Topic 1A social inequality

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Patterns and trends in relation to social class in

  • Social inequality refers to any differences between individuals and groups that are reflected in inferier chances in life for one of those groups this may mean unequal distrobution of money so some are rich and some are poor. 
  • Waber- used the term "life chances" to refer to the unequel likelyhood that people born to a certain background will experience a certain event e,g children born into a family wher both parents are unskilled and unemployed have a 1% chance of going to univesity where as 73% of children whose parents are in proffessional jobs go to university this shows how inequality exits ot just in terms of wealth or income but in area's such as education, health, housing and the law. 
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Measuring inequality

income- is the flow of money a person receives within a given time period not including savings or the worth of any goods that they own.

main sources of income. 

  • wages
  • welfair and benefits (including pensions)
  • investment income and self employment 

Peoples income is usually regarded as the best measure of their economic wellbeing since it determins how much they can save and spend. 

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Are income stats valid and reliable?

  • most income stats lack validity in one form or another 
  • useful info is gathered through surveys such as the british Household Panel survey but these surveys don't cover the whole population i.e miss out people sleeping rough and in residentual care. Also people may under report their income either due to underestimation (often self employed people do this) or tax avoidance (concealing income through cash in hand buisness) 
  • Average incomes can be missleading the average figure is boosted by the huge earnings of small but extreemly wealthy groups so the incomes of as much as two thirds of earners may fall below this so called "average" . This is why most reaserchers prefer to use the "median" figure. The median is the half way point in income with half of all earners falling below this figure and the other half above it. 
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Trends in income inequality

despite some fluctuations in the last centuary the overal trend has been an increased gap between the high and low earners this is known as polarisation where groups become increasingly distant from one another.

Over the past 15 years more househlds have become poor but fewer are very poor. Even though there was less extreem poverty the overall number of households where people live below the standard poverty line has consitently been above 17% peaking at 27% in 2001. From 1990 to 2000 the personal wealth held by the wealthiest 1% of the population grew as a proportion of the national share from 17% in 1991 to 24% in 2002 

Wealth: refers to the total "stock" of economic resources and possessions at a fixed point in time. It's a measure of the monitary value of assets such as shares saings, land, buildings and consumer goods. 

Main sources of wealth

  • residentual dwellings
  • pension funds and life assurance
  • stocks and shares 
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Are wealth stats valid and relaiable?

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Are wealth stats valid and relaiable?

  • its difficult to get accurave, valid figures on the ditribution of wealth in britian the avaliable sources all have limitations. 

Surveys-  one method is to ask a sample of the population about their wealth, for example the family resources survey provides data on things like peoples estimated savings however people may not want to reveal their personal details to snooping sociologists. Also surveys rely on people telling the truth but some individuals (espec rich) may wish to conceal their true wealth in order to avoid paying tax.

Rich lists-  anual rich lists produced by the sunday times and the mail on sunday are a result of reaserch using land records, company accounts, shares portfolios and even art collections nd often relies on rough eastimats of the value of assetts. Reaserchers are not always able to track down undisclosed wealth i.e hiden assets such as off shore acounts. Moreover the list refer only to the "top 500" richest in enlgand. 

Inland revenue-  when someone dies inland revenue caluculates the value of their estate in order to assess any inheritence tax that may be due. however this can resul in an under estimation of the true wealth of the richest people as many will have taken precautions to spread their wealth into trust funds for their children and gifts. They do this to reduce inheritence tax. moreover many don't leave enough ealth to qualify for inheritence tax ans so excluded (as if they have no wealth at all)

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Trends in wealth inequality

Absolute trends 

  • the wealth of Britians pop has increased substantually in the second half of the 20th centuary most people now own t.vs, cars and even their own homes 

Realtive trends 

  • Nevertheless wealth is much more unevenly distrobuted than income . Partly because people tend to become wealthier as they grow older and so there is a concentration of wealth among older groups, also inheritence tends to reproduce the pattern of inequality- richer groups pass on a considerable inheritence to their children while poorer groups have little inheritence from their parents. 
  • In some respects wealth inequality has narrowed during the 20th centurary at least up until the 80s. in 1911 1% of the pop had 69% of the wealth but by 2000 this had dropped to 22%. Many gains were made by the group imediatly below the top group, the bottom 50% have enjoyed an increase in absolute wealth but not their  relative share in the nations wealth. 
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Evidence of social class inequality/ how are the w


  • Islington crime survey- shows those in inner cities are much more likely to be victims of crime than the national average. 42% of burglaries happen to the homes of the poor and those living on council estates. 222% of these houses are counsil owned. 
  • Hall- the wc are used as scapegoats by the media (i.e black men mugging in the 70's) via a process of labelling and moral panics distracting away from the real problem of capetalism. 
  • Cicourel- Police were more likely to stop and search youths from low imcome estates leading to a self fufilling prophecy. 
  • Snider- the state is reluctant to pass laws which disadvantage corporations so the mc are rarely subjected to the same levels of control an policing as the wc. 
  • Conklin- corporate crime and white collar crime are largely ignored which advantages the mc 
  • hood- suggested that judges are more leniant where the accused is "similar to them". Judges are overwhelmingly white middle aged middle cass men so more likely to be leniant to the mc. 
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Evidence of social class inequality/ how are the w


  • children born with parents from the bottom class have a 1% chance of going to university v.s the 80% from the top class that goes.
  • Gillies- mc mothers have more time and cultural captial which they use to their advantage with their childrens education, theyre confident in dealing with schools and spend more time reading/ helping with homework than their wc counterparts leading to higher educational acheivments for the mc.
  • There's a dirrect correlation between social class and educational qualifications gained and school leaving age. The lower doen the the class scale the more likely you are to leave school at 16 with no qualifications. 
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Evidence of social class inequality/ how are the w


  • The Alcheson Report(1998)- found that among proffesionals 17% (men) and 25% (women) reported a long standing illness. among unskilled workes the figues were 48% (men) 45% (women)
  • life expectancy as birth has increased over the past 30 years among all social classess but the greater gain has being among the mc. The life expectancy gap between proffessionals and unskilled manual males is 7.4 years (the guardian 2009)
  • unskilled manual workers are twice as likely to die before men in proffessional classes. 
  • Infant morality rate is double in the wc than that of the mc. 
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Evidence of social class inequality/ how are the w


  • Manual jobs are paid less than non manual jobs and the number of jobs in the manual sector is declining.
  • Unemployment rates are 4 times as high among unskilled worrkers than proffessional groups.
  • Sutton trust (neo marxists) _ Elite theory - suggests that the wc were increasingly instrumental in their attitude to work. In comparison to the proffessional mc they were less likely to gain satisfaction and status from their jobs instead seeing them from a means to an end. The days of fraternity and unity within traditional wc jobs are done.
  • Goldthorpe and lockwood- aruged wc are increasinly instrumental in their attitude to work. In comparison to the proffesional mc they were less likely to gain satifaction and status from their jobs, instead seeing them as a means to an end the days of fraternity and unity within traditional wc jobsi.e mining are gone. 
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Evidence of social class inequality/ how are the w

Identity/ relationships

  • Hey- wc girls are more likely to be controlled by their peers with regard to sexual behaviour and judged by their looks whereas mc girls have more sexual liberation due to their higher levels of social status and power. 
  • Young and Wilmott- mc women are more likely to have escaped domestic drudgery as more likely to be in symmetrical families 
  • Jackson- wc youth are more likely to fall into rebellious peer groups of lads and laddetts which leads to underacheivment in education. 
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