To what extent is the position of ethnic minorities explained by theories of the underclass Essay

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There are roughly three distinguished classes within the human societies: the upper class, the middle class and the working class. Nevertheless, sociologists add another dimension: the so-called ‘the underclass’, which recently has become a relatively popular phase. However, it is being placed at the bottom of the stratification system, considered as the lowest stratum which beneath the working class.One of the reasons for this can be accounted as the gradually increase in the number of ethnic minorities in the past and in contemporary societies in countries such as Britain and the United States, since the position of many immigrants are deemed as living under a hard situation and have a high rate of committing criminations. Therefore, ethnic minorities raise concerning to governments and many sociologists have drawn a set of theories to analysis this phenomenon, one of them is named: ‘the underclass’.

However, should we write an equation which ethnic minorities are equal to ‘the underclass’?Is every approach of the position of ethnic minorities be explained fully by theories of the underclass? In order to answer these questions, we need to first analysis what is ethnic minorities. The definition is slightly different from the one given to ‘race’, which is more rooted from biological aspect. For ethnic minorities here, it usually refers to culture dimension rather than physical one: language, religion, or nationality; nevertheless, it is seen as contains more culture factors, and this is perhaps the most crucial issue.People from one culture background is being seen in others’ eyes as ethnicity. However, in comparison, not all ‘ethnic’ or ‘minority’ groups are perceived as ‘ethnic minorities’ 1 For instance: White European immigrates.

So, which groups are ethnic minorities we are considering at the moment? Take the UK as an example: in the eighteenth century, Asian immigrates found work in the UK as soldiers and as sailors… By the nineteenth century a large population of black people ended up in England as slaves to become domestic servants.

People from Afro-Caribbean, India, Asia immigrated into Britain, experiencing certain culture barriers, which deter these ethnic minorities from joining into the host country. The British society responded predictably to the situation and placed tight control over black migrants, due to the images of them which are based on their black community as sources of social problem. The members of a minority group suffer various disadvantages at the hand of another group.These groups mainly make up the ethnic minorities and in respect of the disadvantages they occupied, all inevitably lead to a low position of ethnic minorities in the areas of: Employment in the labour market, * Crime * Education, * Health * Housing Poverty as the association cannot be neglected among ethnic minorities, therefore, combining with the poverty derived from the domestic land, the problems give a alarm to government in host countries, sociologists then took action by putting all the facts together and created the idea: ‘the underclass’.

Pick up the issue of theories of the underclass. Despite there has been a long time of debate, and it is still going on today, which is whether the underclass appears or not.Problems such as a high long-term unemployment rate, increase in criminations, poor housing conditions within inner city are all symptoms of associating people with the idea of ‘the underclass’. The whole idea of the underclass concerns about the deserving poor who were poor through no fault of themselves and show effort to get out the situation, and the undeserving poor, in other words, those who were feckless and thus poor because of their own situation but made no effort, or appeared to make no effort to get out of their situation. People migrated into a host country are considered to be relatively in a low status, they have less opportunities to move up and thus to one or another degree they are particularly likely to be found in the underclass. Many sociologists have came to their own view of this particular categorise.

First of all, The conception of the dual labour market given by Anthony Giddens explains it in more details: Jobs in the primary labour market require high skilled worker and are relatively highly paid compare with the jobs in the secondary labour market.It is more easily for white people to find a job in the primary labour market since they are better educated and have privileges in their own country, they are the host. In contrast, those who do not qualified for a high and stable paid job will drop through the net and became a member of the secondary labour market. Workers within this section mainly are in less important position and thus make up the underclass.

Women and ethnic minorities always have the disadvantages in the societies and therefore, it is said they are often likely to become the members of the underclass.Anthony Giddens then pointed out that ethnic minorities are also the victims of discrimination and prejudice. 4 Employers in the labour market recruit them to underclass jobs; they get the lowest paid occupations, or are in long term unemployed. However, another finding suggests drawbacks to this way of thinking. The self-employed rate-the ratio of the number self-employed to all paid and self-employed workers-is 14. 6% for non-Whites compared to 12.

