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Chapter 2: Poverty & Wealth

by: Sierra Gnecco

Chapter 2: Poverty & Wealth Syg2010

Marketplace > Florida State University > Sociology > Syg2010 > Chapter 2 Poverty Wealth
Sierra Gnecco
GPA 4.0

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About this Document

The second chapter of Social Problems (SYG2010). I upload notes for each chapter every Wednesday.
Social Problems
Kaley Boggs
Class Notes
poverty, Poverty Line, wealth, social inequality, sociology, Taxes, income inequality
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This 5 page Class Notes was uploaded by Sierra Gnecco on Wednesday September 14, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to Syg2010 at Florida State University taught by Kaley Boggs in Fall 2016. Since its upload, it has received 35 views. For similar materials see Social Problems in Sociology at Florida State University.


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Date Created: 09/14/16
SYG2010 Chapter 2 Poverty & Wealth By Sierra Gnecco   ● Economic Inequality (the unequal distribution of economic resources in the US) is  increasing over time.  ● Economic indicators of economic inequality: inequality of income and wealth, trend  toward economic inequality, and taxation.  2.1: The Distribution of Income and Wealth in the U.S.  ● Social stratification​­ society’s system of ranking categories of people in a hierarchy.  ○ Produces ​social classes​ (categories of people who have similar access to resources  and opportunities).  ■ Being born into a specific social class affects people’s life chances such as  their amount of school, diet, kind of work they do, chance of finding a job,  etc.   Inequality of Income and Wealth  ● Income​­ salary or wages from a job plus earnings from investments and other sources.  ● Annual income of the highest paid 20% of U.S. families increased by 55% and the people  of middle­income also gained 12%. However, the lowest­paid 12% lost money. Thus  meaning that economic gains have been huge for the rich and small for most others.  ○ Due to this, economic inequality ↑  ● Economic inequality is greater when it comes to wealth.  ● Wealth​­ the value of all the economic assets owned by a person or family, minus any  debts.   ○ Made up of money earned, and the value of homes, automobiles, stocks, bonds,  real estate, and businesses.   ● Income vs wealth​­ ​salary from wages vs value of economic assets and debts.   2 Trend Toward Increasing Economic Inequality  ● U.S. has experienced ↑ in economic inequality in recent decades.   ● Income inequality is now widely viewed as a social problem.   Taxation  ● Taxation is an important government policy that affects income inequality.  ● There are 3 reasons the government uses taxes  ○ To provide the government the money it needs to operate.  ■  Military schools, public projects, salaries of government employees, etc.  ○ To discourage certain types of behavior.  ■ High taxes placed on cigarettes discourages smoking.  ○ To redistribute income and to reduce economic inequality.  ■ Government reduces economic inequality through ​progressive taxation  (policy that raises tax rates as income increases)  ● Not all taxes are progressive. Like the tax on gasoline which is a  standard tax per gallon. This makes the gasoline tax regressive for  the tax takes a bigger bite out of lower­income budgets.  2.2: The Rich and Poor  ● In 1964, the federal government launched a “war on poverty” and devised the ​poverty  line​ (an income level set by the U.S. government for the purpose of counting the poor).  ○ Poverty line represents a $ amount of annual income below which a person or  family is defined as “poor” and may therefore become eligible for government  assistance.   ○ 2012 poverty line for a family of four­ $23, 492  ○ Poverty gap​­ the difference between the actual income of the typical poor  household and the official poverty line.  ■ Has been growing in recent years.  ■ The greater the poverty gap, the greater the hardship caused by poverty.  3 Who are the poor?  ● In 2012, the federal gov. counted 15% of the U.S. population as poor.  ● We can profile the poor in the U.S. according to age, race, gender, family patterns, and  residence.  ○ Age: Children at highest risk of poverty (used to be the elderly a generation ago)  ○ Race: African Americans, Hispanics, and Asian Americans are at higher risk at  being poor.  ○ Gender: Women are at greater risk  ○ Family patterns: Single individuals at greater risk.  ○ Region: South and West have higher poverty rates. Poverty is lowest in areas that  offer more jobs and more educational opportunity.  The Working Poor  ● Work full time, at least fifty weeks during the year and 50% of the time, yet remain  below the poverty line.   ● 15% of families.   The Nonworking Poor  ● Those in poverty who do not have a steady income.  ● 55% didn’t work at all while 30% worked part­time.  The Underclass  ● Underclass­ poor people who live in areas with high concentrations of poverty and  limited opportunities for schooling or work.  ○ Largest concentration live in inner cities in a condition sociologists call  hypersegregation (cut off from the larger society and having no access to either  good schools or good­paying jobs).  ○ 1­2% of U.S. population   4 2.3 Problems linked to Poverty   ● Six problems linked to poverty: poor health, substandard housing, homelessness, limited  schooling, crime, and political alienation.   2.4: Responding to Poverty: The Welfare System  ● To address the poverty problem, all high­income countries rely on social welfare  programs (organized efforts by the government, private organizations, or individuals to  assist needy people considered worthy of assistance). Ex: gov. Benefits for workers who  lose their jobs, Red Cross benefits for flood victims, etc.)  ● Largest welfare programs typically have 3 characteristics:  ○ They benefit people or activities defined as worthy.  ○ They benefit most of the U.S. population.  ○ They reduce economic inequality (a little).  2.5: Theories of Poverty  Structural­Functional Analysis  ● Some poverty is inevitable.  ○ Social Pathology Theory­ Poverty is due to personal deficiency (flaws)  ○ Social Disorganization Theory­ due to too much social change  ○ Modern Function Theory­ Some inequality is useful for operation of society and  social order.   Symbolic­Interaction Analysis  ● Highlights social construction of problems and solutions.  ● Explores how members of society build an understanding of poverty causes and how they  view the poor.  ● Calls the old structural­functional “personal deficiency” approach which defines poverty  as a reflection of the shortcomings of the poor themselves. Ex: lack of intelligence.  ○ Blaming the victim­ finding the cause of a social problem in the behavior of  people who suffer from it.  5 Social­Conflict Analysis  ● Poverty isn’t inevitable or natural. It is constructed and can be fixed as a societal  problem.   ● Rejects personal­deficiency explanation and blames societal operations for poverty.  Politics and Poverty  ● Conservatives­ believe that people should take responsibility for the well­being and that  social character is a key to personal success. (personal responsibility)  ● Liberals­ personal responsibility and a market economy are solutions to poverty. Poverty  causes lie in society. (societal responsibility)  ● The Radical Left­ poverty is a societal issue, but is built into a capitalist society. (change  the system of capitalism)    


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