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Social Stratification in Canada

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Kirstin Morris

on 24 February 2015

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Transcript of Social Stratification in Canada

Social Stratification in Canada
design by Dóri Sirály for Prezi
the hierarchical arrangement of large social groups based on their control over basic resources
degree of flexibility important
Social Stratification
Sociological Explanations of Social Inequality
Systems of Stratification
we'll take a look at the truth behind "the rich get richer"
Inequality in Canada
early sociologists wrestled with the definition of class and the criteria for determining people's location within the class structure
Classical Perspectives on Social Class
Social Stratification
Systems of Stratification
Inequality in Canada
Classical Perspectives on Social Class
Poverty in Canada
Consequences of Inequality
Sociological Explanations of Social Inequality
life chances
- the extent to which individuals have access to important societal resources such as food, clothing, shelter, education, and health care
generally, more affluent people have better life chances than less affluent people
our life chances are intertwined with our class, race, gender, and age
Anything valued in a society, ranging from money and property to medical care and education
They are considered scarce because of their unequal distribution among social categories
All societies distinguish among people by age
All societies differentiate between males and females
Differentiations -> inequality
Open system - the boundaries between levels in the hierarchies are more flexible and may be influenced by people's achieved statuses
have some degree of
social mobility
- the movement of individuals or groups from one level in a stratification system to another
intergenerational mobility
- the social movement experienced by family members from one generation to the next
intragenerational mobility
- the social movement of individuals within their own lifetime
Closed system - the boundaries between levels in the hierarchies of social stratification are rigid, and people's positions are set by ascribed status
these are ideal constructs - no actual stratification system is completely open or closed
an extreme form of stratification in which some people are owned by others
slaves are treated as property and have little or no control over their lives
some social analysts state that there have been 5 slave societies:
1. ancient Greece
2. ancient Rome/the Roman Empire
3. the US
4. the Carribean
5. Brazil
other social analysts argue that slavery existed in the Americans prior to European settlement, and throughout Africa and Asia
1600s - slaves were imported to Canada and the US as cheap labour
New Brunswick
Nova Scotia
until the early 19th century (early 1800s)
4 principles of slavery:
1. for life and inherited
2. slaves were considered property
3. slaves were denied rights
4. coercion was used to maintain control
The Caste System
a closed system of stratification
a system of social inequality in which people's status is permanently determined at birth based on their parents' ascribed characteristics

contemporary India and South Africa
India - caste is based, in part, on occupation
South Africa - caste was based on racial classifications
Afrikaners (White South Africans) considered superior to the black majority
- the separation of races - enforced until the 1990s
marriage is
- people are allowed to marry only within their own group
cultural values and beliefs sustain the caste systems
caste systems grow weaker as societies industrialize
focus turns to skills needed for industrialization
The Class System
a type of stratification based on the ownership and control of resources and on the type of work people do
theoretically, this system is more open than a caste system
boundaries between classes are less distinct
people may become members of a class other than that of their parents through both intergenerational and intragenerational mobility
horizontal and vertical mobility
ascribed statuses (race/ethnicity, gender, religion) also affects people's social mobility
Income Inequality
- the economic gain derived from the wages, salaries, income transfers (e.g. governmental aid), and ownership of property
Sociologist Dennis Gilbert (2003)
the average family income of the 3 lowest income groups has declined in the past decade
considerable regional variation in income across the country (image - pg. 162)
significant income variation among particular regional/ethnic groups
Wealth Inequality
- includes property, such as buildings, land, farms, houses, factories, and cars, as well as other assets, such as money in bank accounts, corporate stocks, bonds, and insurance policies
wealth <-> net worth
Most Canadians' wealth is invested in property that does not generate an income - cars, houses
The wealthy minority often invests in income-producing property
Wealth more unevenly distributed among the Canadian population than income
wealthy = total assets after debt = +$250,000
1.1 million households = millionaire status
most of the wealthiest people in Canada are inheritors
Karl Marx: Relation to Means of Production
class position determined by work situation, or relationship with the means of production
Max Weber: Wealth, Prestige, and Power
saw the transformation as individual, competitive, entrepreneurial capitalism shifted to bureaucratic, industrial, and corporate capitalism
2 classes:
capitalists (bourgeoisie)
working class (proletariat)
class relationships involve inequality and exploitation
exploitation ->
: a feeling of powerlessness and estrangement from other people and oneself
capitalists maintain position due to control of superstructure (government, schools, churches, and other social institutions)
would lead to
class conflict
- the struggle between the capitalist class and the working class
working class would overthrow the capitalists and end capitalism
capitalism still around because it has changed since Marx's time (Dahrendorf, 1959)
Marx had important insights into capitalist societies
he recognized the economic basis of class systems (Gilbert, 2003)
how were class systems though of before Marx?
he noted the relationship between people's location in the class structure and their values, beliefs, and behaviour
he acknowledged that classes may have opposing interests
agreed with Marx - economic factors are important in understanding individual and group behaviour
no one factor was sufficient for defining people's location within the class structure
access to important societal resources is crucial to determining people's life chances
social stratification = interplay between wealth, prestige, and power
people who have a similar level of wealth and income = same class
entrepreneurs - privileged commercial class

