THE SIGNIFICANCE OF SOCIAL CLASS Sociology Help

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF SOCIAL CLASS

Determining Life Chances 

From before one is born until one is dead, opportunities and rewards are affected by class position. Poor nutrition for the mother may affect the health and vigor  the fetus before birth, while poverty thereafter continues to handicap the poor. The lower-class person is not only likely to die prematurely but will also endure- more' days of 'illness during a lifetime. Census data on "work disability" [defined as work absences due to "serious impairment that may last a relatively long period of time") finds an annual rate of' 141 disability periods per 1,000 .men in the lowest" income group, as compared with 56 for men in the highest income group [Statistical
Bulletin of Metropolitan Life, 57:8, March 1976]. Happiness and Social Class In 1974, Cameron and his colleagues asked a large sample of people to report their feelings of happiness or unhappiness. They found that happiness did not vary by the presence or absence of physical handicaps or of mental retardation. Neither was it affected by age, for the old are happy about as often as the young. Of all the factors they studied, social class seemed to have the strongest relationship. In a summary of several such studies, Easterlin [1973] found 'that the proportion, reporting themselves as "very happy" rose steadily from 25 percent in the lowest income group to 50percent those  incomes of over $15,000 (comparable to about $35,000 in 1983). The data show no relation between the wealth of a country and the happiness of its citizens. Easterlin's analysis shows that the' , population of the United States was .ne happier in 197Qthan in 1940, although real income was 60 percent higher in 1970. International comparisons snow that citizens of wealthier industrialized countries are no happier than those of poorer, less developed countries. It is not absolute income but the ratio between income and needs that is important. Within , a given society there is some degree of 'consensus among most people as to their. "real  people in that society are   meet their needs and thus more likely to be harpy than those who are less prosperous  in the more prosperous societies, the standard of "need" is higher. Thus, it is relative advantage rather than absolute amount of money which makes for happiness. Later studies [Campbell, 1980; Fernandez .and Kulik, 1981] show similar results, except that the influence of income is slightly less ' important than in previous years. Material success may be less important than formerly, , but within each society .the prosperous are happier than the poor '. Not all the rich are happy. The children of the rich are more likely to suffer "dyspraxia," which is a constellation of ills, including severe anomie and depression. According to Wixen, who made a study entitled Children of the Rich [1973], dyspraxia arises when middle- class values of work and family life which have been strongly held by the older generation make no sense to their children. Life has been so easy [or the rich children, and their sense of security is so great, that' they sometimes see no need for hard 'Work either as a means of rising in the world or as a way of making good on their obligations to others. Not being able to participate in the satisfaction of step-by-step advancement, they fall prey to boredom. One psychiatrist claims that the children of the very rich have little contact with parents and have no clear role models and that they often lack self-esteem and develop shallow values and self-preoccupation [Grinker, 1978J. Not all children from wealthy homes suffer from Jysgradia, since some gain satisfaction from their own achievement and others have internalized a sense of duty to society known as lobules oblige.

Posted on September 4, 2014 in Social Class

Share the Story

About the Author

Back to Top
Share This