UNST 220 Understanding Communities

Dr. Martha J. Bianco


Module II Lecture Guide

Part IV

The Rich Just Keep Getting Richer


Click here to go to Part I, Part II, or Part III.


III.   Theories of Social Stratification


A.      Karl Marx, 1818-1883

1.      Role of Production in Human History

*   means of production

*   relations of production

*   role of capital in industrialized Europe

  1. Conflict Theory

*    capitalists (bourgeoisie) versus the proletariat (wage workers)

*    ruling class ideology & hegemony

3.      Class consciousness

*   Result?

*   Revolution:  socialism à communism (abolition of private property)

* Definition of “private property” according to Marx


Watch these videos about the growth of capitalism and the increasing antagonism between the owners of the means of production and the working class:

*   Industrial Supremacy

*   Capital and Labor


Watch this video about the theories of Karl Marx, John Maynard Keynes, and others.

*   Booms and Busts


B.     Max Weber, 1864-1920


1.      Traditionalism versus rationalism

2.      Role of Protestant Work Ethic

3.      Rational bureaucratic capitalism

4.      Bureaucratization à depersonalization of individual

5.      Social stratification based on interaction between three orders:

*   economic order (economic/income class)

*   prestige order (status)

*   political order (power)


participate in this on-line experiment for rating occupations


based on life-style similarities (e.g., PRIZM-NE clusters)





IV. Socioeconomic Status


A.      How the Bureau of Labor Classifies Occupations ( Standard Occupational Classifications)

B.      Poverty According to the U.S. Census

1.      Mean Income by Quintile and Race (Indicator of Inequality), 1970-2001

*         See this chart comparing mean income quintiles for blacks, Hispanics, and whites from 1970-2001

*         See this chart showing the gap between the lowest income quintile and the top 5 percent, from 1970-2001

*             Poverty Thresholds for 2001

2.      Selected Characteristics for People in Poverty, 2002-2003

*         See this chart on poverty numbers and rates, 1959-2003


*         See this chart of women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s by education, 1998



V.    The Poor:  Who, Why, and What To Do?

A.           Who are they?

1.                 The Geography Factor

2.                 The Gender Factor

3.                 The Racial Factor

4.                 The Education Factor

5.                 The Childhood Factor

B.     Why are people poor?

*      View this video about how technological innovation has affected the rural workforce in Oregon:
 The Town That’s Been Through the Mill.


*      Role of Changing Economy and Migration in the US:

From Rural to Urban

From Frostbelt (or Rustbelt) to Sunbelt

From Urban to Suburban

From Suburban to Exurban...

...and back again

*         See this map of the distribution of manufacturing in 1900


*         See this map showing how much the distribution of manufacturing changed by 1929


*         See this map of the Sunbelt


*         See this chart revealing changes in population growth in Sunbelt states


*       See these maps that reveal recent changes in demographics in the US:

*          Map of Percent Change in Number of Farms, 1987-1992

*          Map of Black Populations

*          Map of Hispanic Populations

*          Map of Asian Populations

*          Where Do Most People Live (1990)?


 C.     What antipoverty programs have been tried?  Why don’t they work?


1.                 Industrial Era English Poor Laws

2.                 Settlement House Movement

3.                 Depression & the New Deal

4.                 Civil Rights & the Great Society

5.                 Richard Nixon & the New Federalism

6.                 Ronald Reagan & George Bush’s “Thousand Points of Light”

7.                 Bill Clinton & “Ending Welfare As We Know It” with Enterprise Zones

8.                 George W. Bush & New Markets Initiatives

*        View Reducing Poverty, a video about income inequality and social welfare programs.


Additional Reading (Strongly Recommended):


Gary Burtless. “Growing American Inequality: Sources and Remedies.” The Brookings Review. 17:1 (Winter 1999): 31-35 <http://www.brookings.edu/dybdocroot/press/review/win99/burtless.pdf>.

Carmen DeNavas-Walt, Bernadette D. Proctor, and Robert J. Mills. Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States

James Lardner. “The Rich Get Richer: What Happens to American Society When the Gap in Wealth and Income Grows.” US News & World Report. (February 21, 2000) 38-43 <http://www.prr.msu.edu/trends2000/economictrends.htm#“The%20Rich%20Get%20Richer:%20What%20Happens%20to%20American%20Society%20When%20the%20Gap%20in%20Wealth%20and%20Income%20Grows%20Larger”>. 

