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Copy of Chapter 9 - Social Stratification, Inequality, and Poverty

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Craig Boylstein

on 23 August 2013

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Transcript of Copy of Chapter 9 - Social Stratification, Inequality, and Poverty

Inequality was very high during the 1920s, a period in which the stock market and the banking industry were extremely profitable. The wealthiest 10 percent received almost half of the total national income, including families that accumulated large amounts of industrial and financial wealth. Inequality dropped sharply after the 1930s, impacted by the Wall Street crash of 1929 which destroyed big financial fortunes and induced the Great Depression. World War II (1939–1945) pushed economic growth during and after the war.

With the infusion of well-paid jobs in new industries and expanded consumption possibilities for U.S. families, middle class families prospered. In the 1960s, the U.S. government launched the “Great Society,” a policy aimed at reducing poverty and racial inequality, which hit record lows in the 1960s and early-1970s, but began to rise again in the late 1970s. Since then, like in the 1920s, the financial industries grew rapidly and allowed some people to become very wealthy. By 2010, the share of total income going to the wealthiest one-tenth of families reached the 1920s levels – these families received again about 45 percent of the total national income.
Under what circumstances have ordinary people–like the demonstrators in the 1930s shown here–been willing to challenge high levels of economic inequality?
The Wall Street crash of 1929 destroyed big financial fortunes and induced the Great Depression, a period of severe economic contraction, unemployment, and generalized poverty. The New Deal, a series of economic reforms implemented by the government in the 1930s, was designed to address the widespread poverty resulting from the Great Depression. After the 1930s (and particularly after the second World War) inequality dropped sharply, a trend that has been called the “Great Compression” to signify just how significant the equalizing forces of that era were (Krugman 2007). The Second World War (1939-1945) further pushed economic growth and wiped out any traces of the Great Depression. The war spurred technological development, industrial expansion, and capital investment driven by the need to produce war supplies, such as aerospace and electronics, and put people to work in large numbers.
Why is inequality in the United States today so high?
Social Stratification, Inequality, and Poverty

Photo Selection 1:
Student Activity:
Now it’s your turn to use your sociological imagination to evaluate people and situations you may encounter every day. Putting the model into practice, identify a key question for each of the following photos that will help someone unfamiliar with sociological thinking understand the influencing forces behind an individual’s behavior in a given situation. In addition, please provide supporting data or an explanation for each question to show why these influencing forces must be considered in drawing an accurate conclusion about the people and situations depicted in the images.
Jump back to MySocLab to complete the media assignment for this
A Sociological Perspective.
The Occupy Wall Street movement that began in the fall of 2011 raised serious questions about the huge salaries being received by Wall Street bankers while ordinary Americans had no increase in household income in 12 years. Do you think this movement or another like it will grow in the future?
The inequality gap between the rich and everyone else is even more pronounced if we only look at the wealthiest 1 percent of families. Their share of total income has escalated from about 8 percent to 23 percent in the last 40 years (peaking in 2007). The increase in inequality driven by gains at the top is not characteristic of just the U.S. In fact, inequality has widened in most advanced industrial countries of Europe and North America in the last three decades. These countries have also experienced a growing gap between the high-income families and everyone else, but the growing gap in the U.S. still surpasses other advanced industrial nations. For example, the top 1 percent income share was about 13 percent in both Canada and the UK, 8 percent in France and 6 percent in Sweden (Piketty and Saez 2010).
Using your sociological imagination, what key question could you ask about the subject of this photo?

What supporting research would you need to gather to answer that question?
Is the nature of inequality cyclical or are there ways individuals, communities, and governments can better maintain more equitable levels of inequality over time?
Factors contributing to the rise in inequality in the U.S. include technological advances, a decline in industrial and manufacturing jobs, union declines, and government policies. Technology is replacing some jobs and requiring particular skills matched to college or technical education training. The decline in industrial and manufacturing jobs and the simultaneous rise of service jobs resulted in the lack of jobs with healthcare, pensions, and full-time positions, and an increase in jobs where limited or no benefits are available or they are part-time. Today, only 12 percent of workers belong to a union, traditionally a force in raising average wages. Government policies, especially taxation and minimum wage levels, contribute to the rise in equality.
Photo Selection 1:
Using your sociological imagination, what key question could you ask about the subject of this photo?

What supporting research would you need to gather to answer that question?
Workers at a clothing factory in Guadalajara, Mexico making garments for Walmart.
Stock brokers on the New York Board of Trade trading floor.
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