Compare and contrast the estate system and the caste system.
Both systems stratify society based on ascribed status, although the estate system is a bit more flexible. Both systems use religious or spiritual ideology to justify stratification. Both dictate occupation, marriage, and relationship options. In the estate system, the nobles are born into that class. They claim their authority through the divine right of kings. Members of the clergy are born into nobility and then become priests, while commoners rarely move out of their position. Unlike the caste system, the estate system no longer exists. The caste system, though no longer legal, still exists in places such as India. Hindus based the caste system on the religious ideology of reincarnation. Indians cannot change castes.
How does disparity in public schools contribute to the culture of poverty in the United States?
Education remains an important avenue to success in the United States. Without quality education, poor children are unlikely to learn how to rise out of poverty. Schools in poor areas lack the resources to train students adequately, and the students do not learn enough in high school to be accepted into college. Even if they do aspire to attend college, they may not learn how to navigate the college-application process, since poor schools often lack counselors dedicated to helping students get into college. Students who don’t attend college generally work at lower-paying jobs and can’t afford to leave poor areas. As a result, their kids will attend the same school they did, and the cycle of poverty will continue.
Is the American Dream available to all people? Why or why not?
Theoretically, the American Dream is available to all people living in the United States—native-born Americans as well as immigrants. However, the dream is easier for some to attain than others. White people, particularly men, have the easiest time attaining the American Dream. White men have more institutional support for their ambitions, and society expects more from them than from others. They are more likely to receive help from people who want them to succeed. For women and minorities, policies such as affirmative action and anti- discrimination legislation are in place to help them succeed. Policies cannot, however, overcome all resistance. For women, glass ceilings prevent them from reaching the highest echelons of business, and racism and a racist caste system often prevent ethnic minorities from reaching their potential. Still, women and minorities have achieved success in many areas of American life. If it’s possible for some, it is possible for others—even if some people face greater difficulties.
Is it easier to attain wealth when you have prestige or to attain prestige when you have wealth?
In the United States, money begets prestige and power. It is easier to attain prestige when you have wealth. Americans often have greater respect for a person who is very wealthy than for someone who is a great humanitarian but has little money. Prestige does not always correlate with wealth, however. Some people gain prestige as a result of their professions, not as a result of the salary they receive. Supreme Court justices receive salaries of less than $200,000 a year but are esteemed members of society. Third-string players in the NBA receive higher salaries than the justices but probably have less prestige. In another example, a lottery winner can be a person of average intelligence and charisma, but when he becomes wealthy, he gains prestige.
How can you explain the feminization of poverty?
Several factors have combined to explain the increased number of women and children living at or below the poverty level in the United States. First, more women are choosing to live alone, whereas in the past, such a choice was considered deviant. Women in abusive situations used to have few choices other than staying in the abusive relationship. Today, however, single motherhood is no longer considered deviant, so more women opt for it if they are in an abusive relationship. Divorce for reasons other than abuse is also more common today. After a divorce, a woman’s standard of living is likely to decline, since women still only make about three-quarters of what men make.
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