Sociology about Race, Sex, and Class

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Social stratification is the main reason for inequalities in economic, social, and political dimensions. It is a system where people rank and evaluate each other. Based on these evaluations, one is rewarded with more wealth, authority, power and prestige. It is organized into three parts: upper class, middle class and lower class but they each have subdivisions. This has resulted in the creation of a number of levels within our society and unfortunately it also causes social disparity and many problems as it is an unjust system and has a large effect on the lifestyle of all of us. These low social classes are usually marginalized groups within society that do not receive equal access to opportunities and necessities. However, our own government has implied and emphasized, for centuries now, that all men are equal and have equal rights and opportunities, and that liberty and justice is granted to all. Contradictingly, we have created a social hierarchy, a potent burden to every aspect in life. According to statistical data recorded recently, the upper class, which makes up 3% of the population, is divided in upper-upper class (1% of the U.S. population earning millions to billion per year) and lower-upper class (2% of the population earning millions). The middle class makes up the largest percent of the population and is also divided into upper-middle class (14% of the population earning $76,000 or more per year) and lower-middle class (26% of the population earning $46,000 to $75,000 per year). Surprisingly, the working class makes up 30% of the population earning $19,000 to $45,000 per year while the lower class makes up 27% of the population. The lower class is divided into working poor (13% of the population earning $9000 to 18,000 per year) and underclass (14% of the population earning under $9000 per year). The Decennial Census, conducted and recorded every ten years, speaks for itself and shows us that social class is ever-growing and evolving and Americans, society, and the economy are at risk.

Social class affects overall human functioning, including health, which eventually affects our society. Inequities in health distribution, resource distribution, and quality of life are increasing in the United States and, unfortunately, globally as well. Social class is a strong determinant of mental and physical health. Health disparities derive from health inequality, the unequal distribution of access to health services between social classes. Lower social classes have lower levels of health insurance than the upper class because their occupations do not provide benefits to the employees. This creates a burden that prevents lower classes from receiving proper, adequate, affordable and quality care and treatment. Furthermore, physical health is not the only thing at risk due to social class. Mental health is also “socially constructed and defined.” Similarly, different social classes have different levels of access to mental health interventions and to information about mental health. Thus, “the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders varies widely by social class.” Although those who are disabled and have low income are covered by federal funded programs, they receive low quality care. According to the Social Security Administration, “Medicaid is a funded Federal-State health insurance program for low-income and needy people: children, the aged, blind, and/or disabled and other people who are eligible to receive federally assisted income maintenance payments.” As of now, there are approximately 67.7 million Medicaid enrollees in the United States. By 2060, the projected number of Medicaid enrollees in the U.S. is expected to amount to 92.6 million. Medicaid spent approximately 595.5 billion U.S. dollars in 2017 and it is evident that this number will only increase as the lower social class population increases.

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Lower educational attainment ultimately affects our society. Educational inequality is also hindered by social class. Those in high social classes have a greater chance of attending a prestigious school, have greater educational attainment, and have higher incomes than those in low social classes. Hence, they become competent and apt to offer greater educational advantages to their children as well. Educational inequality is one factor that perpetuates the class divide across generations: “Just as education and social class are closely intertwined, stratification in education contributes to stratification in social class.” Although social class is a restricting barrier to educational attainment, the education system also plays a role. The educational system has been suggested as being biased and designed for white, middle class children and ignoring the needs for the working class and ethnic minority, but of course many may argue otherwise. Additionally, the most urgent challenge for the American educational system has a Latino lower class face today. Those in low social classes do not possess the proper and adequate resources such as support from family, friends, and/or peers, financial assistance, motivation or a drive, quality education, and oftentimes they do not meet or fulfill certain academic requirements so they become discouraged which makes it harder to retain them hence many do not make it past high school. A study conducted by the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) recorded the dropout rate amongst 15 to 24 year olds in grades 10 through 12. They concluded that in 2014 the dropout rates were as such: 10.1% American Indian, 7.9% Hispanic, 5.7% Black, and 4.7% White.

According to Natalia Sarkisian and Naomi Gerstel, “commentators often emphasize the disorganization and dysfunction of Black and Latino/a family life. They often imply that if we could fix family values in minority communities, all their problems would be solved. But they overlook something far more important: class inequalities.” Not only are those students/children affected by the access to these necessary resources, but motivation and drive plays an important role in an individual’s educational attainment. As one of my interviewees stated, “Education is very important to me and my family. I think school is not for everyone and I am a prime example. I did not like school but my parents emphasized it strongly because they did not reach a high level of education and they knew what it was like to live in poverty. They emphasized that education was the only way out of poverty and the only way to become someone in the future. My parents were always my motivation and my push and eventually I obtained my masters degree. It is an accomplishment that everyone should have and it sets the bar and influences future generations.” We can obviously see that the parent’s active involvement and engagement in the child’s life is effective. However, in some cases there may be barriers that prevent the parents from being involved. The majority of low social class parents do not speak fluent English, are often too busy perhaps working two jobs, tend to the household needs, and are not actively engaged and involved in the educational life of their children. Hence, since the parent cannot or does not (due to certain barriers) tend to the academic and educational needs and does not emphasize the importance of education, the child lacks a push and motivation. In the same study conducted by the NCES, they concluded that children of low social classes tend to dropout of high school more than those of high social classes. In 2014, the NCES recorded that 9.4% of the dropout population came from a low social class, 5.4% from a middle class, and 2.6% from a high social class. Given this statistical and concrete data, we can conclude that education determines social class and social class determines quality of education and can cause one to falter.

