Social & Economic Stratification

Poverty has far reaching consequences in the U.S. and around the world. It impacts family life, health and life expectancy, mental health, education, religion, politics, crime and values. 

In the U.S. today, the poverty threshold is about $24,000 for a family of four. If there is one income earner, this means that that person would have to have a job that pays, at least, $12/hour {$12 x 2000 hours worked in a year (40 hours times 50 weeks)}. Minimum wage is approximately $8.00 per hour in many states ($16, 000/year). At $15/hour that would be $30,000. A number of states and individual cities and recently, some companies, have looked at something called a “living wage”. Please see this link: http://www.cnbc.com/2015/12/24/13-states-to-raise-minimum-wage-in-2016.html    

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In terms of companies, one example is Walmart which decided to raise their floor employees wages to $10/hour – that is $20,000 a year. You may have heard about the mess in Wisconsin where it was revealed that so many Walmart employees had qualified for food stamps and then shopped a Walmart to get their food. How is that for irony and for helping Walmart. That was back in October of 2015 and several similar box stores followed suit. Seems good…but…Walmart said it could cost them $4 billion dollars. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-10-20/following-wal-mart-to-10-an-hour-may-cost-retailers-4-billion

At the same time, Walmart laid off 450 employees from its headquarters and has been laying off other employees http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/walmart-layoffs/   and “Walmart to close over 200 stores, lay off about 10,000 US workers”. (2016, February 15). Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/walmart-layoffs_us_5698fe89e4b0b4eb759e101d    It is not easy.

In 1991, 21.5% of children in the U.S. lived in poverty (then for 4 people-$16,000). It grew to over 23% by by 2003. Today, it is almost 25% or 1 in 4 children in the U.S. live in poverty. There are over 324 million people in the US and 46.5 million live in poverty. That is approximately 14.5%. Some argue that is not an accurate number. http://www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/2015/03/15/the-true-us-poverty-rate-is-4-5-not-14-5/#54ae959e5562

Have a look at the articles on the real face of poverty in America at Barbara Ehrenreich’s website. She wrote “Nickel and Dimed: On NOT getting by in America” (care of Dr. Jones-Palm). There is also a version, for instance, just on Key West, FL. What kinds of challenges face poor people in America? http://ehrenreich.blogs.com/barbara_commentators/2006/08/what_it_feels_l.html

There is a growing concern about the increasing gap between the haves and the have nots. In light of the last several years, this issue is paramount in many Americans minds. In 2002, the wealthiest 20% of households accounted for 50% of total U.S. income, and the lowest 20% accounted for 3.5%. Those numbers have been drastically affected since then.

Here are a couple of sites to visit (again, care of Dr. Jones-Palm). You can listen to Robert Reich’s video “How Unequal Can America Get Before We Snap?” http://webcast.berkeley.edu/media/gspp/ucb_reich-snap.mp3

and Sociology in Cyberspace: Explorations in Social inequality. http://www.trinity.edu/~mkearl/strat.html

What does it mean when the income gap grows between the very rich and the poor? Take a look at this New York Times article. Imagine how this may be affected by the housing crisis and the current bank failures. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/29/business/29tax.html?_r=3&oref=slogin&oref=slogin&oref=slogin

And then there is poverty at the global level. http://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/poverty/overview. In the Davos meetings in January, it was widely announced that 62 people together have the wealth of 1/2 of the world’s population combined.   http://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/jan/18/richest-62-billionaires-wealthy-half-world-population-combined

These are reputable sites. After looking at your “Content” materials and these sites, what thoughts do you have? Please include at least one reputable source in your discussion using in-text citations and give the reference.

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