Posts Tagged ‘social class’


Sociology of Lifestyle

March 20, 2010

Posted by: Chad M. Gesser

Twitter:  @profgesser


I’ve been fortunate to be involved locally in the performing arts heavily since 2005.  After all, Sociologists do make great “role models”. 😉

Just a few weeks ago the child friendly touring production of Beauty and the Beast was performing at our local performing arts center.  I was prepared to take my two young daughters to see the show, until I found out the cost for four was going to exceed $165.  Beauty and the Beast is fantastic show, I was lucky to see it in New York City about ten years ago.  But $165?  Was that type of cost really worth the show?

While the facility is one of the nicest in western Kentucky, perhaps these types of productions aren’t the most accessible for those in the middle or the lower end of the socioeconomic ladder.

In fact, there are many lifestyle patterns that can be determined by examining social class.  Take a look at this breakout of obesity by state.  Do you see any pattern? (click the pic to enlarge)

Now take a look at this national map of poverty.  See any additional patterns? (click the pic to enlarge)

Is there a connection between obesity and poverty?  A connection between obesity, poverty, and geography?  Sociologists are trained to look for patterns in explaining society and human behavior.  Considering lifestyle and entertainment, sociologists identify high culture and popular culture.  Do you think social class is a predictor of types of entertainment that people prefer?  Are there some types of entertainment that are generally exclusive to the upper class?  What types of entertainment do members of the lower social classes engage?  Are there patterns?  Why?


Is Education A Civil Right or a False Promise?

July 17, 2009

Sociologists can divide societies into two broad groups based upon class mobility: open societies and closed societies. Open societies allow for people to move up or down the class structure. For example, a person might be born into a poor family, but later become rich through work, talent, and luck. A closed society, however, doesn’t allow for social mobility; if you are born poor, you will die poor. Of course, most societies don’t fall neatly into these extremes, but instead fall somewhere between.

Some sociologists hold that our society is closer to an open system, while others believe that it is closed for many people. Social scientists who believe that our society is more open argue that it provides “ladders” for motivated people to move upward in both social and economic class. Among the most common of these mechanisms for upward mobility is education. The belief is that all children have the opportunity to acquire an education that will afford them a life-improving career, for example as a lawyer, dentist, engineer, doctor, or nurse. Depending upon their desire and ability, it is argued that most people have the ability to fulfill their life potential through a government-provided education. However, other researchers hold that education is not equal in society, so neither is opportunity.

Watch the video below and if you like, respond to one of the talking points below:

1. How closely do you think education is linked to civil rights in our country?

2. Do you think the author is right and it is time for another civil rights movement? How would you remedy this situation?

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Does Social Class Still Influence Life Course?

April 26, 2009

Some sociologists have suggested that in “advanced societies” such as America, Britain, Canada, and France, class isn’t as relevant in determining individuals’ life courses as it is in other societies. Sociologists define life course as the opportunities and choices people make. In simpler terms, it is the major and decisive happenings in your life such as marriage, family size, education, or career direction.

In the past, a person’s economic status, religion, race, ethnicity, or sex could limit or expand their choices and opportunities. Usually, these characteristics determined social position in a social stratification or a social ranking. The key thing to remember is that people in different positions were afforded different choices.

50004british-flag-postersRecent research in Britain conducted by Dr. Atkinson and presented at the British Sociological Association Annual Conference suggests social class might still have a significant effect on a person’s life course. In other words, the education level, wealth, and social connections a person’s family has may affect the choices that person has in life.

The research suggested that working-class people in the study were less able achieve a higher education than upper classes in part because they couldn’t afford a private education, tutors, and other expenses associated with preparing for and attending college. This might explain why only 13% of the British working class go to college compared to 44% of the British middle class.

What do you think? Would you like to respond to this question? If so, please post your response to one of the discussion topics below:

1. Do you think your parents’ social status affected the important choices you had about the direction of your life?

2. Do you think your life goals are affected by your social status? Do you think your opportunities are affected by your social status?

3. Which do you think has the strongest effect on your life course: your social status or your parents? Why?

4. How could you integrate the findings described in the study above to support the strain theory of crime?

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