3% for Whites. 5 Despite the fact that discrimination accounts for up to half of this difference, ethnic minorities are actively seeking a better way to live and want to get rid of the poverty.On balance, are they really entitled the name of ‘the underclass’? On the other hand, sociologist Wilson takes a structuralist approach argues that blacks and Hispanics living in inner-city areas to form an underclass because of forces beyond their control. Historical roots create barriers for them to escape from the ghetto. Even they are hard working and show efforts towards their lives, the problems however continue to make it difficult to get rid of their original images.Services sector increase but much of it required qualifications which ethnic minorities in the inner cities did not possess.

6 Education to some extent as the biggest gap lies between Whites and the non-Whites. Even some individuals in ethnic minority groups gained the ‘passport’ to a well-paid job, they then moved out of the city centre and live in the suburbs, behind the most disadvantaged. In many respects, it may indeed be true to say the underclass exists following a large scale and harmful changes in the labour market.However, in 1990, Wilson himself rejected his idea and by putting it differently, he called the people live in inner cities the ghetto poor instead of the underclass, since he realised the problems resulted more from impersonal economic forces rather than in respect of ethnic minorities’ culture background.

Unlike Wilson, another famous view comes from Charles Murray-an American sociologist-sees ‘the underclass’ as a culture problem.He identifies three phenomena that have turned out to be early warning signals in the US: illegitimacy, violent crime, and drop out from the labour force. In his view, the term ‘the underclass’ is not a synonym for poor or even for disadvantaged…

its distinguishing characteristics are social disorganisation. 8 Murray blames that an over-generous welfare system is the main cause of the three problems as a lack of incentives to work can be resulted. In the USA, there develops a black underclass which distinguished by its behaviour. Youth are withdrew from the labour market, their incentives have been moved due to the existence of the welfare state, as it is sometimes even better off if they claim benefits rather than physically earn salaries.

People from ethnicity groups always experience a worse life conditions and there are little opportunities provided for them than those for Whites. The disadvantages of ethnic minorities place them onto a low position in the labour market or in other areas. Ethnic minorities account for more than 20% of prisoners in jails in England and Wales. 9 A high crime rate as a result of high unemployment rate further consolidates ethnic minorities’ position being in the underclass.

Both British and American sociologists have suggested that ethnic minorities form an underclass. 10 However the underclass was not composed mainly of ethnic minorities.Murray’s explanation and solution are being rejected. One of them is the culture attitudes of the so-called ‘the underclass’.

The black family type given by Murrays sound racist. Are they has a bad influence on the lower working class and do more harm than good towards the society in general? The analysis which found the Black is less intelligent only interprets the idea from a biological determination but not due to their fault. What is more, if the idea of the underclass is problematic and all about people with an ethnic background, the same problem may apply to any other homogenous group.The definition given out is not to describe a static group; indeed, they are not a group which are necessarily criminals, or single parent families, or ethnic minority groups, they are just the same people as the rest of the population, with may be a different culture background and aspirations, and more distinguishable, little money to be able to share in the activities and possessions of everyday life with others. Therefore, people argue that there is in no sense to deem ethnic minorities as a particular group, ‘ a detached and isolated group cut off from the rest of society’.

To sum up, a number of different definitions of the underclass have been proposed, each giving a slightly different ‘map’. ‘The underclass’ said to be the lowest class, always associated with ethnic minorities and immigrates, as well as the long-term poor, unemployed and female single parents. Although ethnic minorities indeed may be the major part of the underclass due to its disadvantages we discussed in this essay, there are many other approaches which proved ethnic minorities to one or another degree are not belong to a underclass, not all members of ethnic groups are in disadvantaged positions.In many host countries such as Britain and the United States, by the given definition to the underclass, it then involves whites and blacks altogether. What is more, especially under the myth of the term ‘the underclass’ itself, do we really have an underclass nowadays? May be yes, but many others may argue against it. The position of ethnic minorities therefore cannot be explained by the theories of the underclass thoroughly.

Our understanding of ethnic minorities is likely to be advanced more by examining the activities of real people rather than by sophisticated attempts to redefine it in accordance with general class theories.

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