 years (Goverment cut income tax for the very rich and cut the link for state benefits)
  • Poorest fifth of the population paid 37.4% tax and the rich paid 35.1%
  • Debate amongst sociologists-some say rich have got richer in the last 50 years, but the poor are better off also. Others would say that poor people's income has only risen slowly since 1970's whereas the rich's income rise has been much quicker
  • Functionalist and New Right believe unequal rewards are beneficial for society to  ensure the most talented are encouraged to work hard and use their abilities
  • They say this justifies higher salaries and bonuses for highly skilled jobs
  • Marxist and Weberian believe that company owners and managers choose their own salary and it is this power they have which allows them to create a culture where huge rewards for certain people become the norm
  • Ordinary workers are socialised to just accept their wages as they have no other option
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Social Class & Poverty

  • Child Poverty Action Group argues that there are over 3.5 million children in poverty today
  • Absolute poverty is lack of basic essentials needed to survive.
  • This would be food, clothing, housig and fuel
  • Relative poverty is different, as this is whether people earn so little money they are excluded from a normal lifestyle
  • Poverty here is not fixed and someone will always be worse off than someone else, so relative poverty will always be around
  • Mack and Lansley (1985) measured poverty by asking different groups what they regarded as 'necessities' in their lives
  • Items rated by 50% or more of people were seen as necessities
  • They then asked how many people had to go without these necessities because they could not afford them
  • Households that lacked three or more necessities were counted as poor and those that went without five or more were defined as in severe poverty
  • As this has been repeated over time, the list of 'necessities' has got bigger and bigger, showing we have to frequently go back and change what we mean by poverty
  • A study carried out in 2012 shows poverty has increased, with 33% of households were seen as suffereing compared to 14% in 1983
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Social Class & Social Mobility

  • Social mobility is the movement of people up or down a social class. This is measured in two ways:

Intergenerational mobility: between generations (e.g. your dad being a factory worker but you become a doctor)

Intragenerational mobility: movement between social class during their working life

  • Lots of social mobility=open society
  • A closed society=little social mobility
  • It is hard to research social mobility because people do not agree on what occupation is what social class
  • E.g. very wealthy may not work, but have money through inheritance, poor may not have jobs, be on benefits
  • Occupation cannot be measured and women used to be ignored in studies in the past
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Social Class & Education

  • In education, working class students are constantly outperformed by middle class students
  • 7% of children are private school yet make up 3/4 of Judiciary system, 6/10 doctors, 2/3 Oscar winners and 50% of MPs
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Social Class & Health

  • Working class and manual workers typically die younger than middle class workers
  • Also more likely to suffer from chronic illnsses and mental health conditions
  • Life expectancy has risen more for middle class
  • Marxists argue there is a health gap
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