rentiers - wealthy individuals who live off their investments
People who work for wages
middle class
working class
the respect with which a person or status position is regarded by others
people who share the same level of social prestige = same status group regardless of wealth
establishing and maintaining prestige = style of life, formal education, occupation
the ability of people or groups to achieve their goals despite opposition for others
social power in modern societies is held by bureaucracies
individual power depends on a person's position within the bureaucracy
wealth - prestige - power = separate continuums
individuals can be high in one dimension while being low in another
socioeconomic status (SES)
- a combined measure that attempts to classify individuals, families, or households in terms of factors such as income, occupation, and education to determine class location
Weber's analysis of social stratification contributes to our understanding by
emphasizing that people behave according to their economic interests and their values
developed a multidimensional explanation of the class structure
identified additional classes
Poverty in Canada
When we think of poverty, most of us think of people who are unemployed or on welfare
Canada has no official definition of poverty, no official method of measuring poverty and no official poverty line
This makes it challenging to figure out how prevalent and serious the problem of poverty is in Canada
Statistics Canada's before-tax
low income cutoff
- the income level at which a family may be in 'straitened circumstances' because it spends considerably more on the basic necessities of life (food, shelter, and clothing) than the average family
a family or individual that spends more than 70% of its income on necessities is living in poverty
no single cutoff line - costs vary by family size and place of residence
absolute poverty
- when people do not have the means to secure the most basic necessities of life
relative poverty
- when people may be able to afford basic necessities but are unable to maintain an average standard of living

based on equality - acknowledgment of the extent to which a society should tolerate or accept inequality in the distribution of income and wealth
Who are the Poor?
poverty in Canada is not randomly distributed
highly concentrated among certain groups of people
when people belong to +1 category, their risk of poverty is even greater
children are at a greater risk of living in poverty than are older persons
~ 2/3 of all adults living in poverty are women
Race and Ethnicity
a disproportionate percentage of impoverished people in Canada are Aboriginal peoples and recent immigrants
People with Disabilities
over 50% of people with disabilities are in the labour force, many continue to be excluded
due to workplace environmental barriers
decreased poverty among the elderly = increased government transfer payments + increased number of elderly individuals retiring with private pension plans
Average poverty rate ~ 14%
Poverty rate for children under 18 ~ 17%

