Sociology 212

Spring 2014

Akos Rona-Tas


Sociology 212                             Social Inequalities

Tuesdays 2:00-4:50pm  SSB 414

Office hours: TTh 11:00:-11:50

SSB 448

or by appointment

Phone: 534-4699



This survey course offers a broad introduction to theories and research in the field of social inequality. The course will cover classical and some of the contemporary theories of social stratification, and will critically explore various topics, including class, elites, poverty, social mobility, race, gender, social capital, consumer culture and globalization. With the exception of this last topic, we will focus primarily on contemporary American society.

For each week (except for the first one), you have to prepare a one-page memo about the assigned readings. You have to send the memo to me the day before we meet. The memo is not a paper or a review, but a set of questions, observations or comments on the readings.  Its purpose is to show that you read the texts and engaged with its content.

Each week some of you will have lead responsibility for the discussion. At the end of the quarter you will hand in a seminar paper. You will have to meet me during the third week of classes to discuss your paper topic. An advanced draft of the paper is due by the 8th week. The final version is due during finals week.

There is a textbook for this course Grusky, David B., ed. 2008. Social Stratification: Class, Race and Gender in Sociological Perspective, Third Edition. Boulder, CO: Westview Press [G], which is available at the UCSD Bookstore. This is an excellent collection of articles and includes many of the greatest hits in the field, but the texts are edited for brevity. In most cases, when the excerpts are from book length texts, you will have to at least browse the entire book to understand the place of the extract in the larger argument. There are some other books as well. I put all those books on reserve at the Geisel library. My suggestion is that you start with the G chapter and then read the book. For articles in G, I recommend that you look up the original after you read the abbreviated version.

Some of the readings are not in the reader but are available on line. Those with the On-Line (OL) and JSTOR designation you can find through the electronic collection of the Library. Some of the classic texts can be downloaded from dedicated URLs. DE (Digital Excerpt) means that the part of the book on reserve is also available electronically.


At the bottom I included a few useful links.


Week 1. "The Great Debate"


Davis, Kingsley and Wilbert E. Moore. "Some Principles of Stratification" (G, ch. 2).

Tumin, Melvin M. "Some Principles of Stratification: A Critical Analysis" (G, ch. 4).



Herrnstein, Richard J. and Charles Murray, Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life. (Book on Reserve)

Fischer, Claude S., et al. Inequality by Design Cracking the Bell Curve Myth. (A short version is in G, ch. 5, book on Reserve))


Krueger, Alan B. "Inequality: Too Much of a Good Thing" (G, ch. 6)



Week 2. The Evolution of Stratification Systems


General Theories

Kerr, Clark, et al. "Industrialism and Industrial Man" (G, ch. 100).

Bell, Daniel. "The Coming of Post Industrial Society" (G, ch. 101, book on Reserve).

Braverman, Harry. 1974. Labor and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work in the 20th Century. New York: Monthly Review Press. Chapter 20 (DE book on Reserve).

Erikson, Robert and John Goldthorpe. "Trends in Class Mobility" (G, pp. 437-41 and 456-59 only).

Meyer, John. "The Evolution of Modern Stratification Systems" (G, ch. 105).

Kenworthy, Lane. 2004. Egalitarian Capitalism: Jobs, Incomes, and Growth in Affluent Countries. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, Chapter 4 (DE book on Reserve).


United States

Morris, Martina and Bruce Western. "Inequality in Earnings: Trends and Implications" (G, ch. 7).

Piketty, Thomas and Emmanuel Saez. "The Evolution of Top Incomes: A Historical and International Perspective" (G, ch. 8).

Blank, Rebecca M. 2011. Changing Inequality. University of California Press (book on Reserve ).

Krugman, Paul. 2007. The Conscience of a Liberal. W. W. Norton: New York  (DE book on Reserve)

Wilkinson, Will. 2009. Thinking Clearly about Economic Inequality. Policy Analysis

Norton, Michael I. and Dan Ariely. 2011. Building a Better America -- One Wealth Quintile at a Time. Perspectives on Psychological Science 6: 9

Stiglitz, Joseph E. 2012. The Price of Inequality. How Today's Divided Society Endangers Our Future. W.W. Norton et Co.: New York (book on Reserve ).

