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Some Principles of Stratification, Research Paper Example

Pages: 1

Words: 1936

Research Paper

Introduction

The ideas of poverty vary for individual to individual. Social Darwinism theorizes that poverty is based on natural selection. The rich get rich based upon their desire to succeed, the poor are poor because of their own personal choices. Oscar Lewis basis poverty on the societal association and culture for which the poor have to live. The data collected in the United States Census shows that poverty is still rising. It also shows the effects on children. Additional studies declare that not only does poverty affect the way an individual lives, but also their life expectancy. The theory of a functionalist can explain the sociological paradigm of poverty. In comparison would be the theories of conflict perspective and interactionist. Poverty is a very real issue, and understanding the factors that attribute to it is increasingly important. This paper will address strive to answer questions like what is the distribution of poverty and the social variables that are related to poverty? Can the distribution and the variables be explained? Is it a valid assumption that bad health and lack of education is equal to future poverty?

Thesis Statement

Poverty is an economic state that alters an individual’s ability to get medical treatment, food, shelter, and even clothing that is a necessary part of healthy living. There are many theories as to what leads to poverty, however it is clear that poverty ensures contemporaneous inequality within the societal structures and negatively affects the ability for an individual to change their economic standing.

Literature Review

There are many different ways that poverty can be interpreted. It does not consist solely of homeless individual’s sleeping on the street. According to Oppenheim and Harker, “Poverty means being deprived materially, socially, and emotionally. It steals the opportunity to have a life unmarked by sickness, a decent education, a secure home, and a long retirement (Oppenheim & Harker, 1996). Understanding what poverty consists of is important, but it is also important to look at the factors that attribute to it as well.

Charles Darwin had a theory on poverty that is known as Social Darwinism. Darwin had a theory of natural selection, based on scientific proof that competition was a natural method for world improvement.  Using some of Darwin’s work, Herbert Spencer was responsible for the phrase “survival of the fittest”. This became a catchphrase for a ruthless economic rivalry. “This became known as social Darwinism. The trouble with applying natural selection to human economic relations is that the eventual goal of a capitalist is to create a monopoly, at which point competition and evolution cease” (Nash, 2009).

This type of rationale is based on the theory that the ones on the bottom of the stratification system, poor, and criminals are inferior based on character or biological factors. This theory bases poverty on the idea that the individual is lazy or frivolous with their money. They have no will power to find their own success. An individual’s biological composition determines one’s cognitive ability not social factors.

The belief that poverty is associated with negative factors like criminal behavior, alcoholism, and the likelihood for idleness means that the criminal rate will continually rise. The aid that is provided for the poor takes away the need to work and lowers the work ethic of these individuals. “The public example of alms induce many to be paupers who were never so before, while they do not at all relieve the truly deserving, who hesitate to be exposed to such publicity. They are, in fact, an especial assistance to the idle, and a reward to the improvident (Pauperism, 1874). Under this theory it is necessary for the poverty stricken individuals to make a change for themselves. Aiding the poor only sets society up for a growth in poverty, and equally in crimes.

On the other side of the argument is Oscar Lewis and theorist (1914-1970). His argument bases the culture of poverty on the value and personality differences among the underprivileged. This means that inclination to be poor is based upon the development of primary socialization. Poverty has unique challenges in living for the poor over those of the economic wealth. As a result the poor individuals are forces to develop a distinctive lifestyle. The poor are isolated from the non-poor forcing them to cling to common attitudes, behaviors, and values. The ideals of the subculture are separate from the social situations that formed it. This becomes a natural process in socialization shape of the personality and character of the individuals who are living in poverty. It prevents them from knowing how to take an opportunity to change their situation to from being poor to well-off. According to Oscar, this is the reason that poverty still remains.

Data and Methods

Poverty, regardless of the composition, has been a growing concern in America. Not only does it affect the way individuals live, their education, but also their health. This is vital for understanding the societal problem, and its true weighing on our nation. The first collection of data includes the total United States population and their economic standing. According to data collection in Health, United States, “In 2003 the overall percent of Americans living in poverty increased to 12.5 percent, up from 12.1 percent in 2002, 11.7 percent in 2001, and 11.3 percent in 2000. The increases in the poverty rate in 2001–03 were the first since 1993.” (Health, 2005) The increase in poverty was attributed to the inability for working-age adults to receive money from the government.

Again, poverty affects not only the adults, but also the children. “In 1974 poverty among children started increasing and remained at 20 percent or above from 1981 to 1997. Since then, the children’s poverty rate gradually declined to 16.2 percent in 2000 but had increased to 17.6 percent by 2003. In 2003, 12.9 million children lived in poverty.” (Health, 2005) Ideally this aids in the theory that how an individual is raised determines their life style in the future. Clearly this data does not validate that this theory is correct, but it does allow for assumptions.

