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Impact Of The Social Class On Life Sociology Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 1491 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Social class in today’s society is changing. Material factors still govern lifestyle choices and that these are class related. Class identity has come to depend not only on market situation but on differences and similarities in power and status, as well as consumption and lifestyle. Social mobility describes the movement or opportunities for movement between different social groups and the pros and the cons that come with it, example income and wealth, housing, education and health. Opportunities for social mobility are one aspect of an individual’s life chances.

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The traditionalists believe that New Labour politicians have abandoned their commitment to equality and social justice for those who are exploited by organisation of capitalism, (the working class). They believe that New Labour has betrayed its working class roots because it has done nothing to redistribute wealth and income from the rich to the poor, nor address the fundamental flaws that they see as inherent in the capitalist system.

Giddens and Diamond (2005), however, argues that the arguments of the traditionalists are both simplistic and misguided because of their instances that equality of outcome and equality of opportunity are somehow vastly different objectives. They argue that the promotion of equality opportunity requires greater material and it is impossible for individuals to achieve their full potential if social and economic starting-points are unequal.

Giddens and Diamond argue that since 1997, New Labour’s policies on social exclusion lowered levels of poverty among children and elderly which have put a stop in further rise in income inequality. They however accept the fact that there is still a long way to go in reducing inequalities of opportunity. They note that ‘the life-chances of individuals today are still influenced by their parents economic and social position.

Bottero (2005) suggest that ‘social inequalities are written on the body’ and ‘hierarchy makes you sick’. She notes that if illness was chance occurrence, we would expect to see rate of morbidity (illness and diseases) and mortality (death) randomly distribute across the population. Statistics from the Department of Health shows that the working class experience an overproportionate amount of illness. Over the last 30 years the health across the population has improved but the rate of improvement for working class is much slower. The working class experience poor mortality rate and morbidity rate than the middle class. For example, 3500 working class babies would survive per year if the working class mortality rate was reduced to the middle class level. Babies born to professional fathers have levels of infant mortality half that of babies born to unskilled manual fathers.

The death rates between 1972 and 1997 shows that, the death rate for the professionals fell by 44 per cent but fell only by 10 per cent for the unskilled. Bartley et al. (1996) note that men in social class 1 (using the old RG scale) had two-thirds the chance of dying between 1986 and 1989 compared with the male population as a whole. Unskilled manual workers were one-third likely to die compared with male population as a whole. Men in social class V were twice likely to die before men in social class 1 despite NHs providing free health to all.

However, Bottero note that:

There is strong socio-economic gradient to almost all patterns of diseases and ill-health. The lower your socio-economic position, the greater your risk of low birth weight, infections, cancer, coronary heart disease, respiratory diseases, stroke, accidents, nervous and mental illness.

She point out that there are specific occupational hazards linked to particular manual jobs which increases the risk of accidental injury, exposure to toxic materials, pollution and many more. Poor people are more likely to live in areas in which there are more hazards, such as traffic and pollution, and less safe area to play. Consequently, poor children are more likely to be run over and suffer asthma.

Some studies have suggested that there are health gradient, in that at every level of social hierarchy, there are health differences. Marmot et al (1991) have suggested that social positions may be blamed for these differences. They conducted a study on civil servant working in Whitehall and concluded that the cause of ill health was being lower in the hierarchy. Those low in the hierarchy had less social control over their working condition, greater stress and greater feeling of self esteem. These psychological factors lead to behaviour such as smoking and drinking, poor eating habits and inactivity resulting in greater level of depression, high blood pressure, increase in susceptibility to infection and build-up of cholesterol.

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Wilkinson (1996), argue that health gradient is caused by income inequality. This is because it undermines social cohesion in the sense that we all have valued equally by society which affirms our sense of belonging to society. Inequalities also disrupt social cohesion because it undermines self-esteem, dignity, trust and cooperation and increases feelings of insecurity, envy, hostility and inferiority, which lead to stress. Wilkinson notes that egalitarian societies have a strong community life, in that strong social ties and networks exist in the wider society to support their members. These members have access to social and psychological support from other members in the community which helps them to stay healthy.

Although there has been increase in income, employment and educational attainment that have been occurred in the United Kingdom, there has also been a long-term increase in the health of the population. There is still strong relationship between how long people live and their background. Over the 1990s, the gap between most advantaged and most disadvantaged has narrowed. This is because there have been greater improvements in mortality at younger ages for those from unskilled manual background. The rate of premature death have fallen for all social classes over the past 30 years but the gap has widened relatively for men and the improvement were greater for men at the professional and managerial end of the spectrum.

Between 1986 and 1992 the death rate for men in the skilled and unskilled manual groups was 69 per cent greater than professional and managerial men. While between 1997 and 1999 the rate was 75 per cent greater than for the professions. On the other hand, the improvements in the death rate for women were greater for skilled and unskilled manual groups than professional and managerial women. This made the percentage difference in the rate smaller by the end of the 1990s. Men in partly-skilled and unskilled occupation were five and a half times more likely to die from respiratory diseases than professionals and managerial between the period of 1986 to 1999. The levels of ischaemic heart diseases declined for all social groups whereas the fall was small for manual workers.

Smoking is the major cause of death rate in the manual group compared with those in the non-manual group. A third of people in a routine or manual household were current smokers. This has changed over the past five years and compares with less than 19 per cent of the people in managerial or professional households.

A major review of health inequalities by BBC news health correspondent Jane Dreaper says that NHS should spend more money illness than the current four per cent it is spending. More money should be spent on providing help for people to stop smoking. Report by epidemiologist Sir Marmot, also says that ‘every child should be given the best of start in life. Every child needs to be nurtured at an early stage. Some mothers from less well-off families who do not cuddle or talk to their children makes the children develop behavioural and cognitive problems when they are three years of age. These children have less readiness to learn and the problem continues’.

The current review of minimum wage of £5.80 an hour by then mayor of London Ken Livingstone and continued by Boris Johnson is below the level needed for a healthy life. It is calculated that Londoners need an hourly wage 16% higher than the national minimum rate to lift them above poverty. Minimum income should allow people to consume healthy diet, take exercises and have access to technology such as broadband that enable them to maintain social network.

In conclusion, the diversity of social groups such as unemployed, single mothers and the asylum-seekers are socially excluded from the mainstream society which makes them experience social and economic deprivation. Certain diseases shows differences among people from different socio-economic background.


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