Bartels, Larry M. 2008. Unequal Democracy. The Poltical Economy of the New Guilded Age. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press (book on Reserve ).

Noah, Timothy. 2010. The Great Divergence. An excellent article on income inequalities in the US by Slate Magazine with links to important scholarly articles and great visuals

Week 3. The Conceptualization of Stratification Systems

Ossowski, Stanislaw, Class Structure in the Social Consciousness (Chapters I through IV)

Karl Marx and the Marxists

Marx, Karl. "Alienation and Social Classes"; "Classes in Capitalism and Pre-Capitalism"; "Ideology and Class" (G, ch. 9).

            The entire text from which these excerpts are can be found at the following web sites:

Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts 1848  (this translation uses the word "estrangement" for "alienation")

The Holy Family  (the excerpt in G is from Chapter 4 in the section on Proudhon.)

The Manifesto of the Communist Party (or Communist Manifesto)

The Poverty of Philosophy (the excerpt in G is from Chapter 2 Part 5.)

The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (the excerpt in G is from Chapter VII.)

Capital Volume III (the excerpt in G is from Ch. 52.)

The German Ideology (the excerpt in G is from Part I section B.)

Wright, Erik Olin. "A General Framework for the Analysis of Class Structure" (G, ch. 11)

Wallerstein, Immanuel. "Class Conflict in the Capitalist World Economy" (G, ch. 12).

So, Alvin Y. 1991. Class Struggle Analysis: A Critique of Class Structure Analysis. Sociological Perspectives (JSTOR)

Weber and the Weberians

Weber, Max. "Class, Status, Party"; "Status Groups and Classes"; "Open and Closed Relationships" (G, ch. 13).  All these texts are included in Economy and Society (on Reserve).

Parkin, Frank. "Marxism and Class Theory: A Bourgeois Critique" (G, ch. 15).


Durkheim and the Durkheimians

Durkheim, Emile: "The Division of Labor in Society" (G, ch. 16  book on Reserve).

Grusky, David and Jesper Sørensen. "Are There Big Social Classes?" (G, ch. 17).

Weeden, Kim A. and David B. Grusky. 2012. "The Three Worlds of Inequality" American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 117, No. 6, pp. 1723-1785 (JSTOR)

Bourdieu's synthesis

Bourdieu, Pierre. The Forms of Capital. Pp. 280-291 in  Nicole Woolsey Biggart ed. Readings in Economic Sociology. Oxford: Blackwell. (OL) 

Gradational Status Groupings

Blau, Peter and Otis Dudley Duncan. "Measuring the Status of Occupations"  in The American Occupational Structure (G, ch. 19 book on Reserve).

Treiman, Donald. "Occupational Prestige in Comparative Perspective" (G, ch. 20).

Goldthorpe, John and Keith Hope. "Occupational Grading and Occupational Prestige" (G, ch. 21).


Week 4.  Status Attainment,  Social Mobility and Class Reproduction


Blau, Peter and Otis Dudley Duncan. "The Process of Stratification" (G, ch. 50).

Sewell, William, Archibald Haller and Alejandro Portes. "The Educational and Early Occupational Attainment Process" (G, ch. 53).

