Wealth Inequality In The Us With Sociological Viewpoints

1458 words - 6 pages

What is wealth inequality? “It is the difference between individuals or populations in the distribution of assets, wealth or income.” [1] In sociology, the term is social stratification and refers to “a system of structured social inequality” [2] where the inequality might be in power, resources, social standing/class or perceived worth. In the US, where a class system exist, (as opposed to caste or estate system) your place in the class system can be determined by your personal achievements. However, the economic and social class that an individual is born into is a big indicator of the class they will end up in as an adult. [3] What are the effects of this wealth inequality in the US and what causes it as well as some possible solutions and their ramifications will all be discussed and answered below.

There has always been a wealth gap between the richest and poorest in society. However, in the past decade, the wealth gap between the richest and poorest citizens in the US has been growing rapidly. In the 70s and 80s, the wealth and income growth rate for both poor and rich people were similar, however, between the years 2009 and 2012 the top 1% income increased 31% while for the bottom 20%, their income actually dropped and for the vast majority of Americans, the average yearly income only increased by 0.4% [4]. The question is, is wealth gap bad? Is a growing or extreme wealth gap unhealthy for the economy and social stability or is it a necessary part of it.

Functionalism argues that inequality is important and necessary because it “motivates people to fill different position in society that are needed for the survival of the whole of society.” [8] The rewards, i.e. wealth, prestige, and power and the resulting wealth gap are necessary to get people to fulfill positions that require sacrifice in order to achieve (e.g. long education and significant debt to become doctor/lawyer). A person’s mobility and achievement in society is directly proportional to how hard they have worked and how much they have improved their self-worth via education, training, etc. Wealth inequality is basically fair because every person is rewarded by his or her merit, and their overall contribution to society.

Conflict theorist have an opposing view, that the inequality seen in society is a result of domination and coercion where those with power, wealth and prestige exploit those without to maintain their standings. They believe that that every person and class are fighting over a limited number of resources and each is competing for an advantage. Wealth inequality is unfair because the elites, those in control of “societal resources” use those resources to perpetuate their own standing by shaping the belief system of society, controlling the distribution of resources, and blocking the mobility and opportunities of the poor. Because the wealth inequality is inherently unfair, conflict theorist argue that the disadvantaged in society should be given support by...

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