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Overview of social inequality

Social inequality means resources aren't shared equally. The U.S. shows this with wealth mostly held by the top 20%. Class, based on jobs and income, affects access to education and healthcare. Ethnic minorities, the poor, and women often face more inequality. This can lead to social exclusion and unrest. Solutions include government aid, improving access to services, and researching vulnerable groups. Created by Arshya Vahabzadeh.

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Video transcript

- [Voiceover] Okay, let's talk about social inequality. Now when we talk about social inequality, what we're saying is that the resources in a society are unevenly distributed. Now an excellent example of this is the wealth distribution in the United States, where the top 20% have 72% of the wealth of the country, and the bottom 20% only control about 3%. So as we can see, that's a great deal of inequality. When we think about social inequality, we often think about our society and how it's structured into different classes. One of the ways that we do this is by labeling society as containing the upper class, middle class and lower, or working class. And these class distinctions are often made on the basis of people's jobs or incomes. And one of the things that we know is that as you go up the social ladder, you often have better access to quality education, healthcare, and other services, such as housing or good nutrition. One of the other things that we can think about is that there are groups of the population that are really disproportionately affected by this social inequality. Minorities, for example, ethnic minorities, or racial minorities, tend to have greater degrees of inequality, as manifested by lower incomes, lower educational opportunities, and reduced access to healthcare. And the healthcare they do get is often substandard. In addition to racial and ethnic minorities, we should also consider that people who are very poor or are in poverty also face considerable barriers to obtaining the same healthcare, education, and other resources, such as housing, as other people. So really being an ethnic minority, racial minority, or being very poor puts you at a great social disadvantage. In some ways, gender does too. We know that being female carries with it certain disadvantages in regards social equality, in that females often experiences differences in terms of pay, known as the gender pay gap, where they may be paid less than their male peers. They may also experience the "glass ceiling effect," where they may be more poorly represented in higher positions, more powerful positions, within companies and other institutions, even public institutions. So gender is also an important consideration. So what happens when we have these high rates of social inequality? People may feel increasingly socially excluded. They may separate out, and live in segregated neighborhoods, and they may also feel politically disempowered. This potentially creates a combination of things, which can lead to civil unrest and also may tempt people into criminal activities. So what can we do about social inequality? Well, we can have a variety of government schemes to allow financial support or social support, such as Food Stamps, for individuals facing considerable hardship. We can try and identify and remove barriers to healthcare and education for people facing these considerable hardships. Additionally, we can carry out further research into these vulnerable populations, to help understand their needs and try and figure out suitable interventions, where we can make a difference into their lives and allow them to integrate better into society.