Social Stratification Theories

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Social Stratification Theories

The answer is determined by the type of society you live in and is related to both:
individual outcome --* your position in life
structure and character of society --* how work is organized

The study of social stratification is the study of class, caste, privilege, status that is characteristic of a particular society. It varies according to how society is organized especially in terms of production and work. We will emphasize class.
What is the connection between the question: what do you want to be when you grow up and social stratification (especially the class character of the society you live in)? Your position in society and the rewards that will be associated with it. It has an impact on your possibility of realistically meeting your opportunities for mobility. Mobility refers to the likelihood that you can achieve a class, caste different from where you come from, your roots. Mobility and stratification are related.
What image does strata invoke as a model of the social world? Strata comes the natural sciences. Dr. Brush argues that it is interesting that sociologists use a natural phenomena to talk about social phenomena. It seems to contradict the main message of the course: our world is socially constructed phenomena and not a natural process. Thus, stratification is not equal to natural accretion.
Hypothesis posed by a classmate: society needs stratification to be healthy and keep the peace. Which of the three main sociological perspectives supports this statement? The functionalist perspective. Most stratification arguments come out of this perspective. The second part of the hypothesis (to keep the peace) relates more to the conflict perspective.
Stratification and egalitarianism are related. In a sociological sense strata is a category that's associated with social hierarchy. That is, people are ranked according to their rank, class, authority. If a society has ranks then it is a stratified society. If it does not, then it is an egalitarian society. Keep in mind, that these are relative terms.
Last week we drew a picture that tells the story of how societies are organized around work. As societies move from simple to complex organization, they start to get levels of inequality that would need stratification to keep the peace. The differences are not natural, neutral nor random. They are ranked and constitute a hierarchy along the lines of race, gender, age, income among others.
Class is about how society organizes production and the outcomes that it creates for people; this a combination of a Marxian (stratification) and Weberian (organization) understanding.
Empirical question: What does the class system look in the U.S.?
Your position in the social world determines what you can see. The project of 19th century thought was to find a point from where to look at the world and see its social relations unaffected by the observer's position (the objectivist perspective). Subjectivist epistemology, on the other hand, holds that where you are leads to what you see.
Gardner and Gardner conducted a study in 1941 to investigate how people perceive social class. They used six categories to desegregate the concept.
Visions of class structure held by the upper upper class
Upper upper class: old aristocracy
Lower upper class: aristocracy but not old(new rich)
Upper middle class: nice respectable people
Lower middle class: good but nobody
Upper lower class: po' whites (white trash)
Lower lower class: po' whites (white trash)
Visions of class structure held by the lower lower class
Upper upper class: society folks with money
Lower upper class: society folks with money
Upper middle class: society folks with money
Lower middle class: way high ups
Upper lower class: snobs trying to pushup
Lower lower class: people just as good as anybody
These are two different pictures of the class structure. There is great variation in the perception according to where they are. The terms used are loaded ones.
This is a classic set of stratification; one of gradations of prestige. It fits nicely with a functionalist perspective. Wealth, power, prestige are components of gradational class model. A relational example of stratification follows from how people relate to the modes of production.

There is a difference between a model of class and how the class structure actually works. Whose model is empirically correct? Having other kind of data will help us understand the class structure in the U.S. Measures of wealth, power, prestige enable us to map the social structures independent of people's perspectives.
Wealth as a measure in class analysis has two forms:
property: what are you worth? The U.S. is worth approx. $15 trillion.
Ownership of property is a key measure of inequality and stratification in the U.S. 1993 data, 10% of U.S. families owns:
68% of property
50% of real estate
90% of stocks and business assets
95% of bonds
0.5% of Americans own 27% of the nation's wealth. 325, 000 families own 40% of all corporate stocks and business assets. This matters because it determines the organization of work and who benefits from it.
Inequality of ownership indicates:
class structure
inequality of outcomes
Income as a measure in class analysis:
The annual average income of families is $35,000. Economist Samuelson explains that if were to pile children's blocks, each worth $500, the highest block would be higher than Mt. Everest. The typical American would be close to the ground.

Another gradation picture, 1993 data:

Social class Education Occupation Income % of Population

Capitalists prestige investors $750K 1%
Universities heirs

Upper Middle College/U professionals $75K 14%
upper level managers

Lower middle @ least H.S semi-professionals $40K 30%
some college lower level managers
apprentiship crafts people
shopfloor foremen

Working class High School factory workers $25K 30%
clerical workers
lower paid crafts people
retail sales

Working poor some H.S. laborers * $20K 22%
service workers
low paid sales

Underclass some H.S. welfare recipients * $13K 3%
part time employed

Use some of these categories in your paper to locate your and your family's mobility patterns. As students, there might be some inconsistency of where you are coming from and where you are likely to end up.

