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Graph depicting the working poverty vs. non-working poverty rates, distributed by country.
A higher percentage of the people living in poverty in the United States have jobs compared to other developed nations.

Poverty rates by age: 1959 to 2010

Line graph depicting poverty rates by age, 1959-2010.
While poverty rates among the elderly have fallen, an increasing number of children are living in poverty. (Graph courtesy of the U.S. Census Burea/Carmen DeNavas-Walt and Bernadette D. Proctor, Income and Poverty in the United States 2010)

Most developed countries such as the United States protect their citizens from absolute poverty by providing different levels of social services such as unemployment insurance, welfare, food assistance, and so on. They may also provide job training and retraining so that people can reenter the job market. In the past, the elderly were particularly vulnerable to falling into poverty after they stopped working; however, pensions, retirement plans, and Social Security were designed to help prevent this. A major concern in the United States is the rising number of young people growing up in poverty. Growing up poor can cut off access to the education and services people need to move out of poverty and into stable employment. As we saw, more education was often a key to stability, and those raised in poverty are the ones least able to find well-paying work, perpetuating a cycle.

There is great debate about how much support local, state, and federal governments should give to help the unemployed and underemployed. The decisions made on these issues will have a profound effect on working in the United States.

Summary

The job market in the United States is meant to be a meritocracy that creates social stratifications based on individual achievement. Economic forces, such as outsourcing and automation, are polarizing the workforce, with most job opportunities being either low-level, low-paying manual jobs or high-level, high-paying jobs based on abstract skills. Women's role in the workforce has increased, although women have not yet achieved full equality. Immigrants play an important role in the U.S. labor market. The changing economy has forced more people into poverty even if they are working. Welfare, Social Security, and other social programs exist to protect people from the worst effects of poverty.

Short answer

As polarization occurs in the U.S. job market, this will affect other social institutions. For example, if midlevel education won’t lead to employment, we could see polarization in educational levels as well. Use the sociological imagination to consider what social institutions may be impacted, and how.

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Do you believe we have a true meritocracy in the United States? Why, or why not?

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Further research

The role of women in the workplace is constantly changing. To learn more, check out (External Link)

The Employment Projections Program of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics looks at a ten-year projection for jobs and employment. To see some trends for the next decade, check out (External Link)

References

Autor, David. 2010. “The Polarization of Job Opportunities in the U.S. Labor Market Implications for Employment and Earnings.” MIT Department of Economics and National Bureau of Economic Research, April. Retrieved February 15, 2012 ( (External Link) ).

Batalova, Jeanne, and Aaron Terrazas. 2010. “Frequently Requested Statistics on Immigrants and Immigration in the United States.” Migration Policy Institute. Retrieved February 6, 2012 ( (External Link) ).

Brady, David, Andrew Fullerton, and Jennifer Moren Cross. 2010. “More Than Just Nickels and Dimes: A Cross-National Analysis of Working Poverty in Affluent Democracies.” Social Problems 57:559–585. Retrieved February 15, 2012 ( (External Link) ).

DeNavas-Walt, Carmen, and Bernadette D. Proctor. 2013. "Income and Poverty in the United States: 2013." U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved December 15, 2014. ( (External Link) ).

Hainmueller, Jens, and Michael J. Hiscox. 2010. “Attitudes Toward Highly Skilled and Low-Skilled Immigration: Evidence from a Survey Experiment.” American Political Science Review 104:61–84.

Holland, Laurence H.M. and David M. Ewalt. 2006. “Making Real Money in Virtual Worlds,” Forbes , August 7. Retrieved January 30, 2012 ( (External Link) ).

Kochhar, Rokesh. 2010. “After the Great Recession: Foreign Born Gain Jobs; Native Born Lose Jobs.” Pew Hispanic Center, October 29. Retrieved January 29, 2012 ( (External Link) ).

Lowell, Lindsay B., Julia Gelatt, and Jeanne Batalova. 2006. “Immigrants and Labor Force Trends: the Future, Past, and Present.” Migration Policy Institute Insight No. 17. Retrieved February 6, 2012 ( (External Link) ).

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2010. Occupational Outlook Handbook , 2006–2007 ed. Retrieved from February 15, 2012 ( www.bls.gov/oco ).

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2010. “Overview of the 2008-2018 Projections.” Occupational Outlook Handbook , 2010–2011 ed. Retrieved February 15, 2012 ( (External Link) ).

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2011. “A Profile of the Working Poor, 2009.” Retrieved January 25, 2012 ( www.bls.gov/cps/cpswp2009.pdf ).

U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2012. "Employment Projections–2010–20." U.S. Department of Labor. Retrieved December 15, 2014. ( (External Link) ).

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2013. "Occupational Employment Projections to 2022." Deoartment of Labor. Retrieved December 15, 2014. ( (External Link) ).

