University of Cambridge

Social Inequality

SOCIAL INEQUALITY

Introduction:

Social inequality is a condition in which members of a society have different amounts of wealth, prestige or power, Power is the ability to influence ones way in spite of opposition, wealth is person’s material wealth while prestige refers to social capital. Social stratification is the hierarchy division of society, social stratification leads to social inequality in that certain groups stand high in social ranking, control scarce resources and receive special treatment. [1]

The consequences of social inequality include difference in living standards, differences in life expectancy, conflict and progress in the society. Differences in living standards is evident in that there are people who live in luxurious houses while others live in slums, differences in life expectancy can be associated with proper health accessed by the rich and not by the poor, conflict in the society is associated with what Karl Marx referred to as polarisation between classes resulting to a revolution and finally progress will occur in the society in that the rich will inspire the poor to become rich.

Functionalist perspective and conflict perspective of inequality:

The functionalist perspective by Davis and Moore perceive society stratification and inequality as one that plays a role in the proper working of society, according to this theory all social systems share certain functional prerequisite which must be met for the society to operate efficiently. One of these prerequisites is effective role allocation and performance and this means that all roles must be filled by those who are best able to perform them and that roles must be performed well by trained individuals.

Social inequality in the UK and Brazil:

Living standards in the UK are higher than those of Brazil, this is attributed by the fact that the UK is more developed and industrialised; therefore the inequalities in the UK are better off compared to cases of inequalities in Brazil.

Inequalities in education exist in the UK and Brazil but the type and level of inequality is different, in the UK the main concern about inequalities in education focuses on the level of educational achievement by boys and girls, whereas in the case of brazil inequality in performance between the children from a rich background and those from a poor background.

Health services provision can also contribute to inequality, the level of deaths among the poor due to illnesses associated to poor health is high compared to deaths among the rich, in the UK there is better provision of health services and there exist less differences between the services offered to the rich and poor, in the Brazil case there is a major concern on the inequalities that exist in the provision of good health care among the poor and the rich.

Conclusion:

Inequality exist in every society but the level of inequality is different among this societies, one of the causes of such differences is the level of economic development in that country, inequalities exist in health, education, income and wealth, standards of living and political power, inequalities in the UK are better off than inequalities in Brazil and this is contributed by the fact that the UK is more developed than Brazil.

Karl Marx perceives inequality as a factor that contribute to conflict in society while the functionalist perspective sees inequality as a positive thing, the functionalist perspective argues that it is necessary for a society to have inequality in order for it to function efficiently.

References:

Butchart A. (2002) Sex – and age-specified relations between economic developments, economic inequality and homicide rates in people aged 0-24 years: a cross-sectional analysis. Bull World Health Organisation; 80(10):797-805

Deaton, A. and C. Paxton (1994), “Inter temporal choice and inequality”, Journal of Political

Economy, 102 (3), pp. 437-67

Field G. (1980) Poverty, Inequality and Development, Cambridge University press, New York

Francois Bourguignon, Francisco F. and M. Menendez (2003) Inequality of outcomes and inequality of opportunities in Brazil, retrieved on 21st February

National Statistics (2004) Social Inequalities UK, retrieved on 20th February

Paulo Carmon, Pedro and James K. Galbraith (1999) Inequality and Industrial Wage Change in Brazil retrieved on 21st February

Social inequality and homicide rates in Sao Paulo City, Brazil (2005) retrieved on 20th February

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