Income and poverty are unequally distributed by such factors as race and sex.Not all groups have an equivalent chance of being poor. As shown in table 1.4, the median household income varies by race and ethnic background. The median income for black and Hispanic households is lower than the median income for white and Asian households.Racial and ethnic minorities are also disproportionately poor. Table 1.5 provides poverty rate by race/ethnicity. The poverty rates for blacks and Hispanics is more than double the rate for whites and Asians. However, the economic success of Asians in the aggregate (due in part to cultural values emphasizing educational achievement and family and community support) can obscure the situation of those who have limited economic resources and face discrimination.
55 699 $
29 645 $
32 917 $
45 631 $
Table 1.4 – Median houshold income
% bellow poverty level
Table 1.5 – Poverty rates by Race
Income and poverty are also unequally distributed between males and females. In 2003, women in the United States earned 80 cents for every dollar earned by men. That was a record earning ratio. Even women in high-status positions earn less than their male counterparts. Recent decades have seen a feminization of poverty, an increase in the proportion of the poor who are women. Increasing divorce rates and single- parent families headed by women trying to care for children and support them on lower incomes than men have contributed to this trend.
Sources of stratification
Two of the major questions sociologists studying stratification have tried to answer is why stratification exists and if it is inevitable. Sociologists working from the two major macro-theoretical perspectives provide varying responses.
Inequality serves a social function. To operate smoothly, societies face a “motivational problem” in ensuring that the best, most qualified people fill the most important roles in society. (what is the problem?) This idea disregards the impact of social factors such as discrimination that are outside of individual control. It does not give appropriate attention to the tensions and divisiveness that can arise as a result of inequality.
Critiques of Structural Functionalist Perspective
Someone born into privilege has not “earned” that position through his/her own efforts. Another factor that the perspective disregards is the ability of those with higher status to use their position and contacts to secure and further improve their own positions and resources. This includes politicians and corporate executives, who can often enact their own pay raises. Critics also argue that the most highly rewarded positions (e.g., entertainers and sports figures that earn millions annually) do not always fill the most important roles in society. Do we really need stratification and how much inequality is actually necessary?