Colclough, Glenna and Patrick M. Horan. 1983. "The Status Attainment Paradigm: An Application of a Kuhnian Perspective." The Sociological Quarterly, Vol. 24, No. 1, pp. 25-42 (JSTOR)

Beller, Emily and Michael Hout, Intergenerational Social Mobility: The United States in Comparative Perspective. The Future of Children, Vol. 16, No. 2, Opportunity in America (Fall, 2006), pp. 19-36 (JSTOR)

Torche, Florencia. 2011. Is a College Degree Still the Great Equalizer? Intergenerational Mobility across Levels of Schooling in the United States. American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 117, No. 3, pp. 763-807 (JSTOR)

Jonsson, Jan O., David B. Grusky, Matthew Di Carlo, Reinhard Pollak, and Mary C. Brinton. 2009. Microclass Mobility: Social Reproduction in Four Countries. American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 114, No. 4, pp. 977-1036

Gerber Theodore P. and Sin Yi Cheung. 2008. "Horizontal Stratification in Postsecondary Education: Forms, Explanations, and Implications." Annual Review Sociology 34:299–318 (JSTOR)

DiPrete, Thomas A. and Gregory M. Eirich. 2006. "Cumulative Advantage as a Mechanism for Inequality: A Review of Theoretical and Empirical Developments." Annual Review of Sociology, Vol. 32 , pp. 271-297(JSTOR)


MacLeod, Jay. "Ain't No Makin' It: Leveled Aspirations in a Low-Income Neighborhood" (G, ch. 54).

Lareau, Annette. "Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life" (G, ch. 97).

Bourdieu, Pierre. 2006 [1973]. "Cultural Reproduction and Social Reproduction." Pp. 257-71 in David B. Grusky & Szonja Szelényi, eds. Inequality: Classic Readings in Race, Class, and Gender. Boulder: Westview (DE book on Reserve).


Week 5. Extremes


Mills, C. Wright. "The Power Elite" (G, ch. 29 book on Reserve).

Domhoff, G. William. "Who Rules America? Power and Politics" (G, ch. 31).

Brooks, David " Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There." (G, ch. 33).

Keister, Lisa. 2005. Getting Rich: America's New Rich and How They Got That Way. New York: Cambridge University Press, pp. 245-49 (DE book on Reserv).

Bebchuk, Lucian A.  Alma Cohen, and Holger Spamann.2009. The Wages of Failure: Executive Compensation at Bear Stearns and Lehman 2000-2008,

Young, Cristobal and Charles Varner. 2011. Millionaire Migration and State Taxation of Top Incomes: Evidence from a Natural Experiment. National Tax Journal, 64(2/1), pages 255-284

The Poor

Ehrenreich, Barbara. "Nickel-and-Dimed: On (not) Getting by in America" (G, ch. 35 book on Reserve).

Smeeding, Timothy. "Poverty, Work, and Policy: The United States in Comparative Perspective" (G, ch. 36).

Wilson, William Julius. "Jobless Poverty: A New Form of Social Dislocation in the Inner-City Ghetto" (G, ch. 37).

Hays, Sharon. "Flat Broke with Children: Women in the Age of Welfare Reform" (G, ch. 44).

Berkman, Lisa F. 2004. "The Health Divide." Contexts 3/4:38-43 (OL).

Block, Fred, et al. 2006. "The Compassion Gap in American Poverty Policy." Contexts 5:14-20 (OL).

Venkatesh, Sudhir A. 2006.  Off the Books : the Underground Economy of the Urban Poor. Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press (book on Reserve ).




Link to Part 1 of Park Avenue - Money, Power and the American Dream, a BBC documentary on Youtube in four parts (you can find the other three parts next to it)


Link to Born Rich a documentary on the very rich by the heir to the Johnson fortune (free but low resolution)


A very funny and not altogether incorrect explanation of the subprime mortgage crisis by the British comedy duo Bird & Fortune


Pathways. A magazine on poverty, inequality, and social policy


Week 6.   Race and Ethnicity

 Descriptive and Historical Accounts

Blauner, Bob. 2001. Still the Big News: Racial Oppression in America. Philadelphia, PA: Temple, Chapter 5 (DE and book on Reserve).

Du Bois, W.E.B. The Problem of the Twentieth Century is the Problem of the Color Line." Pp. 216-21 in Shapiro, ed. Great Divides: Readings in Social Inequality in the United States, Second Edition. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Press (DE book on Reserve).

Fischer, Claude S. and Michael Hout, with Aliya Saperstein. 2006. Century of Difference: How America Changed in the Last One Hundred Years, Chapter 3. (DE book on Reserve).

