Class, Race & Gender

Practice Exam Questions:

Social Stratification refers to:
a.  a category of people who occupy the same relative economic rank.
b.  the bureaucratic organization of social institutions.
c.  the way families pass wealth on from generation to generation.
d.  the hierarchical ranking of people as superior or inferior.

When Randall collins looks at organiztional power position, he finds that
the differences between the working class and the middle class is found in
a.  whether one gives or takes orders.
b.  income, occupation, and education.
c.  occupation only.
d.  cultural deficiency.

According to the "culture of poverty" thesis
a.  lower class individuals never succeed.
b.  with the dexception of having substantially less money, life among the 
poor is similar to the rest of society.
c.  poverty is more a function of the way people think than of their physical environment
d.  alternative family structure among the poor are adaptive mechanisms

According tot he text, Rodman's study of a lower class community found that
a.  many supposedly "deficient" family practices were highly adaptive solutions to the 
problems in lower class life.
b. lower class individuals were no more promiscuous than middle class individuals.
c.  lower class families had higher life satisfaction scores than middle class families.
d.  limited access to birth control information was responsiblefor the high rate of 

The Panel Study of Income Dynamics found that the family change with the most far-
reaching economic effect was
a.  moving
b.  divorce
c.  loss of job
d.  death of spouse.

The largest group of families in the U.S. are
a.  lower class
b.  working class
c.  middle class
d.  upper-middle class.

Which of the following describes the place of family networks in the lives of Black
a.  Reliance on kin networks is a way for lower class Blacks to cope with poverty and racism.
b.  Blacks are more likely thank Whites to live in extended family households.
c.  Family networks serve important functions for middle class Blacks.
d.  All of the above.

The concept of public patriarchy refers to
a.  the male dominance of the institutions of the larger society.
b.  male dominance in extended family relations.
c.  a husband's domination of his wife in a public place.
d.  societies in which patriarchy in enforced through the legal system.

This chapter focuses on social stratification by examining the different family arrangements
produced by structural inequalities.  The authors introduce class, race, and gender as
macro structures that stratify society and make different opportunities available to
individuals and families.  The authors critique conventional explanations of family
diversity, and, using a structural perspective, show how social and economic forces
produce different family configurations.

I.  Class, Race and Gender as structured inequalities.
Class, race and gender organize society as a whole and create a variety of contexts for
family living through their unequal distribution of social opportunities.  The following
three points are crucial to our understanding of these systems:

     1.  They are hierarchies of stratification.
     2.  They distribute social rewards and opportunities differently.
     3.  They are systems of power and subordination.

Cultural explanations are often embraced to explain differences in family living in terms
of unique values, morals, and cultural preferences.  But cultural explanations overlook
the structural conditions that shape opportunities and in turn shape family

II.  Class
Persons occupying the same relative economic rank form a social class.  Occupation is
the most frequently used indicator of class, yet it does not fully capture the complexities
and dynamics of class position.

     A.  The Cultural Approach
     Each class is viewed as having a distinctive culture. comparisons between the
     classes usually turn out to be “deficit” accounts of lower status families.  The
     “culture of poverty” thesis accounts for poverty using the “deficit” model. 
     This view contends that the poor have a different way of life than the rest of
     society and that this cultural difference explains their continued poverty.

          1.  Shortcomings of the cultural approach
          Cultural explanations often result in “blaming the victim,” that is,
          treating the presumed lifestyle of the poor as the cause of the poverty. 
          Such explanations obscure the social and material realities of class. 
          Rodman’s class research and the newer Panel Study of Income
          Dynamics challenge the “culture of poverty” thesis.

     B.  The Structural Approach
     Structural approaches to family diversity look at the ways in which social class
     shapes the networks of relationships between families, individuals and the
     institutions that provide necessary resources.  According to this approach, the key
     to social class is not occupation, but the control one has in one’s work.  The
     authors discuss the social categories of families to illustrate differing connections
     with opportunity structures and the resulting advantages or disadvantages.
          1.  The Lower Class 
          Lower class families lack the resources to form autonomous households. 
          Households often depend on pooling resources with a wide network of
          people.  Flexibility of family boundaries becomes a way of organizing and
          sustaining limited resources.

          2.  The Working Class 
          Strong kinship ties among the working class and governed by expectations
          of reciprocal assistance.  Minority families and those headed by women are
          likely to be found in this category.  Race and gender discrimination account
          for some of the economic problems experienced by this group.

          3.  The Middle Class 
          Contemporary middle class families differ from the idealized middle class
          family of the past in that many wives are employed.  Families appear
          autonomous due to stable resources and connections with nonfamily
          institutions.  Gender can create class inconsistencies in middle class
          marriage because men have better connections than women with society’s
          opportunity structures.