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2013. "Table 7: Employment by Summary Education and Training Assignment, 2012 and Projected 2022." United States Department of Labor. Retrieved December 15, 2014. ( (External Link) ).

U.S. Census Bureau. 2010. “Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States.” Retrieved February 15, 2012 ( (External Link) ).

Wang, Wendy and Kim Parker. 2011. “Women See Value and Benefit of College; Men Lag Behind on Both Fronts.” Pew Social and Demographic Trends, August 17. Retrieved January 30, 2012 ( (External Link) ).

Wheaton, Sarah. 2011. “Perry Repeats Socialist Charge Against Obama Policies.” New York Times , September 15. Retrieved January 30, 2012 ( (External Link) ).

Questions & Answers

What is d importance of d study sociology? Can someone help me please
onoja Reply
Can someone help me with the agents of social stratification
Martin Reply
power pristag wealth caste
Ismail
How is sociology different from other discipline?
onoja Reply
How is sociology different from other discipline?
onoja Reply
If Emmanuel Joseph sieyes was 1st to coin the term sociology in 1780 why den August comte is regarded as d founding father of sociology?
onoja Reply
coz he was the first who associate the study with humans. formal launch was by Comte only in 1838
manisha
credit goes to comte for invention of sociology. comte was bot satusfied with sys. of social events so he wanted to introduce new science which is away from spirituality philosophical thoughts n which study social events in scientific manner.
manisha
he wanted to name this new branch into physics but name was already taken by adolf for diff. subj then he changed it into sociology 1838 by joining two words greek n latin lang. socius n logos
manisha
herbert spencer also liked to choose sociology name. in this way sociology emerged. today we r studying.
manisha
Accepted d fact Dat he was 1st to associate d discipline with human.. Am convinced now.... Thanks Manisha
onoja
If I may ask,, how did comte relate sociology to human?
onoja
sociology is not study of humans but group of humans i.e society. comte only started the analytical study of patterns of human n social grps. diff organs of society. psychology is study if human.
manisha
Thanks
onoja
interesting manisha
yakubu
Social TheoryDelete Auguste ComteEarly Forefather (1798-1857) • Three Stages of Social Evolution • Social Physics • Positivism QUOTATION “Now, the existing disorder is abundantly accounted for by the existence, all at once, of three incompatible philosophies, -- the theological, the metaphysical
Hassan
Thumbs
onoja
How is d application of d science methodology possible in sociology?
onoja
why do we study sociology law as as a course
Babagana Reply
how does population affect the social and economy policy of a country
Emmanuel Reply
The socioeconomic policy of a country can be affected when there is high rate of fertility which give rise to population explosion which lead to poverty and then crime in such society.
Simon
I need more understanding about sociology.
Olausi Reply
The first social scientist to use the term sociology was a Frenchman by the name of Auguste Comte who lived from 1798-1857. As coined by Comte, the term sociology is a combination of two words. The first part of the term is a Latin, socius- that may variously mean society, association, togetherness
sekou
what is social contracts
Yusuf
more explain
Olausi
what make sociology a science?
Nanzing
sociology is a science because it uses science methodology in arriving at it's finding
ANIH
How does sociology apply this methodology in its findings? Need help
onoja
what is the medical sociology
Krish Reply
correct cronology of study method suggested by August comte?
Aida Reply
sociology is a scientific discipline, what make it a science?
Nanzing
we use scientific mathods with facts and real observations to study the society
Batch
what is the medical sociology
Krish
I think it the study of Medical organisation or institution, how they work, their Mathods etc
Batch
what is sociological imagination?
Hamanta
it's a kind of imagination by which we can divert our mind or take us away from daily life routine surrounding society
Batch
in sociological imag. we think outside the box. we relate our problem with other or society as a whole. in this way we come to know that its not us who facing this problm infact others too facing it.
manisha
we also think in terms of others also. we view others pt. of view too.
manisha
Manisha 👍👍
Batch
thanks for the explanation
Batch
what is sociological alienation
Batch
alienation is we feel isolated from society. we gets aloof from society.
manisha
and what are reason behind it ?
Batch
according to august comte wats sociology
Deme
can some one clearly defined Sociology for me
Justin Reply
study of groups n group intetactions, societies n social interactions from small n personal groups to very large groups.
manisha
study of society and interaction among peoples...
Neelma
can any1 help me ..how to calculate percentile in individual series ..?
Madiha Reply
but I suppose ,I think you have olredy completed ua exams in June session final yr.
rameez
mam,madiha, checking out various videos availble on youTube may easily help you to solve ua problem.regards.
rameez
thnkx rameez sir for ur suggestions
Madiha
what was main reason behind Emile Durkheim’s book division of labour?
Neelma Reply
he wanted to say that division of labour i.e differences of jobs dont create problem in society or it doesnt affect moral beliefs infact it creates dependency on each other n set as binding glue.
