Sociology – Social Inequality Essay

The name of this coursework will be “The effects of social inequality.”

As we go about and prosper in our lives, inequality is less evident. Although we live in a modern age where we inhabit a somewhat fair and peaceful democratic country, inequality is still prominent in our society. Those who fail to recognise it are those who are not affected by it, the elite. They who are the ones supplied with the fruits of society and consider other less fortunate people’s opinions as inferior to theirs. Social inequality itself exists in all known human societies. The one of the principal concerns of it is to understand how exactly they impact people’s lives and to understand these. Social inequality refers to the uneven distribution of:

– Resources such as power and money.

– Opportunities related to for example to; education, employment and health.

Social class, gender, age and ethnicity are all sources of inequality in the UK. In other words, a situation in which certain groups in a society do not have equal social status. Social inequality can be broken down into different parts; income, occupation and education, but primarily its based on social class. Piachaud (2009) argues that the causes of inequality within the UK include large differences between people in terms of inherited wealth, education and access to the labour market.

Within society, various groups have a different interpretation of what the definition of social class is;

Marxists view social classes as a highly stratified system. They identify two main classes: the bourgeoisie being the ruling class and the proletariat being the working class. Membership of these classes is determined by economic factors – that is, ownership and non-ownership. The wealthy bourgeoisie owned the means of production through their ownership of property, big businesses, land and factories. The proletariat did not own any property and had to sell their labour to the bourgeoisie in order to survive. These two sub-classes had very diverse interests. For example, while the bourgeoisie aimed for ever increasing profits, the proletariat sought higher wages. Marx saw the bourgeoisie as exploiting the proletariat and this situation led to conflict between these classes.

Functionalists see society as working in a harmonious way with each institution having a function to perform. They agree that there is a social class system, in which there are open opportunities and there is mobility between classes, ensure that the talented individuals are given the opportunity to reach the top to perform the roles most vital for society.

Marx Weber argued that classes were formed in marketplaces such as the labour market. In the labour market, one class of people hired labour and another class sold their labour. Weber saw the processes of hiring labour and the life chances that arose from this as the crucial explaining class.

Weber argued that a class is a group of people who have similar access to life chances that is chances of being successful and opportunities in education, health and so on. Weber identified four main classes; property owners, professionals, the petty bourgeoisie and the working class. These different class situations reflected different life chances in the labour market. Members of the working class for example shared similar life chances in the labour market. However they had different life chances to property owners.

Life Marx, Weber saw class as based on the distribution of economic resources such as wealth. However, Weber also stressed the importance of non-economic factors such as status and power in determining life chances and in shaping patterns of stratification. Weber distinguished between class and stratus, while classes were formed in market places, status groups could be identified by the prestige or honour attached to their styles of life. Weber argued that each of the four classes had different amount of status wealth and power. In Marx’s view though ownership was the most significant division of society, other inequalities arose from class divisions. Weber, however saw class and status as two separate aspects of stratification. In Weber’s view, a person’s status may different from their class or economic position. For instance

– Members of the aristocracy may have no savings but their title gives them status

– Nurses may lack wealth but have high status

– National Lottery millionaire may be very wealthy but lack status

The official definition however of social classes as of the government’s definition that is having the same social, economic, or educational status; for example the working class and the upper class.

Social inequality is also linked to racial inequality and wealth inequality. The way people behave socially, through racism and other forms of discrimination, tends to trickle down and affect the opportunities and wealth individuals can generate for themselves. One example of this is how a black family was denied a bank loan to use for housing, while a white family was approved. As being a homeowner is an important method in acquiring wealth, this situation created fewer opportunities for the black family to acquire wealth, producing social inequality.

The influence of social class profoundly pressurises ones life chances. The income of people in higher social classes increased more than those in lower classes. For example, between April 1993 and April 1994 the top 10% of earners say their pay increase from 3.4% where as on the contrary, the bottom 10% averaged a increase of only a meagre 1.1%. Also education and health are both aspects which create social class. The higher a child’s social class background, the more chance he or she has of achieving high educational qualifications. For example, in 2001, 81% of university students came from middle class backgrounds. In 1995, men from unskilled manual backgrounds were three times more likely to smoke than those from professional backgrounds.

The aims of the research are to determine the amount of social inequality depending on the issues which enclose it. I also aim to establish an idea of who is affected mostly and how. My final aim is to investigate on the sociologists explanations towards social inequality and if any of them then are alike to my set of results.

Throughout this coursework, I then will prove how social class can affect people’s lives. This has led me to my hypothesis;

“Social inequality is still in existence and effects people’s lives.”

Methodology

These research methods I have chosen is adequate to my investigation as my source can easily go through it with varied options also I can to collect large amounts of data. I have chosen in as my primary research methods; a questionnaire and interview. The methods would be going through a questionnaire, and explore and note people’s views upon this matter.

By choosing an informal type interview, I can get a background idea of what people think without pressurising them into saying their opinion while being still professional. However weaknesses for a questionnaire; it may be ignored or neglected by people. Also it may not always be the truth, especially on sensitive issues, for example, the social issues they may have experienced. Also those who may be impatient may quickly go through it and not get to answer the questions in detail or to show their wider view. Lastly the answers may not contain a participant’s view so they would not have a say in that specific question. Despite its flaws, the actual method is quick and simple and gets to the point in a short matter of time hence is then being useful.

For my sample method I have chosen to do a quota sample. As opposed to random sampling, quota sampling need that representative individuals are chosen out of a specific group depending on their gender, age, race but most importantly class. This method of sampling is suitable for my investigation as it gives a good range of answers from the people who happen to be affected by it and not. Also it will give me large range of answers due to gender, age, race and class opinions and beliefs. However it may be biased as there isn’t a third party who may not have anything to do with the issue to give their views on the contrast to random sampling.

For interviews, by creating a detailed set of questions regarding social inequality; I will then interview a certain set of people. From this I can establish a varied set of results from the most distinguished stratified groups; gender and class. Why I chose this appropriate method is because it gives the interviewee to opportunity to explain to thorough detailed answers, also the choice of answers may accompany the reasons to justify their answer. In depth information can be obtained and avoids oversimplifying multifarious issues.

However this method of interviewing has its imperfections. Often by conducting this interview it consumes the amount of time and the amount of people hence slowing the whole process down. Also for some subjects people may not want to be interviewed on this subject due to their own issues or experiences. Considering also that the interviewer may cast a certain impression upon the interviewee which may increase or decrease the amount of pressure upon them, thus affecting the answers and the whole investigation. So therefore I should therefore In spite of the research method’s flaws, it is still very useful due to its consistent and meticulous answering system as in contrast to questionnaires.

Though the interview itself, I will interview those who are most affected upon the subject. By interviewing different classes, ages, gender and race, I can establish a sense of the whole idea of it from a mixture of the different ends of the social spectrum.

There are many ethical issues which surround the whole investigation and may affect the participants. Many people may feel insecure about answering such a question as it may affect them personal or had affected them in a way. We can safely say the questions will not contain unsuitable or non professional questions. Also the questionnaire will contain a optional type system in which the participant may not have to enter. The only data they will have to add is class and age.

These are the two factors that the whole investigation revolves around. Also the information gathered and the identities of the participants will be held in the strictest of confidence. The participants will have to be above a certain age such as 21; it is important to gather information from young people and older people as it may affect them in different ways such as getting a job. If participants are worried with the information they will not need to add their names or addresses only age and occupation.