Nicholas Lemann. “The Myth of Community Development.” The New York Times. (January 9, 1994): Sec. 6, p. 27. <http://www.marthabianco.com/Courses/Cities/myth.html>.

Jacob Riis. How the Other Half Lives.  < http://www.cis.yale.edu/amstud/inforev/riis/title.html>

Upton Sinclair. The Jungle.  < http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/Literature/Sinclair/TheJungle/>.

Paul Street. “Find a Job”: The Recent History and Future of Welfare Reform in Six Midwestern States. Office for Social Policy Research, Northern Illinois University: 1997. <http://www.marthabianco.com/Courses/Cities/welfareasweknowit.pdf>.

Lincoln Steffens. The Shame of the Cities. (New York: McClure, Philips & Co., 1904), 1-18. Excerpted at History Matters <http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/5732/>.

Ida Tarbell. History of the Standard Oil Company. < http://www.history.rochester.edu/fuels/tarbell/MAIN.HTM>.

2003. U.S. Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration, U.S. Census Bureau. (August 2004). <http://www.census.gov/prod/2004pubs/p60-226.pdf>.


Online Experiences (Recommended and Fun!):


Explore the Library of Congress’ website dedicated to immigration, at <http://lcweb2.loc.gov/ammem/ndlpedu/features/immig/introduction.html>.  Click on items on the left-hand menu column to navigate the site.  Once at a section, click on the “next” button in the lower right of the screen.

Explore Immigration: The Living Mosaic of People, Culture, and Hope. <http://library.thinkquest.org/20619/index.html>.  Click on items on the left-hand menu column to navigate the site.

Try this online self-test offered by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Services for those wanting to become naturalized citizens, at <http://uscis.gov/graphics/exec/natz/natztest.asp>.

Martha J. Bianco. Visual History of Work. 2001. <http://www.marthabianco.com/Courses/Cities/work1.html>.

Nancy B. Mautz. The Development of Western Civilization, World History: The Age of Industry.  2000. <http://history.evansville.net/industry.html>.

Take the virtual tour of Ellis Island, at <http://library.thinkquest.org/20619/Eivirt.html>.

Find out more about Angel Island, at <http://www.angelisland.org/immigr02.html>.

Explore medieval society at the Annenberg site, < http://www.learner.org/exhibits/middleages/>.

Watch Annenberg/CPB – Learning.org videos about changing the changing American economy and society at < http://www.learner.org/resources/series123.html#>.  You will need to log in to view these streaming videos, but it is free to do so.

Explore the Inequality.org website, at <http://inequality.org/>.

Explore U.S. Census data on income at <http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/income.html>.

Explore U.S. Census data on poverty at <http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/poverty.html>.

Learn about two of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s two major programs for addressing urban poverty: the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), dating back to the Nixon era <http://www.hud.gov/offices/cpd/communitydevelopment>; and the Empowerment and Enterprise Zones (EZ) of the Clinton era <http://www.hud.gov/offices/cpd/economicdevelopment/programs/rc/index.cfm>

Calculate your “ecological footprint.” at <http://www.lead.org/leadnet/footprint/intro.htm >.  The footprint measures human impact on nature.  In order to live, people consume what nature offers. So, every one of us has an impact on our planet. This is not bad as long as we don’t take more from the Earth than it has to offer. But are we taking more than we should? The Ecological Footprint measures what we consume of nature. It shows how much productive land and water we occupy to produce all the resources we consume and to take in all the waste we make. How big is your footprint? The average American uses 25 acres to support his or her current lifestyle. This corresponds to the size of 25 football fields put together. In comparison, the average Canadian lives on a footprint 25 percent less, and the average Italian on 60 percent less.

Is it true that “You are where you live”?  Visit Claris’ MyBestSegments site at <http://www.mybestsegments.com>
and click on .  Select PRIZM-NE and then type in your zip code of interest (and the security code that shows on the screen) to find out if you “are where you live.”


Go to:

Module II, Part I
Module II, Part II
Module II, Part III
Lecture Guides Home Page
Class Syllabus


© Martha J. Bianco, Ph.D.