Oliver, Melvin L. and Thomas Shapiro. "Black Wealth/White Wealth: A New Perspective on Racial Inequality" (G, ch 75).

Associated Press. 2005. "Blacks Likely Breath Most Unhealthy Air." December 14 (OL).

Bonacich, Edna & Richard P. Appelbaum. 2006 [2000]. "Behind the Label: The Return of the Sweatshop." Pp. 284-98 in Amy S. Wharton, ed. Working in America, 3rd Edition. Boston: McGraw Hill (DE book on Reserve).


What is Race/Ethnicity?

Omi, Michael and Howard Winant. 2007 [1994]. "Racial Formation in the United States: From the 1960s to the 1990s." Pp. 197-202 in David B. Grusky and Szonja Szelényi, eds. The Inequality Reader: Contemporary and Foundational Readings in Race, Class, and Gender. Boulder, CO: Westview Press (DE book on Reserve).

Farley, Reynolds. "Racial Identities in 2000: The Response to the Multiple-Race Response Option" (G, ch 65).

Portes, Alejandro and Min Zhou. "The New Second Generation: Segmented Assimilation and Its Variants" (G, ch 68).

Waters, Mary C. "Black Identities: West Indian Immigrant Dreams and American Realities" (G, ch 69).

Gans, Herbert J. 2005. "Race as Class." Contexts 4:17-21 (OL).

Bell, Joyce M. and Douglas Hartmann. 2007. "Diversity in Everyday Discourse: The Cultural Ambiguities and Consequences of ‘Happy Talk'" American Sociological Review 72:895-914 (JSTOR).

Fox, Cybelle and Thomas A. Guglielmo. 2012. "Defining America’s Racial Boundaries: Blacks, Mexicans, and European Immigrants, 1890–1945." American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 118, No. 2 , pp. 327-379 (JSTOR)


Explaining African American Poverty

Lewis, Oscar. 1968. "The Culture of Poverty." Pp. 187-200 in Daniel P. Moynihan, ed. On Understanding Poverty: Perspectives from the Social Sciences." New York: Basic (DE book on Reserve).

Farkas, George. 2004. "The Black-White Test Score Gap." Contexts 3:12-19 (OL).

Bertrand, Marianne and Sendhil Mullainathan. "Are Emily and Greg More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal?" A Field Experiment on Labor Market Discrimination" (G, ch. 70).

Steele, Claude. "Stereotype Threat and African-American Student Achievement" (G, ch. 71).

Wilson, William Julius. "The Declining Significance of Race: Blacks and Changing American Institutions" (G, ch 73).

Feagin, Joe. "The Continuing Significance of Race: Antiblack Discrimination in Public Places" (G, ch. 74).

Wilson, William Julius and Richard Taub. "There Goes the Neighborhood: Race, Ethnic, and Class Tensions in Four Chicago Neighborhoods and Their Meaning in America" (G, ch. 76).

Massey, Douglas S. and Nancy A. Denton. 1993. American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, chapter 1 (DE and book on Reserve).

Loury, Glenn. 2002. The Anatomy of Racial Inequality. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, pp. 73-91 (DE and book on Reserve).


Week 7. Gender

Descriptive and Historical Accounts

Hochschild, Arlie. "The Time Bind: When Work Becomes Home and Home Becomes Work" (G, ch. 77).

Belkin, Lisa. "The Opt-Out Revolution" (G, ch. 78).

Boushey, Heather. "Is the Opt-Out Hypothesis Convincing?" (G, ch. 79).

Petersen, Trond and Laurie Morgan. "The Within-Job Gender Wage Gap" (G, ch. 88).

England, Paula. "Devaluation and the Pay of Comparable Male and Female Occupations." (G, ch. 89).

Connell, R.W. 1998. "Masculinities and Globalization." Men and Masculinities 1:3-23. (OL)

What is Gender?

Baron-Cohen. 2003. The Essential Difference: The Truth About the Male and Female Brain. New York: Basic Books, Chapter 6 (DE).

