Posted: June 22nd, 2022

week6

This last week of class
Part 1 asks to define terms, answer them in sociology manner (use class book attached)
part 2 answer in one paragraph of 5-6 sentences
part 3 has two parts, answer each part with one paragraph of 5-6 sentences
100200
ATTACHED FILE(S)
Sociology100
Part 1
Objectives:
1. Review key sociological terms and concepts
2. Collaborate to generate a final report of key sociological terms and concepts
Guidelines:
1. Define the following terms: (17 terms)

Structural-functional theory, Segregation, Conflict theory, Minority group, Symbolic interaction
theory, White privilege, Feminist theory, Audit study, Social facts, Sex, Social institution, Gender,
Sociological imagination, Gender stratification, Norms, Gendered institution

2. All definitions are accurate, clear, and proofread

Part 2
Guidelines:
What makes a good team? Provide two (2) characteristics or qualities of a good team, and relate at least
one example of how these characteristics led to a successful working team in your experience. Note that
group members should not overlap in characteristics or qualities.
Answer in one paragraph (i.e., five to six sentences)

Sociology 250
Part 3 involves two parts please do all of them
Guidelines:
Part 1:
Based on the content we reviewed from this week (see week 6 lecture file), discuss (in detail) ways we
can support others in our diverse community. That community can be local, state, regional, national,
global. Feel free to share things you have done in the past or seen others do. Your answer can include
descriptions of major social movements or events that have taken place as long as you make sure to tie
your answer to what YOU can do to be an ally for someone based on that example OR what from this
week’s content reminds you of or can be connected to your example.
Part 2:
Using content and discussion from this semester (you been doing my assignement so review those week
posts for part 3), identify a diversity research project you would be interested in conducting. Be sure to
identify if you are interested in doing a qualitative or quantitative study and why you would want to
conduct such a project and include specific concepts and terms from class. For example, if you want to
conduct studies on age, you might want to explore the impact of elderspeak on identity through qualitative
interviews, or if you are interested in exploring shared experiences and sense of identity based on
social/economic class, you might want to distribute a quantitative survey asking people their preferences,
familiarity, access to various services, amenities, and activities in their communities, as well as their
annual household income and other demographic questions. Perhaps you are interested in collecting
both – maybe you want to use data from your survey on access to resources in their community to
connect with people to conduct qualitative interviews about their experiences and opinions related to
access to resources. (For those of you interested in research later in life, the ideal would be to have the
qualitative and quantitative data speak to each other.).
Answer in one paragraph (i.e., five to six sentences)
Emory Bogardus and the Origins of the Social Distance Scale
Author(s): Colin Wark and John F. Galliher
Source: The American Sociologist , Dec., 2007, Vol. 38, No. 4 (Dec., 2007), pp. 383-395
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/27700519
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https://www.jstor.org/stable/27700519
Am Soc (2007) 38:383-395
DOI 10.1007/S12108-007-9023-9
Emory Bogardus and the Origins of the Social
Distance Scale
Colin Wark John F. Galliher
Published online: 4 December 2007
) Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2007
Abstract This article provides some history of sociology by focusing on the origins
of the Bogardus Social Distance Scale. The scale was developed by Emory Bogardus
in 1924 and is still widely used in measuring prejudice. It has been translated into
several languages, and used in many countries in measuring attitudes toward a variety
of groups. The authors use primary and secondary7 data, including an interview with
one of Bogardus’s colleagues, Thomas Lasswell, and the Bogardus archive at
the University of Southern California. American racial and ethnic conflict, and the
increasing scientific emphasis in sociology help explain the genesis of the scale. The
personal biography of Bogardus is examined along with trends in sociology during
his training at the University of Chicago and developments throughout American
society. This study shows how the social environment of Bogardus influenced his
personal life circumstances that help account for his creation of the scale.
Keywords Bogardus Social Distance Scale Sociology Social environment
Attitude scales
Introduction
This article provides some history of sociology as it responded to racial issues by
focusing on the origins of the Bogardus Social Distance Scale. According to Mills
(1959) the promise of the sociological imagination allows the investigator to link an
individual’s culture with both their personal life and professional career. Inves
tigators can switch their focus between these two levels and involves an
Thanks are due to a group that includes Thomas Lasswell, Jon Miller, Patricia Adolph, Susan Hikida,
Claude Zachaiy, Ruth Chananie, Ann Hunter, Margaret Johnson, James Aho, Donald Granberg, Steve
Kroll-Smith, and Nancy Turner Myers.
C. Wark J. F. Galliher (SI)
335 Middlebush Hall University of Missouri Columbia, Columbia, MO 65211-6100, USA
e-mail: galliherj@missouri.edu
? Springer
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384 Am Soc (2007) 38:383-395
understanding of the relationship between biography and history. This article uses
Mills’ idea of the sociological imagination to explain the attempt to present the
discipline as scientific, the early life experiences of Emory Bogardus, the culture in
which he lived and the creation of the Social Distance Scale.
Our analysis is based primarily on information from an interview with Thomas E.
