Chapter Eight Notes Sociological Concepts

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Chapter Eight Notes

Sociological Concepts

Racial Minorities in the United States

Racial Discrimination in the US

Sociological Theories on Racial Inequality

Sociological Perspectives

structural functional- for structural functionalists, the stratification between minorities and whites is simply a matter of assimilation. They also argue that the inability of certain racial groups to assimilate is due to their different cultural values. Structural functionalists point out that the process of assimilation is of value to society. the stability of society rests upon the developement and acceptance of a common culture.

social conflict- social conflict theorists would agree with structural functionalists that undesirable jobs are a necessary reality of society. They also agree that the less educated and unskilled perform these jobs. However they depart from the structural functionalists explanation of racial inequality. Social conflict theory suggest that it is not so much a matter of assimilation, but rather, one of power and subordination. The bottom line for social conflict theorists is that racial minorities were never meant to assimilate.

Only by examining prejudice and discrimination can we begin to understand the magnitude of the problem and what is required to resolve it.

African American: forcefully brought to this country. Slavery was reinforced through the Constitution. Many recognized slavery as a economic necessity also recognized it as an evil practice. 1865 slavery was abolished. 14th and 15th Amendments, guaranteeing respectively, citizenship and the right to vote, African Americans attempted to improve their lot politically. Prior 1900, more than 90% African Americans lived in South. Migration started in1920. Today just over half live in south. 1954Brown vs. Board Education in Topeka, Kansas”seperate educational facilities are inherently unequal”. Even today our communities are broken between racial lines.

Native Americans:

most overlooked minority. Scholars estimate, before Europeans arrived, 500 tribes, 40 million total. by 19th century number fell due to warfare, European disease, genocide, relocation and poverty, to about 250,000.. Today along with Eskimo's and Aleut's 2.5 million. 1880, Native Americans fate in hands of federal government. 1887, Congress attempt to destroy Indian Culture passed the General Allotment Act and with Indigenismo, singular goal of which total assimilation of Native Americans into white culture. 1934 it was abandoned by Indian Reorganization Act. Today34years of Indigenismo remains a bitter memory from Indians. Hispanic Americans:

group include Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, and others. 2000 census, Hispanic pop. increased 57.9% from 22.4million in 1990 to over 35 million in 2000, 3/4 live in South and West. Nearly half live in Cal. and Tex. other states high in pop. include NY, FL.,IL.,AR., and NJ.

Mexican Americans:

initially incorporated into US by expansionist military conquest beginning 1819, when Mexico granted permission to southern Anglo immigrants to settle in its northern region, now Texas. 1845, Mexico was forces half of its country to the US in Treaty of Guandalupe Hidalgo.Inspite of treaties and guarantees, Mexicans soon became victims of violence, tax Schemes, and border disputes. Mexicans represented cheap and exploitable source of labor and possessed a willingness to perform demeaning and dangerous work refused by other ethnic groups

Puerto Ricans:

territory of the US and American citizens. no barrier to immigration. Peurto Ricans are the poorest 44% living below the poverty line.


Close ties until Castro in 1959, declared Cuba a communist country. Last major migration in 1990 over 125,00 left the island. most Cubans are employed as clerical or semiskilled workers, most fall below poverty line.

Asian Americans:

Prior 1990, Asians accounted for less than 1.5% all people immigrated to US. Between 1990-2000, rose 31%

Chinese Americans:

1841182, Chinese immigration came to halt w/ the passage of the first Chinese Exclusion Act. Not till recently have immigration laws changed.105 per year to 65,000 in 1995 alone.

Japanese Americans:

WWII FDR signed Executive order 9066 all Japanese Americans were stripped of their citizenship rights and interned in relocation camps.

New Asian Americans:

Approximately 800,000 Americans of Korean descent.

financially better than most ethnic groups. Philipino Americans and India Americans.

White Ethnic Americans:

6 million Germans, 39 million Irish, 12 million Italians, 9 million Poles. Smaller numbers of Greeks, Russians, Slavs, Scandinavians, and other.

Income, Poverty, and Wealth:

Most visible measure of statue in the U.S. is income. Most widely talked about and easily understood comparison. Asian Americans have the highest family income of all racial groups. Their average family income is $64,238.

This is misleading because Asian Americans as a group, are better educated and work more hours. Also they tend to live in extended families, in which were they work, boosting their family income. In 2006, the average family income for whites was $52,423, African Americans and Hispanics it was $31,969 and $37,781. Again the figures can be misleading sine the majority of people living below poverty are white. Minorities are overrepresented in poverty statistics in relationship to their population. Government statistics for 2006 reveal that 9.8% of whites live below poverty line. African Americans and Hispanics it is 24.3% & 22.8%. Native Americans are the poorest ethic group in the U.S.. Another comparison of economic discrimination is wealth. Wealth refers not to income but to what one owns (property and capital).


For those without access to inherited wealth, the route to upward social mobility in the U.S. has historically been education. The correlation between educational attainment and income is very strong. Sociologist are interested in educational inequality or differing educational opportunities presented to different groups in our society. The elimination of de jure segregation and the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s. Racial minorities were able to make some gain. Expect Native Americans, Hispanics have the lowest levels of educational attainment. Statistics reveal that slightly over 40% of Hispanics between the ages of 25-44, have not graduated from high school. Current 2007 U.S. Department of Education statistics available indicate that approx. 90.6% of whites have completed a high school education in comparison to 82.8% of African Americans and 60.3% Hispanics. According to 2006 data, 58.2% of whites enrolled in college compared to 48.9% of African Americans and 45.3% of Hispanics.


Two factors that must be considered under this heading are unemployment and type of employment. In 2006, white unemployment was 5.3% while African Amricans was 12.6& & for Latinos was 7.5%. This statistic held true even for minorities with college degree.

One must examine the types of jobs different groups are capable of securing. Study after Study has demonstrated that racial minorities more so than whites find themselves into dead end jobs. Refer to Tabl 8.5 Occupation with the Highest Concentration by Race/Ethnicity/Sex on page 223.

The inability to obtain employment beyond a subsistence level forecloses on one’s ability to secure housing in a decent neighborhood. This in turn affects the quality of education one can provide their children, which in turn affects the ability of their children to obtain meaningful employment in the future.


In a capitalistic economy such as ours, health care is operated on a profit basis. It the comes as no surprise to find the distribution of health care in the U.S. is skewed in favor of the financially well-to-do.

The basic foundation of deficiency theories lies in genetics. Early theories postulated that whites were mentally superior to other racial groups and therefore their achievements and dominance were simply a matter of natural reflection(Social Darwinism: Herbert Spencer) Members of a group tend to select marriage partners from within their own group. This is called endogamy. IQ test are a suspect tool because they do not necessarily measure what is important to succeed, for example, motivation, work ethic, creativity, etc. A leading proponent of the bias theory was Gunnar Myrdal(1944) In his classic work,An American Dilemma, Myrdal carefully investigated racism in the United States and concluded that it was the result of prejudiced attitudes held by the white majority.Principle of comulation is when members of a minority group are denied access to the same opportunities in education, housing, employment etc.

Individual racism is overt and direct. Institutional racism is deeply embedded in the customs and operational practices of society.

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