         4.  The Upper Middle Class 
         A merging of family and work spheres can be observed in this class. 
         Leisure activities often revolve around business concerns or associates. 
         Upper middle class families have economic resources as well as built-in ties
         with supporting institutions.

         5.  The Elite
         Among the elite, “family” means not only the nuclear family but the
         extended family as well.  Family “compounds” serve as community centers
         for extended kin.  Elite families are connected nationally by a web of
         institutions they control.  Marriage is a means of concentrating capital and
         maintaining class solidarity. 

Race is a social category that serves as a basis for differential distribution of power,
privilege, and prestige. The characteristics that distinguish races are socially defined
and change over time.  The term “racial ethnic” refers to groups that are socially
subordinated and culturally distinct within U.S. society.

     A.  Racial Ethnic Families
         1.  The Cultural Approach
         Differences between families are explained as group-specific cultural
         artifacts.  Cultural deficiency accounts for the racial ethnic group’s
         disadvantaged position in society.

         2.  Shortcomings of the Cultural Approach 
         This approach erroneously views the family as the primary institution in
         society, blames the victim, and fails to take into account diversity among
         racial-ethnic families.

     B. Macro Structural Inequalities and Racial Ethnic Families
     Racial stratification produces different opportunity structures that shape families in
     a variety of ways.  Racism results in limited economic resources and inferior living
     conditions for many racial ethnic families.  Observed patterns such as extended
     kinship systems and informal support networks are not merely cultural preference,
     but are adaptations to economic hardship.

     C.  African American Families at Century’s End
          1.  The Underclass Debate
          Two models of the underclass prevail -- one cultural, one structural.  The
          cultural model attributes the growing underclass to a deficient
          developments to the transformation of the U.S. economy.  Wilson’s
          research established a relationship between urban male joblessness and
          alternative family structures.

          2.  Social Support Networks 
          Blacks are more likely than Whites to reside in extended family households. 
          Reliance on kin networks is a strategy for coping with poverty and racism. 
          Family networks also serve important functions for middle class Blacks.

          3.  Marriage
          Social, demographic, and economic factors underlie the lower marriage
          rates and higher divorce rates of Blacks as compared to Whites.  In the
          context of economic hardship, reliance on a kinship network can be viewed
          as a more secure economic base than reliance on marriage partner.  

     D. Latino Families at Century’s End
          1.  A Hispanic Underclass?
          Poverty rates for Hispanics have risen alarmingly in the past decade. 
          Increased poverty is linked to macro economic conditions as well as high
          rates of female-headed households.  The conditions giving rise to increased
          poverty are not uniform, but are different for Hispanics of Puerto Rican
          origin than for Hispanics of Mexican origin.

          2.  Extended Kinship Systems
          Familism is the attachment to one’s nuclear and extended families. For
          decades, familism has been considered a defining feature of
          Mexican-heritage population.  Familism is an important survival strategy in
          the context of both economic deprivation and cultural subordination.

          3.  Social Agency and Family Formation
          People of color have accommodated to difficult circumstances by adapting
          their household structures.  Family strategies are the mechanisms families
          and individuals devise for coping with life’s problems.

          In addition, racial ethnic women and men use their families politically in the
          struggle against racial discrimination and economic disadvantage.

Gender is the patterning of difference and domination through socially constructed
distinctions between women and men.  Gender, like race and class, is a basic
organizing principle of society.  Gender stratification refers to the ranking of the sexes
in such a way that women are unequal in power, resources, prestige, or presumed
worth.  There are two main ways of thinking about gender and family:  first, a sex
roles approach, and second, a structural or gendered institutions approach. 

     A.  The Traditional Sex Roles Approach
     Until recently, social scientists have assumed that biology, history, and the needs of
     society naturally separate women and men in distinctive roles.  Parson took this
     assumption further, positing that the instrumental/expressive gender role split was
     a necessary social arrangement.

          1.  Shortcomings of the Sex Roles Approach
          The traditional approach takes the sexual division of labor in the family as
          inevitable, wrongly assuming instrumental and emotional activities are
          mutually exclusive and also overlooking race and class differences in
          families.  the Sex roles perspective ignores what is most important about
          roles -- that they are unequal in power, resources, and prestige.

     B.  The Family as a Gendered Institution
     The gendered institution perspective holds that gender is a factor in the
     assumptions, practices, and power dynamics of U.S. institutions.  Relating this
     perspective to the family institution, it is clear that women, men and children
     experience the family in gender specific ways that vary by class and race.  The U.S.
     is a capitalist patriarchy in which men are dominant over women in public and
     private settings.

          1.  Agency Within Constraint
          Although women are subordinate, they are not powerless.  Women’s’ resistance takes
          various forms as women struggle to gain some control over family life.

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