Gender makes a significant difference in regards to social class. Women’s experiences at work and at home are shaped by social class. Gender inequality negatively affects women in many aspects, especially in the workforce. Deprivation of opportunities and gender biases present in both societies and governments cause women to become far more susceptible to poverty and they become more likely to fall into low social classes. Many factors place women at higher risk of poverty than their male counterparts. Employment opportunities are limited for women worldwide. They have unequal access to profitable and fulfilling occupational opportunities. Lack of income deprives women of basic needs, such as food and shelter, and limits their opportunities for advancement. Lack of income and being part of a low social class already puts you at risk, but being a women in a low social class puts you at a higher risk. Additionally, the responsibilities associated with motherhood also limit women’s economic attainment. Women also have to tend to the needs of their children and complete household chores so it becomes hard for them to balance work, family, and household. As of 2015, “only 50 percent of women of working age [were] in the labour force, compared to 77 percent of men.” Although these numbers are not definitive, “they suggest that differences in the labor market exist in terms of hierarchy (class position) and segregation (gender position).

Women are more likely than men to be unemployed, [to be working a part-time job] or to be contributing family workers [or informal employees]”, which oftentimes does not provide them with a stable monetary income. Formal employment is government regulated, and workers are insured a wage and certain rights. Informal employment takes place in small, unregistered enterprises. Lower class women are often employed in informal workplaces not by choice but by obligation. Their class and status imposes them to work in informal workplaces. However, working in informal workplaces reduces the regulation of their employment and does not guarantee any benefits or safety. This makes it more difficult for women to address workplace grievances and ensure safe and legal working conditions, but they have to deal with it because they do not have much job opportunities available and open to them.

Race, sex, and class are often interwoven. Social class is often associated with occupations, income, and education, but social class can also include other cultural characteristics such as appearance, accents, friends, or a neighborhood in which one lives. Today, many races are still oppressed, marginalized, discriminated, prejudiced, etc. Race and class plays a significant role in the criminal justice system. Blacks and Hispanics tend to receive unjust and unfair treatment and people often have bias opinions towards them. In regards to the criminal justice system, social class plays a significant role because Blacks and Hispanics are more prone to end up in prison whereas Whites often get away with crimes or do not seem as “suspicious or guilty”. Additionally, high social classes have better access to attorneys and lawyers; low social classes get what the government provides for them. The discrimination and biased opinions also hampers the opportunities and lifestyles of racial minority groups. There are biased opinions towards racial minority groups, especially Black African-Americans, when considering them for job positions or admission into a school. White privilege and affirmative action, or better yet “black privilege”, exist. As we know by now, race and social class combined have a prominent affect on nearly everything. Hence, minority racial groups are more likely to experience financial instability or poverty than their White counterparts. In 2016, a study of poverty by race/ethnicity showed that 9% of the White population was living in poverty, 22% Blacks, and 20% Hispanics.

Inequities in wealth and income are one of the greatest and ever-growing social, economic, and political brudens in the U.S. Inequity weakens the stability and consistency of a nation’s economy and hampers efficient economic growth. The low social classes who are financially reliant on federal funds and assistance dent the economy even more. However, they have no means or access to adequate resources so they will most likely remain dependent of government assistance and will remain within the low social classes. Once there is equality of outcome and equality of opportunity, low social classes may be able to better themselves and move up to higher social classes which is known as social mobility. However, “there are many reasons for economic inequality within societies, and they are often interrelated.” Some of the factors that impact economic inequality are many of the ones which have already been addressed: inequality in wages and salaries, income gap between skilled and unskilled workers, labor markets, education, race and racism, gender, etc. According to all of my interviewees, education seems to be amongst one of the most important factors. One of my interviewees stated that education is “very important because ignorance leads to a society of dependent people who cannot properly contribute to it.” Another interviewee commented that “to grow is to learn and to learn is to make a difference (in your own life or in others). Gandara and Contreras agree and commented, “if these children’s educational futures prove to be as those of their low social class relatives, the economic and social consequences for them, and for the country as a whole, will be grave. However, all of these structures and aspects stem from social class.” The Center for Public Policy and Higher Education has predicted that by 2020 the state will experience a drastic drop in income which will eventually result in serious economic hardship for the state’s population. On the other hand or in addition, people also believe that the benefits that the lower class receives is denting the economy as a whole. Lower educational attainment, poverty and poor health ultimately affect our society and economy. The amount of money that the government spends on federal assistance for health care, higher education (loans), etc. will soon be overwhelming.

Indeed, social class leaves its imprint on everything; it affects life chances, lifestyles, prestige, and the economy overall. It creates a huge gulf between the people in terms of their incomes and a range of measures associated with social position, education, and health. By now, it is obviously known that disparity causes chaos in society.

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Sociology about Race, Sex, and Class. (2021, Apr 24). Retrieved from