Consider the future for these children, if they were able to break the cycle for which they were raised. “In 1980-82, Dr. Singh said, people in the most affluent group could expect to live 2.8 years longer than people in the most deprived group (75.8 versus 73 years). By 1998-2000, the difference in life expectancy had increased to 4.5 years (79.2 versus 74.7 years), and it continues to grow, he said” (Pear, 2008). The lack of proper medical attention, nutritional consumption, and overall sanitation, the life expectancy is imminently shorter. Taking this data and broadening it to a national level you see that the effects of poverty is even more detrimental. “If you look at the extremes in 2000,” Dr. Singh said, “men in the most deprived counties had 10 years’ shorter life expectancy than women in the most affluent counties (71.5 years versus 81.3 years). The difference between poor black men and affluent white women was more than 14 years (66.9 years vs. 81.1 years) (Pear, 2008).

Theory

The sociological paradigm of poverty can be related to the theory of a functionalist. A functionalist there is a stratification system. This is important for useful contributions to upkeep society. Davis & Moore’s argue that society requires individuals to perform specific tasks and positions. There are levels of positions that are more complex than others. Like with the economic status, the non-poor typically have more skills than the poor. This stratification system is a motivating method for individuals to work hard in their specific position. Kingsley Davis and Wilbert Moore developed this theory 60 years ago in the form of several logical assumptions that imply stratification is inevitable and necessary. When applied to American society, the following assumptions would be: “Some jobs are more important than others. Some jobs require more skills and knowledge than other jobs. Relatively few people have the ability to acquire the skills and knowledge that are needed to do these important, highly skilled jobs. And lastly, to induce the people with skills and knowledge to do the important, highly skilled jobs, society must promise them higher income or rewards.” (Davis & Moore, 1945)

Gans believes that there are direct benefits from poverty on society. “I have described thirteen of the more important functions poverty and the poor satisfy in American society, enough to support the functionalist thesis that poverty, like any other social phenomenon, survives in part because it is useful to society or some of its parts.” (Gans, 1971) He believes that this is the way that the dirty work can be accomplished. This is a means of creating jobs for the poor. It serves as a means to subsidize the activities of the wealthy.  Opens the door for marketing lessor goods than that of the non-poor society. It also portrays the poor as an underdog, in the society game of life. Every level of society serves a purpose. Poverty will always exist because there will always be richer individuals pushing down the less accomplished individuals.

In comparison, the conflict perspective and interactionist theory hold their own theories as well. Karl Marx’s conflict theory of stratification view class of societies as struggling over the threatened resources. “Many different explanations grounded in conflict theory exist, but they all assume that stratification stems from a fundamental conflict between the needs and interests of the powerful, or “haves,” in society and those of the weak, or  have-nots” (Kerbo, 2009). This means the rich utilize the resources necessary to keep their society stance. Interactionist also believe that poverty is based upon the psychological orientations based on their living conditions. Those who live in poverty develop a means of cultural orientation, accepting the life they are living versus changing it. This of course is more of a blaming the victim theory can has some applicability.

Conclusion 3

Poverty is an economic state that alters an individual’s ability to get medical treatment, food, shelter, and even clothing that is a necessary part of healthy living. There are many theories as to what leads to poverty, however it is clear that poverty ensures contemporaneous inequality within the societal structures and negatively affects the ability for an individual to change their economic standing. After completing this research it opened to the door to see that there is a need for additional research on the true cause and effect of poverty. Is it a characteristic that is learned from the environment that one is raised, or is it a personal characteristic that determines the desire to succeed? Either way, poverty is a very real issue. Understanding its long-term effects on individuals as well as on the American society will provide a means for rectifying the problem. Poverty takes a toll on the long-term health and well-being of an individual and sets them at a different societal standard than those who are economically blessed.

References

Davis, K., & Moore, W. (1945). Some principles of stratification. American Sociological Review, 10, 242–249.

Gans, Herbert J. (1971) The Uses of Poverty: The Poor Pay All. Social Policy July/August 1971: pp. 20-24. Retrieved from http://www.sociology.org.uk/as4p3.pdf

Health, United States, 2005: With Chartbook on Trends in the Health of Americans. (2005) Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK20992/

Kerbo, H. R. (2009). Social stratification and inequality. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Nash, Steven. (2009) Charles Darwin & Evolution 1809-2009. Retrieved from http://darwin200.christs.cam.ac.uk/pages/

Oppenheim, C. and Harker, L. (1996) Poverty: The Facts,” revised and update, 3rd Edition, Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG).

“Pauperism in the City of New York.” In American Social Science Association. (1874) Conference of Public Charities Held at New York. Cambridge, MA: Printed for the American Social Science Association.

Pear, Robert. (2008) Gap in Life Expectancy Widens for the Nation. New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/23/us/23health.html?_r=0

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