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Socioeconomic Determinism: Problems and Solutions
Transcript of Socioeconomic Determinism: Problems and Solutions
Modern society has three basic classes: the lower, middle, and upper, in order of poorest to richest. Initially, I was curious why there was this hierarchy of economic inequality. This developed into an interest in the social mechanics behind class: how and why does any individual become a member or of any particular class?
From my research, I have found that an individual's developed social class is greatly influenced by the social environment they grew up in. Essentially, this is because the individual inherits qualities from their environment that either help or hinder upward mobility.
How Does this Work?
We can consider there to be three types of capital that affect social standing: economic, cultural, and social.
Economic capital is fairly self-explanatory. The goal of one's job is to adequately provide for oneself by paying to attend to needs (e.g. food, home, entertainment). Economic capital also affects cultural and and social capital.
Cultural capital is less tenable. From exposure to the social environment, views, values, knowledge, and skills are acquired. This affects one's ability to succeed in mainstream society.
Social capital is apparent in the opportunities available to an individual. Social networks [of people] allow for understanding, and open opportunities that might not otherwise be available. For example, internships are generally used for forming connections within a company or organization, to become a better candidate for employment in the future.
How are Capitals Determined?
The "social environment" I have been referring to is, for each individual, the primary source of capital. Simply, one's social environment consists of one's parents, peers, and culture. Economic capital is inherited primarily from parents, however cultural and social capital are acquired through a process called socialization. Social pressure causes people to be inclines to a certain system of values.
People born into one class acquire the capitals attributed to that class, and hence their capitals are conducive to the class they were born into, meaning that individuals are most likely to remain in the class they were born into. This, as we will see in a moment, can be problematic.
To summarize, a decrease in opportunities results in a less efficient society, because the full extent of the populations isn't being put to use. To ameliorate this problem, intergenerational fluidity of social class must be increased. This should allow those from a lower class background more opportunities to become prominent, important figures in society.
Alan Krueger, chairman at the Council of Economic Advisers, graphed economic inequality, measured by the Gini coefficient, against Intergenerational Earnings Elasticity, which measures social mobility across generations (higher value indicates less mobility). It shows a trend relating greater inequality to less mobility. Note that the US is on the higher end when compared to its first world counterparts.
If we are to change our current system for the better, we, as constituents, must become informed about the issues involving class, to educate, and to elect the proper leaders, because change can only originate from our collective decision, as the government, to change our culture, through implementation of policy that decreases economic inequality and increases opportunities for all members of society.