Social Inequality

The citizens of the United States have long been considered as basically equal.  This is because the United States has steadily pursued the ideal of equal standing under the law for all people (Gilbert & Kahl, 2003).  But still inequality exists in many different aspects of the life in the United States as well as the rest of the world.

There are five important dimensions of inequalities in the United States.  One is income, or the wages or salary from work and earnings from investments which is measured per family income and is compared with the income among all families in the country.  In general, the bulk of the nation’s income is earned by a small proportion of families, while the rest of the population makes do with far less.

Second is wealth, the total amount of money and valuable goods that a person or family controls.  Wealth is measured in the form of stocks, bond, real estate, and other privately owned property – is distributed even less equally than is income.

Power is another important dimension of inequality which gets its strength from wealth.  Hence, the amount of power is measured by wealth.  Therefore, the small proportion of families that controls most of the wealth also has the ability to shape the agenda of the entire society.

The fourth is occupational prestige. It is too an important dimension of social inequality since one’s job measures all the dimensions discussed: income, wealth, and power.  In addition, occupation is an important source of social prestige since we commonly measure each other according to the kind of work we do, envying and respecting some, shunning and looking down on others.

The fifth but not the least is schooling.  Industrial societies generally define schooling as necessary for all and offer primary, secondary, and some college education at public expense (Fussel, 1999).  Like other dimensions of inequality, however, schooling is a resource enjoyed in abundance by some and very little by others which again links schooling to the other dimensions.  Schooling affects both occupation and income, since most (but not all) of the better paying white-collar jobs require a college degree or other advanced study.  Similarly, most of the blue-collar occupations that offer less income and social prestige demand less schooling.