This article is devoted to the growing economic inequality — one of the main problems of modern times. Socioeconomic inequality is an uneven distribution of income and opportunities between different groups of society. It causes concern in almost all countries of the world. Often people are trapped in poverty as children, and they have little chance of climbing the social ladder. In recent years, this fact has raised many questions and arguments among politicians and scientists. This article is devoted to such an aspect of the problem as the causes of social inequality (González). The author concludes that being born in poverty most likely means that a person will remain poor in adulthood.
The pronounced stratification of the population into mass groups began when agrarian cultures arose and developed and the private property appeared. The most successful owners received management rights and sought to secure them for their families. Thus, the idea of inheritance of property and official duties arose. There are several interpretations of the concept of social inequality and the causes of its occurrence; the main ones are functionalism and social status.
Functionalism is based on the existing variety of social functions inherent in different layers and strata. Social relations can develop and function only in conditions of division of labor. In this case, each social group is entrusted with the implementation of certain tasks that are important for the whole society. One part of human resources are directed to the production of material goods, the other is engaged in the creation of spiritual values. The need to control their activities results in the creation of the third layer. For society to exist safely and be viable, a proportional combination of the three components of human activity is necessary, while some of them turn out to be more important, while others are less significant. Thus, the hierarchy of functioning is expressed in the division into the corresponding classes and strata of the population.
The status explanation of social inequality is based on the actions and behavior of specific members of society. Each individual occupies a specific position in society and, therefore, has a certain status, so it can be assumed that social inequality is an inequality of statuses. To fulfill their role, a person needs to have the ability to do it and opportunities for self-realization, which will eventually allow them to occupy a certain position in society. Abilities usually include knowledge and skills acquired during the training of the profession, as well as personal inclinations and qualities that contribute to a successful career in the chosen field.
The author points out several reasons that increase the gap between the poor and the rich in the world. As the most significant of them, Carolina González highlights the inheritance (González). A rich heritage gives a good start, and if people allocate money wisely, they will retain their leadership in material terms and adulthood. Some people are born landless; others inherit a few acres, and still others thousands of acres. Some people’s parents die penniless or, even worse, die with debts, passing this burden on to their children. At the same time, other parents leave a huge will to their heirs. As long as there is an inheritance system, inequality will inevitably be perpetuated.
The system of private property also plays a role; in this system, a person can freely earn, save and own property for free. If there were no system of private property, people would lose all incentives to work and save. Property is the most important cause of income inequality (González). First, a person earns and acquires property, and perhaps passes it on to their children. After that, the property begins to bring them income. For this reason, the children of parents with a large amount of private property, earn more.
Next, the author mentions the difference in acquired skills. Natural or innate qualities are influenced by the environment. A child may be born smart, but if they are unlucky enough to get a proper education, hidden abilities remain undeveloped. On the other hand, a child with mediocre abilities with proper upbringing and training will be more than successful in life (González). Commercial education can increase a person’s efficiency and ability to earn a living. Thus, differences in personal performance are an important cause of income inequality. Moreover, one of the criteria that will lead to a gap between the children of rich and poor parents is the presence of profitable connections among wealthy people. The job a person gets is largely determined by their connections (González). Ordinary graduates from rich families manage to get profitable jobs thanks to profitable acquaintances. Brilliant graduates without useful contacts from poorer families have to settle for low-paid jobs.
All of the listed opportunities – a wealthy or well-known origin of a person, ownership of property and capital, belonging to influential political forces – are crucial. The essence of the economic point of view on the causes of social inequality is the uneven distribution of material goods between members of society. Their unequal attitude to property, which leads to the stratification of society into antagonistic classes, starts in childhood and steadily increases over the years.
González, Carolina. “30-Million ‘Word Gap’ Divides Rich and Poor Kids.” The Atlantic, 2015, Web.