Organizational Perspectives on Stratification
Organizations impinge on career outcomes in two important ways:
1) The division of labor among jobs and organizations generates a distribution of opportunities and rewards that often antedates the hiring of people to fill those jobs.
2) Organization procedures for matching workers to jobs affect the distribution of rewards and opportunities within and across firms and thus influence the likelihood of career success
Why Some Firms Pay and Promote More than Others
- ''Older approaches'': human capital, status attainment
-more recent approach: internal labor markets
INTERNAL LABOR MARKET: Competing Interpretations
1) Labor economists emphasize technical determinants: technological progress increases workers' skill monopoly in the firm and that internal advancement opportunities are required so that senior workers will train junior personnel
2) Williamson emphasizes informational constraints that favor internal labor promotion hierarchies over perfectly competitive labor market.
3) Neo-Marxists regarded internal labor markets as an effort by capitalists to control a volatile work force.
Researchers have documented the impact of internal labor markets in two ways:
1) Attempts to infer how internal labor markets operate from data on individual career paths. E.g. attainment researchers have attributed racial and sexual differences in the effects that schooling and first job have on career outcomes to the exclusion of women and minorities from internal labor markets. This research does not illuminate how or why this occurs.
2) Other investigators have analyzed career processes in their organizational setting directly, detailing the criteria that employers use in structuring rewards and opportunities. Unfortunately, this research has often been limited to specific work contexts.
-Wages are higher both in industries made up of large companies and in the larger companies within any given industry.
-Granovetter argues that these relationships only characterize manufacturing industries.
-Effects of schooling on income and status increase monotonically with the size of employee's work location (for white, male, nonagricultural workers) (Stolzenberg 1978).
Possible explanations:
- Large bureaucracies may pay and promote more because scale economies increase worker productivity, structure of demand allows higher wages to be absorbed in product pricing.
-Urban locations, where higher wages are necessary to offset competitors' offers
. -Large organization are more vulnerable to worker unrest and rewards are higher to reduce the chances of labor-management conflict.
-Corporate growth increases promotion rates. (Even among those less likely to be promoted e.g. women).
-Economic contraction disproportionately harms those the growth helps.
-Individuals' careers are not independent (attainment research assumes they are).
-Size of one's organizational cohort and its relation to other cohorts significantly affects career outcomes. E.g. members of small cohorts experience enhances mobility prospects.
-Automation raises the average level of worker skill and increases the variance within firms, giving rise to skill-based career lines that reflect job idiosyncrasies.
-Long-linked technologies (e.g. assembly lines) generate more lateral mobility because workers are interchangeable.
-Mediating and Intensive technologies (e.g. client-oriented banks and research labs, respectively) foster more upward mobility. (In specialized professions knowledge is crucial).
- ''Monopoly power'' perspective: unions push wages higher than productivity warrants, at the same time widening disparities between advantaged and disadvantaged groups.
- ''Collective violence'' perspective: regards union wage premiums as reasonable social reimbursements for the savings that unions generate in terms of proved governance and social control. Also viewed as equalizing agents.
-Unions emphasize seniority-based rewards, and collective bargaining often arises in work settings where it is difficult to discern the relationships between worker characteristics and rewards.
-Good jobs are concentrated in ''core'' or monopolistic firms and industries. Explained by: technical mix; level of union and management interests in employment stability; ability to absorb higher labor costs due to market structure and demand schedules; growth, concentration, and change in organization forms; differences in the quantity and quality of managerial activity; and economic and political relationships with the state and foreign markets.
Models of Employer Decision-Making
-Human Capital: workers possess vocational aspirations, which are treated as exogenous, and invest in human capital so as to maximize their utility and earnings, subject to various constraints (e.g. innate ability). Firm's labor needs are determined by its technology (capital-labor ratio) and product demand.
-marxian idea that ''control imperative'' shapes employment relations
-Contemporary models reject the underlying assumptions that both the worker and the firm have perfect information and pursue a maximizing strategy in their personnel decisions.
-Organizations face greatest uncertainty in evaluating employee potential early n their careers.
-How do employers cope with this dilemma?
-Education is one credential representing employee potential under imperfect information.
-Marxists argue that employers are motivated by a need to control the work force and use schooling to determine whether workers' values and traits are appropriate for the organizational control system in place.
-Kanter's idea of ''homosocial reproduction'' - similarities wrt sex, race, social background and family status indicate whether someone can be trusted and whether communication with him/her will be easy.
Organizational Career Stages
-Early career attainments are likely to reflect individuals' success in exploiting their ascribed and achieved attributes to pass initial ''tests.''
-Organization success is determined largely by one's immediate supervisor.
-Later, familial attachments constrain workers' achievements, particularly among women.
-Family commitments, habituation, and the aging process increase the attractiveness of extrinsic rewards and job security.
-Organization success is now defined more in terms specific to one's organization, profession, community, or other restricted reference group.
Interdependence of Workers' Career Outcomes
-The way specific attributes are evaluated depends on the demographic fit between an individual and the relevant organizational elites.
-Positions are clustered technically and administratively.
-Workplace norms promote social comparison.
-Wages are generally tied to ''key'' jobs, and thus other workers' salaries depend on the individuals serving in the ''key'' jobs.
-Granovetter's ''historical'' and ''structural embeddedness'' - career is constrained by how people have previously evaluated the worker and other relevant workers. Also, an individual's career cannot be predicted or understood apart from his or her relations with co-workers, collaborators, supervisors, and others.
-In abandoning the status attainment and human capital approaches, researchers have acknowledged that not all organizations emphasize the same criteria in selecting and advancing workers.
-Orthodox labor market research assumes a simple ''wage competitive'' model, viewing workers as entrepreneurs who market themselves to the highest bidding employer.
- ''Instead of people looking for jobs, there are jobs looking for ... 'suitable' people'' (Thurow 1972).
Effects of Stratification on Organizations:
-Theorists and researchers disagree about how hierarchy and inequality influence organizational effectiveness and individual well-being.
-Weber and Durkheim - hierarchy is efficient and inevitable
-Others associate hierarchy with alienation and pathological conformity.
-Esp. Marxists regard workplace stratification as a means of controlling labor by reproducing class divisions within the firm.
-Lack of sound empirical research
-Effects relations among organizations, particularly personnel flows.

Distinction --- ''The Sense of Distinction'' (chp 5)
Bordieu begins this chapter with an overview of how he thinks society is stratified. The dominant class is ''an autonomous space whose structure is defined by the distribution of economic and cultural capital among its members.'' There are fractions within each class which correspond to different lifestyles th

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