Risman, Barbara J. 2004. "Gender as a Social Structure: Theory Wrestling with Activism." Gender & Society 18:429-50 (OL).

Chodorow, Nancy. 1978. The Reproduction of Motherhood: Psychoanalysis and the Sociology of Gender. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1978, pp. 3-7, 92-95, 108-110 (DE book on Reserve).

Epstein, Cynthia Fuchs. 1999. "Similarity and Difference: The Sociology of Gender Distinctions." Pp. 45-61 in Chafetz, ed. Handbook of the Sociology of Gender. New York: Kluwer, 1999 (DE book on Reserve).

Baca Zinn, Maxine and Bonnie Thornton Dill. 1996. "Theorizing Difference from Multiracial Feminism." Feminist Studies 22: 321-31 (OL).

West, Candace and Don H. Zimmerman. "Doing Gender." In Sarah Fenstermaker and Candace West, eds. 2002. Doing Gender, Doing Difference: Inequality, Power, and Institutional Change. New York: Routledge, Chapter 1 (DE book on Reserve).

Bordo, Susan. 1990. "Feminism, Postmodernism, and Gender-Scepticism." Pp. 133-56 in Linda J. Nicholson, ed. Feminism/Postmodernism. New York: Routledge (DE book on Reserve).

Explaining Sex Segregation

Jacobs, Jerry A. "Revolving Doors: Sex Segregation and Women's Careers" (G, ch. 85).

Jackson, Robert Max. 1998. Destined for Equality: The Inevitable Rise of Women's Status. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, Chapter 7 (DE).

Charles, Maria and David B. Grusky. 2004. Occupational Ghettos: The Worldwide Segregation of Women and Men, Stanford University Press, pp. 3-31, and 297-317 (DE book on Reserve).

Cotter,David , Joan M. Hermsen, and Reeve Vanneman. 2011.   The End of the Gender Revolution? Gender Role Attitudes from 1977 to 2008. American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 117, No. 1, pp. 259-289 (JSTOR)

A link to a debate on whether men are finished: an entertaining discussion on the changing face of gender inequality in the US.

(You can also get this debate and other IQ2 debates as a free podcast.)


Week 8.  Stratification, Social Capital and Social Networks


Granovetter, Mark. "The Strength of Weak Ties." (G, ch. 59).

Burt, Ronald S. "Structural Holes." (G, ch. 61 and the book on Reserve).

Roberto M. Fernandez and Isabel Fernandez-Mateo, "Networks, Race, and Hiring   (G, ch. 62)

Nan Lin, Nan. 1999. "Social Networks and Status Attainment."  Annual Review of Sociology, Vol. 25, pp. 467-487 (JSTOR)

Smith, Sandra S. 2000. "Mobilizing Social Resources: Race, Ethnic, and Gender Differences in Social Capital and Persisting Wage Inequalities Author(s): Source: The Sociological Quarterly, Vol. 41, No. 4, pp. 509-537 (JSTOR)

Mouw, Ted. 2003. "Social Capital and Finding a Job: Do Contacts Matter?" ASR, Vol. 68, No. 6, pp. 868-898 (JSTOR)

Kim, Doo Hwan and Barbara Schneider. 2005.  "Social Capital in Action: Alignment of Parental Support in Adolescents Transition to Postsecondary Education."  Social Forces, Vol. 84, No. 2, pp. 1181-1206 (JSTOR)

Portes, Alejandro. 1998. Social Capital: Its Origins and Applications in Modern Sociology. Annual Review of Sociology, 24:1-24.  (JSTOR)

Putnam, Robert. 2001. Bowling Alone. The Collapse and Revival of American Community. Simon and Shuster: New York (book on Reserve).

