Week 9/21-9/25 SOCI 1101
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This 8 page Class Notes was uploaded by Paige Notetaker on Wednesday September 30, 2015. The Class Notes belongs to SOCI 1101 at University of Georgia taught by Cooney in Fall 2015. Since its upload, it has received 42 views. For similar materials see Intro to Sociology in Sociology at University of Georgia.
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Date Created: 09/30/15
Sociology 9/21 *Inequality -what exactly is inequality? -how do we measure it? -powerfully influences behavior **Measuring inequality -wealth (i.e. ownership) 1. It is hard to obtain information on 2. Fluctuates (e.g., stock market) -so most studies look at income instead -income = earnings from work, rent, investments, welfare, etc. -we can measure inequality by comparing the percentage of income earned by different percentages of the population. -e.g., in agrarian societies, approx. 50% of total national income went to the richest 2% -in US today, approx. 50% national income goes to the richest 20% -modern income is less unequally distributed **GINI coefficient -a more precise measure of inequality is the GINI coefficient (0-1) -named after Corrado Gini, an Italian movie star -0 = everybody has the same amount of wealth -1 = a single person holds all of the wealth -the larger the GINI coefficient, therefore, the greater the inequality -range from about .25 (Scandinavia) to .65 (Southern Africa) **Income inequality in the U.S. -inequality of income has declined since the agrarian and early industrial era -but what about more recently- in the past 30 years or so? -let’s look at the U.S.A. -1940-1979, nat’l income grew greatly, but inequality hardly changed -Since c. 1979 we have had a “Great Divergence” in income inequality (Noah) **GINI Coefficient -changes in the Gini coefficient tell us how much inequality in the U.S. has increased but now how it has increased. -e.g., maybe the poorest 4/5 of the population stagnated while everybody else flourished -to see what happened we can look at income quintiles **The rich got richer -the highest income brackets increased their earnings the most -another way of understanding the change: -look at the percent of total income each quintile received **Noah -the higher the percentile, the more its income has increased -the highest 1% earned 8% of total income in 1979 and 19% in 2012 -the highest .01% earned 2% of total in 1979 and 5% in 2010 -his numbers are a little different because he uses IRS not Census **Noah Reading -Noah reading showed that inequality has increased has good and bad points -good: shows that among high earners, the highest earners increased their earnings most -bad: uses silly terms to describe the various strata of rich (e.g., stinking rich, filthy rich, etc.) **Who are the highest income earners? -Top 0.1% have a mean income of $17 million Who are they? -3 main categories 1. Top corporate executives -in 1979, the avg CEO earned 26 times than the avg worker. By 2012, CEO earned 206 times more! (EPI) 2. Financial Services -E.g., CEO of Goldman Sachs earned $180 million 3. Entertainment (sports, music, movies, etc.) -google: baseball’s highest paid players -highest paid NBA player 1988: $3.25 million -highest paid NBA player 2014: $30 million **Why the increase? -Briefly, reasons include: 1. Globalization: unskilled jobs less rewarded; knowledge- based jobs more rewarded (inequality has increased in most rich countries) 2. More dual earning couples + people marry those like themselves (e.g., lawyer-lawyer; janitor-factory worker) 3. Immigration from poor countries 4. Large increase in single-parent households 5. Big decline in union membership 6. Decline in top tax rate (91% to 35%) (though highest quintile pays most tax) **Economic mobility -most americans will tolerate a good deal of inequality provided there is economic mobility- that you can move up the ladder -a recent study compared quintile position of american adults with that of their parents 30 years ago found: *42% of children born into the bottom quintile have stayed there; only 6% made it to the top quintile *39% of children born into the top quintile stayed there as adults; only 9% ended up in the bottom quintile *of those born into the middle quintile, 64% remained there or in one quintile above or below **A lot? -depends on how you look at it- mobility for some but not all -instead, compare the U.S. to some countries for the bottom quintile -U.S.: 42% of children born into the bottom quintile stay there -in Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Norway, UK = 25-30% -if you are born poor in the U.S., then you have less change of climbing out of poverty than a poor person in these other countries -this is a big change **A big change -colonial america was the most equal country even when you include slavery -Thomas Jefferson “The great mass of our population is of laborers;; our rich, who can live without labor, either manual or professional, being few, and of moderate wealth. Most of the laboring class possess property, cultivate their own lands, have families, and from the demand for their labor are enabled to exact from the rich and the competent such prices as enable them to be fed abundantly, clothed above mere decency, to labor moderately and raise their families… Can any condition of society be more desirable than this?” **Summary: 1. Incomes have risen for every quintile since 1979 - all have more money 2. But the higher the percentile, the greater the increase in income (noah) 3. Since most of the income gains have gone to the wealthy, the gap between the rich and everybody else has increased significantly 4. the U.S. has less upward mobility for the poor than some European countries Sociology 9/23 ***So what does inequality mean? -does it matter that inequality has increased since 1979? YES -the spirit level by Wilkinson and Pickett (W & P) shows that inequality is a predictor of many things we would consider to be social problems. **Effects of inequality -Today then, we will discuss inequality as an independent variable- a variable that explains other things (cause) -a dependent variable is the thing to be