Social class is very difficult to define as it is usually based on many factors of peoples’ lives. People within the class system are ranked hierarchically depending on their income, wealth, power, profession and life chances. The wealthiest people are at the top of the hierarchy and the unemployed are at the bottom. A common debate in Sociology is whether social class really matter and this essay is going to try and come to a final conclusion.
Inequality in education is a big disadvantage to being in one of the lower classes.
Working class and under class children have less opportunities within education and are therefore less likely to achieve in life. Someone in the middles and upper classes can afford to send their children to good private school and universities. Almost 70% of pupils accepted into British universities are from the top two classes whereas only 1% are from the unskilled manual class. It is argued that children from families who have less money than others are not able to make the most of their educational opportunities because they simply do not have the time and space at home to do their work.
Some families may not be able to afford school trips or educational materials such as books, computer and the internet, some school children have to also look after siblings and work part time to help support the rest of the family.
A lot of children from lower class families are not taught to respect adults and often have parents with limited educational backgrounds, so are more likely to misbehave at school and have an unenthusiastic attitude towards work.
Children from higher classes are almost always encouraged to try their best at school and there is a greater pressure to achieve as parents are usually very successful in their careers (as doctors or lawyers for example).
There is also an inequality in healthcare. It has been proven that people from Class 5 are two times more likely to contract a long standing illness than someone in Class 1, and are three times as likely to smoke. Those who live in the most affluent areas can expect to live eight years longer than those in the most deprived areas. These statistics are all due to this inequality. People from wealthier backgrounds can afford private healthcare and are better educated in issues such as the effects of drug taking, contraception, healthy diets and the importance of exercise.
People from higher classes play a wide range of sport and often go swimming, to the gym or play tennis which means they get more exercise than people from working class families who tend to spend more time sitting around the house. Working class adults tend to have extremely manual jobs, which eventually has adverse affects on the body, causing them to die at an earlier age than those in office jobs.
Many of these however are also due to an inequality in income. As previously mentioned, wealthier people can afford better healthcare, education and material things. Parents from Classes 1 and 2 can also afford to include their children a wide range of extra curricular activities, helping the child pick up many useful skills. Being from a higher class also has its advantages when it comes to material things. People from these classes live in large homes, with proper heating and can afford healthy food, making life a lot pleasanter and possibly many years longer. In 1988, 55% of adults in Classes D and E did not have a holiday compared with only 20% of people in Classes A and B.
So this shows that social class does matter because it affects a person’s life chances. Someone from the top two classes will have many more opportunities in life, and are much more likely to be successful in later life.
However there are also several points arguing that social class does not matter. Some people argue that the social classing system no longer exists in Britain, as there has been an enormous decline in the traditional working class, to the point that it is very difficult to distinguish it from the others. In the past the majority of people in Britain belonged to the working classes, as professions such as carpentry, iron masonry, and farriery were very common. Now these professions make up just a tiny part of the working world, with some of them no longer existing at all.
There have also been a number of changes within society. We now live in a post modern society which is a theory that suggests that universal phenomena such as social class have ceased to have any meaning in a world characterised by choice and diversity.
Therefore on the basis of “yes” outweighing “no” in the areas of inequality in education, healthcare and income, it seems that social class does matter as it significantly affects life chances. People in the higher classes can afford to send their children to good school and universities and in turn succeed in high paying jobs, which then helps them afford a better quality of life.
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