Chapter 2 Poverty and Wealth by malj


									    Chapter 2

Poverty and Wealth
    Economic Inequality in the
         United States

• Social stratification:
   – the system by which society ranks
     categories of people in a hierarchy
• Stratification produces social classes
   – categories of people who have similar
     access to resources and opportunities
Economic Inequality in the
     United States

• Any discussion of problems such as
  poverty must include a discussion of
  income and wealth

• Taxation is a common device used by
  the government to reduce economic
The Rich and the Poor: A Social
• “The rich”: those families who fall within the
  top 10 percent of income distribution.
• The “poverty line”: the level of annual income
  below which a person or family is defined as
  poor and thus entitled to government
• The “poverty gap”: the difference between
  the official poverty line and the actual income
  of the typical poor household
       The Extent of Poverty

• Profile of the U.S. poor
  – Age: at greatest risk are children
  – Race: African Americans and Hispanics
  – Gender: women
  – Family Patterns: single mothers
  – Region: the South and the West
     Social Problems Linked to
• Poor health
   – The link between poverty and health is
     evident from birth to old age
   – The infant mortality among the poor is
     twice the national average and among the
     poorest, four times the national
   – Death comes earlier to the poor, who are
     more likely to die from infectious diseases
     and violence at any age
     Social Problems Linked to

• Substandard housing
   – About 500,000 people are homeless in the
     U.S. on a given night
   – Up to 2 million people are homeless at
     some point during the year
   – Low income coupled with a decrease in
     available low-income housing leads to
     Social Problems Linked to
• Limited schooling
   – Poor children are less likely than rich
     children to complete high school
   – fewer poor children enter college and have
     less of a chance of completing an
     advanced degree
• Uncertain work and the working poor
     Social Problems Linked to

• Crime and Punishment
   – Due to the focus on street crime, the poor
     are more likely to face arrest, trial,
     conviction, and prison
   – The poor depend more on public defenders
     and court-appointed attorneys, most of
     whom are underpaid and overworked
   Responding to Poverty: The
        Welfare System

• Social welfare program:an organized effort by
  government, private organizations, or
  individuals to assist needy people defined as
  worthy of assistance
   Responding to Poverty: The
        Welfare System

• Large government-run welfare programs have
  three characteristics:
   – they direct money to specific categories of
   – they benefit many people (e.g., the elderly,
     veterans, students, and farmers); and
   – they do not significantly change income
   Social welfare has a long and
    controversial history in the
           United States

• The colonial era (the 1600s and 1700s);
• The earlier industrial era (the 19th century –
  when attitudes toward the poor became more
• The twentieth century (with its soaring
  immigration and the 1929 great depression,
  and Franklin Roosevelt’s “New Deal.”)
             Welfare Today

• Changes in the welfare system began to
  occur when President Clinton pledged in 1992
  to “end welfare as we know it.”
• The result was the Welfare Reform Act of
• The public remains divided over whether
  people deserve help
Welfare Reform Act of 1996

 • Replaced federal AFDC program with a
   new state related program – Temporary
   Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).
 • New rules require able-bodied people
   receiving benefits to find a job or enroll
   for job retraining within two years.
Welfare Reform Act of 1996

 • States can set their own qualifications
   benefits, but must limit assistance to
   two consecutive years with a lifetime
   cap of five years.
 • The program directs all states to move
   half of single parents receiving welfare
   into jobs or retraining by 2002.
Structural functional analysis:
  Some poverty is inevitable
– Social pathology theories: focus on
  personal deficiency
– Social disorganization theory: too much
– Contemporary functional theory: inequality
  is useful
    • Davis and Moore – inequality actually
      helps society function efficiently
    • Herbert Gans – poverty exists because
      many people benefit from it
 Symbolic Interaction Analysis:
      Who’s to Blame?

• Explores the meanings that people attach to
  those who are poor
• Criticism: although this approach points to
  society as the cause of poverty, it says little
  about how society makes some people poor
    Symbolic Interaction Analysis:
         Who’s to Blame?

• Based on research by William Ryan-
   – Pick a social problem
   – Decide how people who suffer from the
     problem differ from everyone else
   – Define these differences as the cause of
     the problem
   – Respond to the problem by trying to
     change the victims, not the larger society
Social-Conflict Analysis: Poverty
       Can Be Eliminated

• Marxist Theory: Poverty and Capitalism
• Poverty Involves More than Money: Cultural
• Multicultural Theory: Poverty, Race, and
• Feminist Theory: Poverty and Patriarchy
       Politics and Poverty:
    Constructing Problems and
        Defining Solutions

• Conservatives: Personal Responsibility
   – focus on personal responsibility, stressing
     the importance of self-reliance
• Liberals: Societal Responsibility
   – view poverty as more structural than it is
     individual; thus they look for societal
       Politics and Poverty:
    Constructing Problems and
        Defining Solutions

• Radicals: Change the System
   – poverty is inherent in capitalist society,
   – they dismiss social welfare programs and
     tax plans advocated by liberals as little
     more than a Band-Aid applied to the body
     of a person with an incurable disease

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