explained. e.g., homicide #’s **W and P -they look first at inequality across industrial countries -their measure: *how much more of total income in the top 20% (quintile) takes home compared to the bottom 20% **Social Problems -wealth inequality helps to explain the severity of 10 different social problems: life expectancy, math & literacy, infant mortality, homicides, imprisonment, teenage births, trust, obesity, mental illness, and social inability -they combine all 10 problems into a single index or measure a higher score indicates that the problem is worse. **How big are the differences? -they’re big. In more unequal societies: *mental illness rates are 5 times higher *obesity rates are 6 times higher *homicide rates are 5-10 times higher **Poverty -but poverty and lack of income is what may causes these problems -in the poor, industrializing countries, health and other social problems may be due to lack of income (e.g., not enough money for hospitals) -but W and P just look at the rich — industrial— countries **U.S. States -if inequality actually helps to cause these social problems, the problems should be worse in the states that have the most inequality **Who do we compare ourselves to? -inequality and social problems are not correlated quite as strongly for U.S. States as for countries -W and P: people mainly compare themselves to other people in the same society rather than the same state, and hence the correlation is strongest for inequality at the societal (or country) level. -again, though, inequality, not average income is what counts. **Science vs. Politics -note: these facts do not imply more equal societies are “better” -one could accept that more unequal societies have more of these problems but are still preferable for other reasons (e.g., more freedom, greater economic growth) -W and P think more equal societies are better- but that is a value judgement and that is completely separate from their facts. **Science -for me, the important question is: Do they get their facts right? -have been criticized (why not look at all crime, not just homicide?) -but they have vigorously defended themselves (e.g., only homicide rates are accurate cross-nationally) -1 limitation in their book is that they do not consider other factors -e.g., homicide rates also influenced by drug markets -sometimes, these variables can overwhelm power of inequality -E.g., U.S. inequality has increased since 2005 but homicide rates have decreased -if W and P included other factors, the effect of inequality would probably weaken -it is extremely unlikely that all effects they discuss would disappear -in short, inequality matters, though it is certainly not the only thing that matters Sociology 9/25 ***Inequality and Social Problems -W and P: not all social problems increase with inequality **Social gradient -only social problems that show a “social gradient” -those that increase with lower social status -for these problems, more inequality means lower status people are lower relative to others- and hence have more of the problems ex. % of kids not performing at grade level **Important point -inequality makes the problem worse for everyone- even the wealthy -consider education **Education -poor kids everywhere do worse educationally than rich kids, on average (lower scores, complete fewer years of education, etc.) -the gap between the rich and poor kids in education is wider in more unequal societies -but even rich kids in more unequal societies (e.g., U.S.) do worse than rich kids in less unequal countries (e.g., Finland) **Effects -summary: inequality has the most negative effects for the poor -but it also has negative effects for every group in the society -even the well off. **Causation -does inequality cause social problems, or do social problems cause inequality (e.g., does poor health cause people to earn less?) -no, the problems tend to rise and fall together -to rise and fall together, the problems must have a common cause -if they did not, there’d be no reason why countries with, e.g., high obesity rates would have high prison populations as well **Why? -W & P do not have date on why inequality causes social problems -they speculate that: *we compare ourselves to others in our own society (tv, magazines, movies) *if others have a lot more, we feel inadequate, less important (relative deprivation) *this causes stress, which causes depression, anger, unhealthy behavior (over-eating, etc.) **Their explanation -W and P’s explanation then, combines variables from: *sociology (inequality) *psychology (feelings of inadequacy) *biology (e.g., more cortisol, less serotonin) **Weakness -this is the weakest part of their argument -maybe inequality causes social problems for different reasons *it generates less sympathy for the poor *and removed resources from poorer people- inferior schools, hospitals, food, etc. **Wrapping up -Inequality matters. W and P state that: *If U.S. had same level of inequality as the average of the 4 most equal rich countries (Japan, Norway, Sweden, Finland) it could expect to cut rates of: -homicides by 75% -mental illness and obesity by 60% -teen pregnancy by 33% -of course, in practice the cuts could be a lot less- or more **Implications -tackling individual social problems is likely to have limited success. (e.g., obesity, educational scores, drug addiction) -to really reduce violence, obesity, teen pregnancy, etc., we need to reduce income inequality -this happened for a while in the 1990s and these problems did improve in the U.S. **How? -2 main ways to reduce economic inequality? 1. Taxation and Social welfare (e.g., Scandinavia, Vermont) or 2. Income (e.g., Japan; New Hampshire) -but if wealth inequality continues to grow, the U.S. can expect to have more violence, poor health, drug abuse, etc. **Summary -W and P propose that in industrial societies, inequality causes social problems -to what extent their thesis holds up to further research remains to be seen -if it does, we need to work more on why inequality causes social problems -for the moment, though, there is strong evidence that as income inequality rises so to do several major social problems
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