In Australia, a Person's Social Class Impacts Their Life Chances

Topics: Sociology, Social stratification, Social class Pages: 5 (1699 words) Published: June 17, 2011
In Australia, a person's social class impacts their life chances'. Critically evaluate this statement.

Social class affects one’s life chance across a broad range of social occurrence from education achievement to health care to contact with the criminal justice system. This essay will argue that class has a remarkable impact on the life chances of an individual. It will further expostulate that high outcomes in academic performance in Australia is more prevalent on students from the high rank of hierarchy than those from poor families, that health issues are more profound in people from lower socioeconomic, and that youth from disadvantaged background are more likely to commit a criminal act.

As one of the major systems of stratification, class is based on ownership of resources and on the type of work that people do. Marx and Webber acknowledged social class as a determinant of social inequality and social change. For Marx, people’s wealth determines their class position. The stratification of society into different social groups results in disparity in income and wealth and uneven access to available goods and services. People with high income or wealth have more opportunity to control their own lives. People with less income have fewer life chances and must spend their restricted resources to obtain basic living requirements. Throughout Australian history there existed a myth of egalitarianism which was sometimes promoted by politicians who have made claims that Australia is an open society (Aspin, L J 1996). However, McGregor states that this is a myth that most Australians would like to hold on to because class, is one of the most unpleasant and unjust ways to divide up people. (McGregor, 2001). When asked, four fifths of the Australian population acknowledged the existence of class division. Wild (1978, as cited in McGregor, p4) says that “Class awareness in Australia is extremely high. Most surveys indicate that approximately 80 per cent of people think there are classes in Australia, 13 per cent think there are not, and 7 per cent do not know. Further, about 98 per cent place themselves in a class scheme when asked. Consequently, class awareness is present in somewhere between 93 per cent and 98 per cent of the population”. In referring to class in Australia, we tend to think of some sort of an overshadow left from the British Empire, but class is about power, wealth and opportunity. Power that determines the influence and authority, and decides who is the boss and who is the worker. Wealth that provides the means for luxuries, better access to amenities required for a better life. Opportunities of better education for their children, better health choices, better chance of success. Children from the lower socioeconomic groups lack the opportunities to do well academically and be able to climb the social strata.

Dr Louise Watson, Associate Professor and Principal Researcher for CREPSI, stated in a report to the Australian Social Policy Conference in 2009, that the purpose of school is to prepare students for economic participation, and as such, schools have the most significant impact of any public institution on the life chances of every child. If the purpose of schooling is to prepare students for economic contribution as Dr Watson suggests, then governments should be responsible for introducing policies that helps children from all social spectrum and not only those who come from privileged background. Yet, in the new millennium the then government introduced a new funding process which gave private schools millions of dollars and the state schools funding were kept to a minimum. This unequal distribution was justified on the grounds of “socio economic areas”. Some of the elite private schools were allocated over a million dollars each, while State Schools such as Parramatta High was allocated a few thousand dollars. According to McGregor (McGregor, 2001), more than three quarters of cabinet...
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