Marmaros, David and Bruce Sacerdote. Peer and Social Networks in Job Search. European Economic Review, Vol. 46., Issues 4-5, pages 870-879

Desmond, Matthew. 2012. Disposable Ties and the Urban Poor. American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 117, No. 5 pp. 1295-1335 (JSTOR)

DiMaggio, Paul and Filiz Garip. 2011. How Network Externalities Can Exacerbate Intergroup Inequality. American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 116, No. 6, pp. 1887-1933 (JSTOR)


Week 9.  Stratification and the Culture of Consumption


Marx, Karl, Capital, Chapter 1 Section 4 on Commodity Fetishism,  on line at

Veblen,  Thorstein,  Theory of the Leisure Class  (G, ch. 82). The whole book is available on line at 


Bourdieu, Pierre. "Distinction." (G, ch. 93).

Paul DiMaggio, and Toqir Mukhtar. 2004. Arts participation as cultural capital in the United States, 1982–2002: Signs of decline?  Poetics  Volume 32, Issue 2, pages 169-194 (OL)

Johnston, Josée and Shyon Baumann. 2007.  Democracy versus Distinction: A Study of Omnivorousness in Gourmet Food Writing AJS, Vol. 113, No. 1, pp. 165-204 (JSTOR)

Schor, Juliet. 1999. The New Politics of Consumption Debate in the Boston Review, Summer 1999, pp.1-26.

Manning, Robert D. "Where Ace is not Hardware Store: Fringe Banking and the Expansion of Second Tier Financial Services" Pp. 195-225 Ch 7 in Robert D. Manning, Credit Card Nation; The Consequences of America's Addiction of Credit. Basic Books: New York (DE  and book on Reserve)

Williams, Richard,  Reynold Nesiba and Eileen Diaz Mcconnell "The Changing Face of Inequality in Home Mortgage Lending" Social Problems, Vol. 52, No. 2 (May, 2005), pp. 181-208  (JSTOR)

Sullivan, Teresa. 2009. "Consumer Indebtedness and the Withering of the American Dream." Pathways Winter 

Frank, Robert H. 2007. Falling Behind. How Rising Inequality Harms the Middle Class. University of California Press: Berkeley  (on Reserve)

Schor, Juliet,  The overspent American : upscaling, downshifting, and the new consumer New York, NY : Basic Books, c1998.( book on Reserve)

Rajan, Raghuram G. 2010. Fault Lines. How Hidden Fractures Still Threaten the World Economy. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, Introduction and Chapters 1 and 4. ( book on Reserve)

Johnson, Simon. 2011. Did the Poor Cause the Crisis? Project-Syndicate


Week 10. Global Inequalities


Firebaugh, Glenn, "The Trend in Between-Nation Income Inequality." Annual Review of Sociology, Vol. 26, (2000), pp. 323-339 (JSTOR)

Clark, Rob. 2011. World Income Inequality in the Global Era: New Estimates, 1990-2008. Social Problems, Vol. 58, No. 4, pp. 565-592 (JSTOR)

Stiglitz, Joseph. "Globalism's Discontent." (G, ch. 109)

Engel, Uwe and Hermann Strasser. 1998. "Global Risks and Social Inequality: Critical Remarks on the Risk-Society Hypothesis." The Canadian Journal of Sociology, Vol. 23, No. 1 , pp. 91-103 (JSTOR)

Beck, Ulrich and Christoph Lau. "Theoretical and Empirical Explorations in the ‘Meta-Change' of Modern Society. (G, ch. 108)

Beck, Ulrich. 1992. Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity. London: Sage .( book on Reserve)


Wilkinson, Richard and Kate Pickett. 2009. The Spirit Level. Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger. Bloomsbury Press: New York ( book on Reserve)



Miscellaneous Resources


The GAPMINDER, a web site with visual represenation of data on global inequalities


A link to The End of Poverty? a documentary on world poverty


Link to the Stanford Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequality


Link to the Poverty Action Lab at MIT dedicated to deploy Randomized Evaluation to study and alleviate poverty

Here is a short lecture by Esther Duflo of MIT's Poverty Action Lab explaining the Lab's approach


Link to Remapping the Debate that uses visual tools to demonstrate various aspects of social inequality