What is structural inequality?
Structural inequality in essence is an inherent bias within social structures that can provide some advantages to a select group of people within society while at the same time marginalizing others. This can be seen in instances related to racism, education, and discrimination wherein certain segments of the population are categorized and marginalized depending on the color of their skin and their particular race. For example, the recent law involving illegal immigration passed by Arizona has in effect created a form of discrimination against many Mexicans living within the country who are here legally.
The fact is structural inequality is one of the main reasons behind the continued limitation behind the school system and various careers wherein minorities are being discriminated against due to connotations involving their propensity towards illegal or criminal behavior. One example clear example where structural inequality promotes discrimination can be seen in the current U.S. school system and their use of tracking to segregate performers from nonperformers.
While on paper it can be seen as a viable way of providing the proper type of education where it is needed the most the fact remains that the tracking system has resulted in racial lines being drawn with white Americans normally being segregated into the upper tier of the tracking system while minorities are usually set in the lower tier system. While it may be true that some minorities do have difficulties in learning due to their origins the fact remains that such a system perpetuates the concept of societal inequality where it has come to be believed that white Americans are more predilected towards success while minorities are leaning towards marginal careers at best.
This is not only limited to the current school system in lower grades but also in higher education wherein the basis of college admission is the use of SAT scores as an indicator of talent in an individual. The one problem with using SAT scores as the main criteria for evaluating college admissions is that they fail to accurately represent the true value or abilities that a person possesses.
Take for example an individual who works to support his family, gets marginally good grades in school and average SAT results, it can be assumed that the average SAT results and the marginally good grades could be attributed to the fact that this individual has to work to support his family rather and as a result could not devote the same amount of time into studying. Most individuals would not be capable of balancing work, family obligations, and going to school yet here is a person that can do that.
Based on an examination of various applications of minorities to several colleges it has been shown that on average the SAT score of white Americans outclassed that of their minority counterparts yet this is not an indicator of superior talent but rather white students were given more opportunities to learn and develop as a result of their social advantage. This particular form of structural inequality denies the possibility of certain minorities from entering particular colleges resulting in not only a degree of inequality in lower education but in higher education as well.
Other forms of structural inequalities that can be seen take the form of community marginalization wherein particular types of races are concentrated in certain communities. What this cause is an imbalance in the distribution of wealth where the money is consistently isolated in white populations while minorities are made to stagnate in their respective income niches. Based on this the benefits of being able to think intersectionally can be seen in taking into consideration the different races, classes, and genders and look at them from a perspective examining the effects society has on them rather than their effects on society.
Advantages in lower and higher education and social Inequalities
What must first be understood is that all types of criminal behavior have some form of a trigger that causes itself to manifest in a person. No one is born a criminal or is inherently criminal, rather, attributes in the surrounding environment influence how a person acts which causes the criminal behavior to manifest in the first place (Farrington, 158). For example, various social scientists indicate that a person’s race is invariably connected to that person’s propensity or the possibility of being able to commit a crime (South & Messner, 88).
African Americans, Mexicans, and Latin Americans are three of the most identifiable demographics when it comes to identifying the origins of crime in certain parts of the U.S. Based on this, what I would like to point out is that there is an inherent connection between social inequalities and perpetuation of criminal behavior. The three most identifiable minorities in connection to a vast majority of crime in the country are also the three most identifiable minorities in connection to poverty, social inequality, and a distinct lack of education standing and achievement.
Data from various school districts around the U.S. reveals that communities composed of African Americans, Mexicans, and Latin Americans were among those that were predicted to perform the most poorly in terms of scholastic achievement while communities composed primarily of white Americans were predicted to perform at a much higher level. This is in part due to two factors: racial prejudice against the capabilities of minorities and class prejudice against a class with a lower income threshold.
While school districts may say they are not prejudiced the fact remains that the current system of segregation within schools wherein students at the same grade level are grouped into different blocks depending on aggregate skill is a form of discrimination since it encourages social class disparity. From a sociological perspective, this particular form of behavior encourages the creation of criminal tendencies in people since it reinforces the social idea that minorities cannot rise above what they currently are. Another way how sociological perspective helps to show how social inequalities create careers in criminality can be seen in various studies involving population structures and rates of crime (South & Messner, 88).
As can be seen in various inner-city neighborhoods in the L.A. area the population structure in several areas is geared towards low-income families and the concentration of minorities into a single area. It must be noted that the rate of crime in certain areas has been proven to go up depending on the income rate of the populations within it (Uggen, 535). As such areas with population structures geared towards low-income families and people create the possibility for criminal behaviors to occur as a result of desperation or distinct rate influence from people in the surrounding environment (Steffensmeier and Allan, 103).
Thus, the connection between race, culture, and population structures can be understood under the sociological context that since certain races and population demographics are considered to be more predilected towards criminal behavior they are not given the chance to rise above this distinction which causes it to manifest (Horney et al., 660). By viewing crimes from a sociological perspective researchers can begin to understand why certain criminal careers begin in the first place. By understanding the necessary triggers that cause criminal tendencies to occur certain degrees of sociological change can thus be enacted to prevent such behavior from happening again in the future.
Farrington, David. A criminological research agenda for the next millenium. (N.D.) 154-167.
Horney, Julie, et al. Criminal Careers in the Short Term Intra-Individual Variability in Crime and Its Relation to Local Life Circumstances. American Sociological Review 60.5 (1995): 655-673.
South, Scott, and Messner, Steven. Crime and Demography Multiple Linkages Reciprocal Relations. Annual Review of Sociology 26 (2000): 83-106.
Steffenmeier, Darell, and Allan, Emile. The effects of age-linked stratification and status attainment process on patterns of criminality across the life course. (N.D.): 96-115.
Uggen, Christopher. Work as a turning point in the life course of criminals a duration model of age employment and recidivism. American Sociological Review 65.5 (2000): 529-546.