Lasswell who was a friend and colleague of Bogardus, the autobiography of Bogardus
(1962), his personal correspondence and other materials written by Bogardus. Much
of the written material is found in the Emory Bogardus Papers at the University of
Southern California Archives. We also examine the 1920s at the University of
Chicago’s sociology department when Bogardus worked on his Ph.D. there, the
history of the city of Chicago, as well as other parts of the United States. This
analysis will help explain the increased interest in race relations in American society
and among American sociologists at the time that Bogardus was beginning his
academic career. The discipline was also trying to be scientific as opposed to what
Levine (1995:92) called “a vehicle for social reform and social work” or what Faris
(1967:3) called “moral philosophy.” Chicago professor William Ogbum was a
prominent proponent of the statistical method that was making headway at Chicago
and in sociology as a whole (Duncan 1964). We discuss Bogardus’s biography,
focusing primarily on the factors leading to the invention of the Social Distance
Scale and conclude with a discussion of the significance of this scale.
Ethnic Conflict and Immigration
At the time that Bogardus developed the Social Distance Scale conflict was caused
by a surge of non-Protestant immigration. Prior to 1880 the majority of people
immigrating to the United States were from Germany, Scandinavia, or the British
Isles. These immigrants are often called the “first wave” (Uschan 1999:27). The
“second wave” immigrants were mainly from Italy, Poland, Russia, Austria
Hungary, and other countries in Southern and Eastern Europe. The first wave
immigrants who were primarily Protestant rejected the second wave because they
imported “strange” languages, customs, and religions (Uschan 1999:27). The
majority of these newer European immigrants settled in the ever-expanding slum
areas of large industrial cities and joined others with similar racial or ethnic
backgrounds. People who lived in the slum areas in cities faced rampant disease and
terrible living conditions. Many “older” Americans wanted to stop this immigration.
At the beginning of the twentieth century many Asians emigrated from their
homelands to the West Coast where they faced severe discrimination. In 1905, for
example, San Francisco officials forced Japanese children to attend segregated
schools, stimulating further anti-Japanese prejudice in the area. Many Anglos wanted
to stop Japanese immigration or even deport all Japanese people, believing that the
influx of Japanese “picture brides” meant that the Japanese would reproduce and
eventually dominate the United States (Handlin 1972:268). In 1907-1908, President
Theodore Roosevelt made an informal “Gentlemen’s Agreement” with the Japanese
government in which he could prevent Japanese laborers from entering the country
and in return the U.S. government would refrain from labeling Japanese people as
inferior (Handlin 1972).
43 Springer
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Am Soc (2007) 38:383-395 385
This arrangement did not satisfy some on the West Coast. In 1913, soon after
Bogardus began his career at the USC, California passed an “alien land law” which
prohibited Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Asian Indian immigrants from purchasing
land or leasing it for more than 3 years (Chan 1991). At the same time several other
states enacted similar laws. In 1920, California passed a second law that totally
prevented Asian immigrants from leasing land. Finally, in 1922, the United States
Supreme Court ruled that Japanese people were “aliens ineligible to citizenship,” and
therefore did not have the right to become naturalized (Wilson and Hosokawa
1980:137). At the same time the Hearst Press became increasingly critical of
Japanese people in the United States. In addition to the Japanese, many other groups
also endured prejudice and discrimination. In California, for example, Filipinos were
classified as “Mongolians” and were therefore not allowed to marry Anglos (Handlin
1972:268). Moreover, Mexican immigrants were forced to live in segregated
neighborhoods and given only the most menial job opportunities.
Beginning in 1910 United States immigration personnel attempted to restrict
Indian nationals from entering the United States. In 1917, Congress created the
“Asiatic barred zone” which was a clause in the 1917 Immigration Act that enabled
immigration officials to stop their entry completely (Handlin 1972:268). In 1921, a
federal law limited immigration from non-Protestant countries by means of a quota
system. The quota limited the number of residents coming from each country “to 3%
of the foreign-born persons of that nationality found to be resident in the United
States in 1910” (Wilson and Hosokawa 1980:136). When the 1921 bill passed
immigration dropped by 50%. Nevertheless, some still complained about the influx
of immigrants from non-Protestant countries. Therefore, Congress passed a second
law in 1924 (the “National Origins Act”) that lowered the quota to 2% and based this
limit on figures from the 1890 census (Hanson 1999:59).
In addition to the other sources of hatred, World War I stimulated anti-German
sentiment. Efforts to eliminate German cultural influences were especially visible in
Chicago. In 1916, for example, the German Day Parade was cancelled. Moreover,
the Chicago City Council changed the names of many local streets that bore German
names. Although Bogardus was then living in Southern California, because he had
lived in Chicago for many years, these events were likely significant to him. And
during the 1910s and 1920s much of the criminal activity that occurred in the United
States was attributed to “alien radicals” (Hanson 1999:61). In the fall of 1919, for
example, an outbreak of bombings and bomb threats occurred. Although authorities
were unable to identify the perpetrators, many people believed that the crimes were a
result of “radical political activity by foreign agitators” (Hanson 1999:61). The
