Sociology: Poverty and Stratification

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Living with a poverty level income is a difficulty facing many people around the world; poverty is a cultural universal, or trait found in every known culture – not an expression of individual differences. The most basic explanation for this is the trend towards social stratification, the system by which society organizes itself into a hierarchy. In some cultures this is manifest in the form of a caste system in which people who are in poverty have little to no chance of escaping it. In the United States the system is more in the form of a class system in which there is at least some degree of social mobility, and less status consistency allows people in poverty to have the possibility of changing their social status, but rarely the opportunity to do so. In the majority cases the most desirable situation is a meritocracy which ranks people based solely on personal achievements, or achieved status, rather than ascribed status such as being born into a ‘poor’ family. Structural social mobility has resulted in a shift of social position for large numbers of people due to changes on a societal level, but these changes have had both upward and downward effects. The Davis-Moore thesis explains that social stratification has beneficial consequences in society, and is therefore functional, but this has been widely criticized due to its implications that society should prevent the development of individual talent. The resulting system of blue collar occupations versus white collar occupations is easily observed in society today. Around the world a wide variety of people are in poverty. This may be a result of many factors such as a traditional, agrarian society with low income; or a severely stratified economic system as a result of high population growth and little opportunity for education or access to technology. The feminization of poverty also plays a key role in the explanation of poverty worldwide, since there is an increasing trend for more women to be in...
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