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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 are the patterns of social interaction with regard to gender, religion and education
Norman Reply
what is cultural
nusrat Reply
culture is the way of life of a particular group of people
Philemon
culture is the backbone of society.
shahnam
culture consists of the beliefs' behaviour' objects' and other characteristics common to the members of particular group of society.
Zahid
culture is our way of life, customs ,traditions ,norms nd behavoiur
musharaf
can anyone explain what is socialogy as science in detail ?
Sydish Reply
sociology is a science because it adoptes and applies the scientific method . sociology does make a scientific method in the study of its subject matter.hence sociology is a science
Zahid
because its study the systematically about society
Akak
in secince we use tools such as thermometers telescopes microscope verniercliper etc similarly in sociology we tools interview questionare servey case study sampling etc so sociology is a science.
shahnam
scientific study of society is called sociology it involves scientific method, observation, hypothesis, experiments, and conclusions , this study produces theories and facts about society , that's why it is science
sohrab
is caste system dangerous in politics? how
Zahid Reply
In present days the main caused for winning the election,after that they influence in any field
Akak
by those activities a father will become enemy to his son hence we should control it
Zahid
is it possible that marriage some places is being done between man's
Zahid Reply
No it is not possible.
umar_king
yeah itz hpns
musharaf
but in western some places it is possible as I considered a book there shows
Zahid
dear friends how then there born babies plz help me
Zahid
mee toooo
musharaf
dear friends I just know that there doesn't born babies
Zahid
they dont bother about thier offsprings nd it hpns in very rare cases in western societies
musharaf
ya right
Zahid
what is mean by ID
Bk Reply
what is counter culture
Jalil
what are the importance of social science on health care
Philemon Reply
the social sciences can contribute to preventing and treating illness by pinpointing the env.settings nd social relationships
musharaf
child poverty in social influences
Hash Reply
Often associated to food insecurity, children living below the poverty line are at an increased risk for becoming both malnourished and overweight. This can highly affect a child’s confidence. Moreover, evidence suggests that many of the effects of poverty on children are often added to by their fam
manisha
India is battling poverty for nearly 60 years now. And, with the help of new policies that strive to empower and spread awareness about the fundamental rights of children, along with participation and activities initiated by CRY – Child Rights and You, the children of India are sure to see a better
manisha
Does sociology have to deal with only interaction and society
Glory Reply
no
Illiasu
no it touches every aspect of social system...
Gh
hmm. :-)
manisha
it deals with society also but as whole....
Gh
tells about drawbacks and government plans..and makes us focus on what can be done for improvement. like for. eg. in agricultural practices what farmers need to do for better crops.
manisha
yeh absolutely
Gh
according to Emile Durkheim sociology is study of social institutions also.....
Gh
and financial institutions also like commercial banks
manisha
hmm also study about market as a social institution....
Gh
world topics like globalisation modernization and different movements. government plans.
manisha
socilogy also study process such as..... sanskritisatoion ,westernization and modernization also
Gh
yes
MRM
YES
Anas
yeah
gerardo
how we will define status and role?
Saqib
maybe
gerardo
what are the effects of sociology to education
Ndubuisi
what is culture integration
Tariq Reply
define socialization
Ndubuisi
Socialization iz a process of learning.
Dr
Education for effective citizens and civic responsibility discuss
Ndubuisi
Thank you Dr Muzammil
Ndubuisi
nature of social work , please
Shabir Reply
what is an institution? with examples please
Mriganka Reply
what 8 sociocultural practices which are harmful to woman specific in Tanzania
GREEBY Reply
in some cases defiance cames with positive change in the society
Auwal Reply
how
Shabir
it happens, some time society may accept some believes which are astray, but lately you may found certain people defiated those believes, and subtituted them with right ones.
Auwal
what is culture
Israel Reply
culture is the our life ,belief value ,norm language customs
Shabir
way
Shabir

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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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