manisha
many theorist were blaming including comte that division of labour creates problem in society like it destroy moral beliefs but emile Durkheim neglected this fact. he said it makes society together rather than affecting moral beliefs or any destruction.
manisha
even i feel division of labor dont create problem. every person have diff. potential so work of each other will be diff. and it doesnt create any difficulty.
manisha
how difference of job dont creat problem manisha can u give me an example as i cam understand properly ?
Neelma
division of labor happens in production process. like in industry. production has many steps. so work is alloted by dividing the work. one into manufacturing n other into packaging. its also happens acc. to specialisation.
manisha
so it helps in fast n proper production. so its good to divide work rather than all work done by one person.
manisha
ohh now i got it means divide one task or project in group of people .. who work on that project .. ie one building make by group of Labour's..? im i right? manisha
Neelma
yes right neelma. division of work in group.
manisha
thnks manisha for clear my concept
Neelma
hi everyone.
Khalid
so simple, diff people have different specializations - abilities, skill's, taste's, capabilities, talents thus work accordingly. thus this specialization of task's /jobs create interpendece btwn them. Had been all these people having diff talent's or skills giving same task thus have created simply
rameez
right rameez.
Khalid
Hey all! I'm a sociologist from Cyprus. This is the first time I'm writhing here! I'm glad of being part of the conversation! 😀
Marios
hi Marios Orphandies
Khalid
hi. I'm very happy to be here I like sociology but idont have any concept about jobs if I . have finished my sociology which job i. will do and how is availability of job this field thanks
Hasan
mess / problems within the system. For eg. if cobbler or blacksmith is asked to treat a patient n prescribe sm medicine, or if doctor is asked to make shoe or play circket. will they do their work properly
rameez
The answer is no. Thus specialization of task's solves problems .
rameez
can any1 tell me how 2 calculate percentile in individual series ? what is formula for that ?
Madiha
um not sure Madiha, I think total sum of series in percentile divided by total no. of series.
rameez
you are so intelligent why don't you consult you book. Anyway thank. .......
rameez
s
rameez
not mentioned in my book...thats y
Madiha
oh sad na..but bt your book was typing error..I simply meant book....And yes if had been mentioned in ua book,you wouldn't have asked... so simple.. commonsense.
rameez
welcome always n Allah bless
rameez
cyprus is so beautiful i just checked out on google.
manisha
Google nice. Baramulla is also beautiful you know.
rameez
ok nature is always beautiful
manisha
beauty lies in the eye's of beholder. what i mean beauty of the nature doesn't mean anything if people are not.
rameez
am I right Manisha
rameez
and thank you so much, Manisha for being here ,for a while I thought buddy, it was Madiha talking abt Cyprus.
rameez
what cyprus ? rameez sir
Madiha
I meant it was you talking about Cyprus is so beautiful.
rameez
no.. manisha mam was talking abt that..
Madiha
i thought....// n nothing bye
rameez
yeah.
rameez
yes beauty lies in eyes. :)
manisha
philosophy talks also exist here with sociology in this app.
manisha
:)
manisha
barmulla is so beautiful.
manisha
yes Manushi Heart of paradise Kashmir.
rameez
it means according durkhim people should work according to their abilty ? but manisha is saying that people should work combiney on one project ?
Neelma
she doesn't mean nor she is saying and infact it's you brother who is talking or have included word project in ua statement.
rameez
and even if people are working on one project doesn't mean they are having diff abilities.Its also specialization of work. as per abilities
rameez
for eg many laborers working in construction of building also need few carpenters , few masions, few electrictions, and few other person's viz skilled in bathroom/water fittings , cutting of mirror's, few painters and so on. Hope you will get ua answer now.
rameez
yess thanku .. i got it :)
Neelma
itz ok brother. God bless
rameez
sister :) not brother ..
Neelma
sister.. proof get ua Xerox ready of ID, Adhaar card,ration card, Fcbk Id, wtsap,insta.telegram n so on.till provisionally accepted.
rameez
:)
Neelma
nothing to say brother ..
Neelma
Hello
Ahsan
Can anyone help me with the the answer, what are concepts given by Merton and explain them briefly....?
Dyuti
In own opinion what do sociologist say about working abroad?
Jerald Reply
i dont know abt sociologist. if someone is rich and can afford to move to other country then its his wish. moving to another country will surely be adventures. many Indians r there in abroad working n living there.
manisha
by the way where r u from?
manisha
Zambia
Julia
hi julia. m from india.
manisha
ok
Julia
Those it also mean that in the animal kingdom, their society is structured so as to suit the male lions of having the first share. and how do you explain the difference in behavior between the male and female dogs
Ofei Reply

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Source:  OpenStax, Introduction to sociology 2e. OpenStax CNX. Jan 20, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11762/1.6
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