+ 1 million Canadian children are living in poverty

a large number hover just above the poverty line
Government cuts to unemployment-insurance programs, employment programs, income supports, and social services for families and children will affect adults and their children
pg. 169
woman in all categories are at a greater risk of poverty than men
risk is particularly significant for single-parent families headed by women
women are among the poorest of the poor
feminization of poverty
- the trend in which women are disproportionately represented among individuals living in poverty
bear the major economic burden of raising children
earn only 70 cents every dollar a male worker earns
struggle with finding regular, full-time, year-round employment
struggle with the lack of adequate, affordable daycare
event-driven poverty
reshuffled poverty
multiple jeopardies
a result of marital separation, divorce, or widow-hood
a condition of deprivation that follows someone regardless of their marital status or the type of family in which they live
affects many visible-minority women
the even greater risk of poverty experienced by women who are immigrants, visible minorities, or Aboriginal, or by women who have disabilities
not just a women's issue
Aboriginal peoples in Canada are among the most severely disadvantaged persons
~1/2 live below the low-income cutoff
some live in extreme poverty
the quality of life for Aboriginal peoples living on reserves ranks worse than in countries such as Mexico and Thailand (Tjepkema, 2002)
quality of life is slightly better for people living off reserves
The average income for Aboriginal peoples is just over $15 000 ($11 000 below the national average income of $26 000)
adults with disabilities have significantly lower incomes than non-disabled Canadians
close to half of employed persons with disabilities had annual incomes below $10 000
if gender and disability are combined, women with disabilities are doubly disadvantaged
Economic and Structural Sources of Poverty
low wages is the major cause
half of all families living in poverty are headed by someone who is employed (full time or part time)
a person with full-time employment in a minimum-wage job cannot keep a family of 4 above the low-income cutoff
minimum-wage legislation (1972) meant that a worker working 40 hours/week, 52 weeks/year could earn a yearly income 20% over the poverty line
Economic problems
Structural problems
move from industrial base to informational base
job deskilling
- a reduction in the proficiency needed to perform a specific job that leads to a corresponding reduction in the wages paid for that job
resulted from the introduction of computers and other technologies
shift from manufacturing to service occupations = the loss of higher-paying positions and their replacement with lower-paying and less secure positions
certain jobs inaccessible for parents who are unable to find affordable daycare
Consequences of Inequality
income and wealth are intricately related to our individual life chances
people with high income or substantial wealth have more control over their lives
Physical and Mental Health and Nutrition
wealthy and well-educated people who have high-paying jobs are far more likely to be healthy than are poor people
people who are poor have shorter life expectancies, are at greater risk for chronic illnesses, and infectious diseases
the economic and social conditions under which people live their lives are greater determinants of whether they develop heart disease than medical and life-style factors (Raphael, 2001)
children born into poor families are at much greater risk of dying during their first year of life
disease, accidents, violence, low birth weight
unequal access to medical care
people with higher income and wealth tend to smoke less, exercise more, maintain a healthy body weight, and eat more nutritious meals
affluent people tend to be less depressed, and face less psychological stress
some functionalist theorists view education as the elevator to social mobility
improvements in the educational achievement levels of the poor, visible minorities, and women cited as evidence that students' abilities now are more important than their class, race, or gender
this perspective: inequality in education is declining
students have an opportunity to achieve upward mobility
functionalists - education system as flexible
can go to post-secondary education
conflict theorists: schools are agencies for reproducing the capitalist class system and perpetuating inequality in society
education perpetuates poverty
Functionalist Perspectives
Kingley Davis and Wilbert Moore (1945)
Conflict Perspectives
people with economic and political power are able to shape and distribute the rewards, resources, privileges, and opportunities in society for their own benefit
Feminist Perspectives
quality of individuals' life experiences is a reflection of both their class position and their gender
inequality necessary for the smooth functioning of society
Davis-Moore thesis
- definitive functionalist explanation for social inequality:
1. all societies have important tasks that must be accomplished and certain positions that must be filled
2. some positions are more important for the survival of society than others
3. the most important positions must be filled by the most qualified people
4. positions that are the most important for society and that require scarce talent, extensive training, or both, must be the most highly rewarded
5. the most highly rewarded positions should be those that are functionally unique and on which other positions rely for expertise, direction, or financing
social stratification results in
- a hierarchy in which all positions are rewarded based on people's ability and credentials
ignores inequalities based on inherited wealth and intergenerational family status
thesis assumes that economic rewards and prestige are the only effective motivators for people and fails to take into account other intrinsic aspects of work (self-fulfillment)
does not adequately explain how such a reward system guarantees that the most qualified people will gain access to the most highly rewarded positions
inequality does not serve as a motivating force for people
powerful individuals and groups use ideology to maintain their favoured positions at the expense of others
Canadian core values emphasize material possessions, hard work, individual initiative to get ahead, and behaviour that supports the existing social structure
laws and informal social norms support social inequality in Canada
legalized and institutionalized segregation and discrimination
examine the secondary forms of inequality and oppression occurring
each class
overlooked by the classical theorists
focus on the combined effect that gender has on class inequality
class and gender as reinforcing one another -> doubly oppressed groups
within any class, women are less advantaged than men in their access to material goods, power, status, and possibilities for self-actualization
causes of inequality lie in the organization of capitalism
Symbolic Interactionist Perspectives
focus on microlevel concerns and usually do not analyze larger structural factors that contribute to inequality and poverty
a few studies provide insight into the social interactions between people from vastly different classes
Rollins (1985) - study of the relationship between household workers and their employers
examined rituals of deference often demanded by elite white women of their domestic workers, who were frequently women of colour
deferential behaviour between nonequals confirms the inequality of the relationship and each party's position in the relationship relative to the other
a type of ceremonial activity that functions as a symbolic means whereby appreciation is regularly conveyed to a recipient
Goffman (1967)
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