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Rise Of Inequality Essay, Research Paper

In “Some Principles of Stratification”, Davis and More define the functional theory of stratification as the notion that societies need inequality in order to fill the important occupations wanted by society. The best people need motivation to take the most important jobs, and that motivation comes in the form of rewards, usually a higher income. However, this theory does not explain why inequality in the United States has been on the rise. In William Wilson’s The Truly Disadvantaged, Frank Levy explains that the increasing inequality is a result of money-making power shifting from the average worker to the shareholders.

Today, the highest paying jobs are not necessarily the most important ones. (For example, teaching is a job that is more functionally important to society than many jobs in the computer engineering field, yet software programmers make more money simply due to their acquired skills.) Furthermore, these high paying jobs have not encountered a shortage of qualified applicants, making the reward of high income unnecessary. Levy explains that the labor force has grown significantly, and this gives employers more choice in who they hire. This mostly hurts lower class workers, for they are less likely to have the skills and education necessary to succeed in the current highly competitive job market. This results in a vicious cycle that hold the underclass down and subsequently raisied the upper class higher above them. Levy’s explanation supports the findings of Oscar Lewis, who claims that the lower class have their own culture. Lewis also feels that children who grow up in this lower class culture do not fully acknowledge the ways in which they can escape their poverty.

The ideas proposed by Oscar Lewis are similar to those of Melvin Tumin. In his response to the Davis and Moore article, Tumin gives a better explanation of the increasing inequality in the United States: he claims that people often inherit the level of jobs from their parents. For example, once the upper class has established itself, they have the power to increase their wages and restrict entrance into their positions. Tumin’s theory can also be applied to the lower class, for they usually do not have the resources necessary to obtain the required education and networking to get the high paying jobs.

Davis and Moore would not completely oppose policies to reduce poverty, because the reduction of poverty would not necessarily take away the motivation for people to work towards careers in what they deem to be the most important professions. It is not necessary for everyone to be paid equally for inequality to be reduced in the US, but rather the lower classes need to have the opportunity to move up socioeconomically and into any profession that they wish (i.e. equal opportunity and equally access). Lower class workers are not any less motivated by the rewards of high paying professions than the upper class—actually, they can often be more motivated in attempt to escape their socioeconomic state. But the lower class do not have the opportunities to gain the necessary qualifications (that the upper class tend to set as the norm) for those professions.


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