Social inequality has been the root of many social problems. Irrespective of the nature of the social problem, various kinds of inequality cause the rise of the problem, the ramifications of the problem in various social groups, the society’s response to the problem, and societal answers for the problem (Anderson, 2008). In all aspects, societal problems are closely related to social inequality. An analysis of the association between social stratification and societal problems is useful in the development of sociological theories and principles for addressing the troubles facing the society today.
There are several kinds of social inequality that have given rise to today’s social problems. The main factors include social class, race, and gender. In addition to the source of social problems, these factors are also problems in their own right. Hence, in order to understand social problems, it is important to take into account race, class, and gender issues (Ferguson, 2009). However, the three factors are not the only ones that are at the root of social problems. Other social factors at the heart of social inequality include age, nationality, sexuality, ethnicity, and family status. The contribution of these social factors to social inequalities and social problems and the association between these variables are the foundation of sociological theory and research.
One method of examining the association between social inequality and social problems is by investigating how social problems arise. Social classification on the basis of race, class, and gender is the structural basis on which societal problems are generated (Ferguson, 2009). Social stratification denies opportunities to some social groups while creating privileges for others, thereby, establishing grounds for the rise of societal problems. Sociological theories give numerous instances of how denying opportunities of growth to some groups and privileging others can lead to social problems and disintegration.
Studies have shown that there is a close link between the levels of employment and a multiplicity of social problems among them violence, crime, divorce, and drug abuse. For instance, research has shown that there exist remarkable disparities in the levels of homicides among African-Americans, Latinos, and Whites as a result of social stratification based on racial and social status of the poor minority men (Hays, 2010). If non-Latino, Whites are exposed to similar social situations as their racial and ethnic minority counterparts, the homicide rate among this group is bound to increase. Several types of risks such as death by homicides, firearms, and car accidents are also correlated to gender. The argument that has been put forward for this association is the risk-taking nature of men. This situation is compounded by racial and social stratification.
Besides, crime and violence factors that lead to social inequalities are also the cause of other social problems. For instance, it has been shown that low-income communities’ areas are more likely to be designated as waste dumping grounds, which not only pollutes the surrounding environment, but also puts the health of these communities at risk (Concoran, 2009). Despite the fact that most of the low-income communities have established environmental activist groups to advance environmental rights in their neighborhoods, the absence of political influence in such communities makes their efforts ineffective.
Social problems arising from social stratification are also manifested in educational institutions and at the workplace. For example, educational achievements are high among white Americans compared to black Americans and the Latino communities. In addition, the rate of dropping out of school is closely related to race and income status. The dropout rate is high in the Hispanic community followed by black Americans (Hays, 2010). Moreover, students coming from low-income families have a dropout rate that is twice that of middle-income families and five times that of high-income communities. Further, the level of income is linked to racial disparities in mathematical ability and reading comprehension. Research has shown that the higher level of family income is the higher mathematical and reading comprehension scores for school children.
Social inequality in educational achievement is attested by the inequalities among educational institutions themselves. The inner city educational institutions, which are characterized by large populations of students from low income and minority communities lack adequate facilities, funds, and staff (Ferguson, 2009). Compounding this aspect of social inequality is the segregation of institutions that has been taking place. Starting from 1980, segregation in US educational institutions has been on the rise with the effect being more educational alienation of the Black and Latino communities. This segregation has resulted partly from residential segregation as well as the curtailing of state funding programs, which were meant for fighting racial educational disparities.
Educational segregation has not been based on race alone but also on social class. Residential based segregation has led to distinction of people by race and social class. This in turn leads to a gap in the quality of education across schools and communities. Further, grouping of students according to their abilities within individual schools and offering different curricula in different schools works to worsen the inequality problem (Andersen, 2008). Another factor that compounds this social problem is gender inequality, which is prevalent in educational institutions. Despite the fact that a lot of efforts have been made to address the issue of gender inequality, a huge disparity still exist in educational institutions.
Systematic inequality is also manifested in workplaces. Getting employment, the type of work, as well as the place of work is basically determined by a person’s race, gender, and social class. Studies have shown that gender and race are a key basis of earning differentials in the American society. The two variables are also closely related to occupational distribution. As a matter of fact, research indicates that the higher the concentration of females and minority groups in a specific field, the poorer the pay is in that field (Concoran, 2009). Moreover, gender and racial differences have been shown to influence the social and psychological effects of racial and gender inequalities in organizations, in addition to influencing the level of income of women and people from the minority groups.
Social Stratification in the USA
Social class has remained a major cause of social inequalities in occupations, education, as well as health. In spite of the fact that there have been numerous societal changes to enhance social equality in the US, a lot of people still suffer due to social stratification.
Social class is based on various economic factors including income, education, wealth, and occupation. Contrary to popular belief, poverty has persisted at a high rate in the USA for many years. The rate of poverty is particularly high among women, African-Americans, the youth, and the elderly members of the society (Ferguson, 2009). For instance, a recent study by the American Community Survey found that about 13 percent of Americans live below the poverty line. Moreover, the rate of poverty is high among some social groups compared to others. Poverty, in turn, leads to poor health, educational achievement, and income, causing a vicious circle.
The link between social class and social well-being has continued unabated in the US since the beginning of the 21st century. The distinctions in the quality of life between the upper and middle classes on one hand and the lower classes on the other are clear and undeniable. The lower classes, as described in ‘‘ Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America’’, live on a minimum wage that is not enough to cover even the most basic needs such as housing and food. Some members of this class have to live with their families or roommates in order to afford decent housing.
Women are even more disadvantaged in the United States today than other groups. As Barbara Riseman points out in the book ‘‘Gender and Structure’’, the society has relegated them to subordinate jobs and even achieving these seemingly low jobs depends on how much qualified they are in terms of their looks. The prime positions in the corporate world such as managerial jobs and corporate ownership are all reserved for men. Barbara’s claims are supported by the views of Meika Loe in his book ‘‘Working at Bazooms’’.
The modern USA is controlled by corporate and real estate owners at the national level, and businesses and farm owners at the local level, as explained by William Domhoff in his work ‘‘Who Rules America’’. These individuals exert their influence by funding elections and by lobbying government executives to pass policies that are favor for them (Hays, 2010).
My Position in the American Society
As a student from a middle class family in the American society, my chances of attaining a decent education and good salary are quite fair. Although, the rate of unemployment has been rather high among the youth in America, unemployment has not been very high among university graduates and, therefore, my chances of getting a prime job are pretty decent. As a result, I am confident that I will live the American Dream.