Social Inequality Essay

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What is Social Inequality? Social inequality is characterized by the existence of unequal opportunities and rewards for different social positions or statuses within a group or society. It contains structured and recurrent patterns of unequal distributions of goods, wealth, opportunities, rewards, and punishments. There are two main ways to measure social inequality: inequality of conditions, and inequality of opportunities. Inequality of conditions refers to the unequal distribution of income, wealth and material goods. Housing, for example, is an inequality of conditions with the homeless and those living in housing projects sitting at the bottom of the hierarchy while those living in multi-million dollar mansions sitting at the top. Inequality of opportunities refers to the unequal distribution of "life chances" across individuals. This is reflected in measures such as level of education, health status, and treatment by the criminal justice system. For example, why do upper-class white males typically have more opportunities for wealth and success compared to lower-class black males, who have a higher chance of landing in the criminal justice system? Two Main Theories of Social Inequality There are two main views of social inequality within sociology. One view aligns with the functionalist theory and the other aligns with conflict theory. Functionalist theorists believe that inequality is inevitable and desirable and plays an important function in society. Important positions in society require more training and thus should receive more rewards. Social inequality and social stratification, according to this view, lead to a meritocracy based on ability. Conflict theorists, on the other hand, view inequality as resulting from groups with power dominating less powerful groups. They believe that social inequality prevents and hinders societal progress as those

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