public became increasingly concerned with these events. In 1920, the United States
Attorney General directed a number of raids against people he labeled “dangerous
aliens” which resulted in the arrest of several thousand men in cities throughout the
United States (Hanson 1999:61).
Migration
In the 1910s and 1920s the northern industrial cities of the U. S. experienced an
influx of black Americans from the rural South. Chicago was no exception and
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386 Am Soc (2007) 38:383-395
during the 1910s Chicago’s black population doubled. At the same time black people
also began moving to western states, especially California. World War I had a major
influence in this mass migration. Because travel restrictions drastically cut European
immigration, employers could no longer rely on European immigrants as a cheap
source of labor. At the same time, many young wiiite men were forced to leave their
jobs for the military. The ensuing labor shortage led to higher wages (Uschan 1999).
Southern black sharecroppers typically earned S2 to $3 per week while northern
blacks were paid on average $2 to $2.50 per day.
Northern blacks also were given civil liberties that they were not allowed in the
South, including the right to vote and to send their children to school. Although they
did not face southern segregation laws, northern blacks were still not treated equal to
whites. They were forced to live in segregated neighborhoods in the slum areas of
the large industrial cities. During World War I more than 370,000 black people
served in the military, where they were also segregated. During the summer of 1919
several race riots broke out across the United States. The largest and most destructive
occurred in Chicago (Spinney 2000). The Chicago riot lasted 6 days and did not end
until the Illinois National Guard intervened. Although the event probably shocked
people across the country it may have been particularly troubling to Bogardus
because it occurred in the city where he had been educated.
During the riot 38 people were killed, 537 were injured, and more than 1,000
homes were demolished. The riot occurred when white people began to sense that
blacks were posing a significant threat in the competition for scarce resources,
especially jobs and housing. This caused a re-emergence of groups that terrorized
many people. One of the strongest of such groups was the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). At
one point the KKK claimed a membership of 4 million people in the United States.
A 1922 rally in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park attracted “twenty-five thousand
Klan members and sympathizers” (Spinney 2000:175). Much of this conflict
surrounding immigration and migration occurred at the time that Bogardus was
being educated. Both sociologists and the general public showed an increased
interest in race relations.
Sociology and Race
The original social science studies often focused on “racial mental capacities and a
related eugenics concern” (Faris 1967:68-69). When Bogardus entered the
profession there was little interest among sociologists in racism or racial conflict
(McKee 1993). At the beginning of the 20th century the flagship journal of the
profession was the American Journal of Sociology (AJS). It published only one
article per year on these issues. For this generation of sociologists racial conflict was
simply considered inevitable.
But perhaps as a result of the swirling ethnic and racial conflicts in the early
twentieth century several sociologists began to criticize the view that mental capacity
varied with race. For example, in 1918 Ellsworth Faris published an article that
disputed some of the widely accepted views on this subject. In 1908, the same year
that Bogardus began his graduate studies at the University of Chicago one of his
mentors, W. I. Thomas, convinced a “wealthy Chicago heiress” to donate S50,000 to
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Am Soc (2007) 38:383-395 387
study race relations (Collins and Makowsky 1978:184). This was the first major
American social science research grant. Thomas used the money to study Chicago’s
Polish immigrants. Although he originally planned to study other groups as well, his
desire for “empirical thoroughness” caused him to narrow his focus (Collins and
Makowsky 1978:184).
When Thomas began this study Polish-Americans were Chicago’s largest
immigrant minority. At the time local newspaper articles complained about “Polish
Crime” (Collins and Makowsky 1978:184). They described how Polish-Americans
presumably were prone to an “unpredictable outburst of violence” (Collins and
Makowsky 1978:184). The Polish Peasant in Europe and America (Thomas and
Znaniecki 1927) set out to criticize this stereotype. It was also the first major
American attempt to collect data on theoretical issues and signifies the beginning of
a concern with research methods. It convinced both Robert Park and Ernest Burgess
to continue studying this topic. Thomas played a role in stimulating the Park and
Miller (1921) study of acculturation in (? World Traits Transplanted . Burgess, on
the other hand, turned his attention to the life of Russian peasants (Faris 1967:107).
This developing concern with race and ethnicity was clearly found at the University
of Chicago when Bogardus was completing his Ph.D.
The Early Life and Education of Emory Bogardus
Bogardus was born in 1882 and completed his undergraduate education at
Northwestern, graduating in 1908 with a degree in psychology. During his first year
of graduate school at Northwestern Bogardus received a fellowship that required him
to live and work at the university’s settlement house. While living there he learned
about a variety of social problems including poverty, juvenile delinquency, and
alcoholism. He also met Professor Edward A. Ross of the University of Wisconsin
who stimulated his interest in sociology. Bogardus eventually considered pursuing a
career in sociology after Ross reported that it focused on “the underlying social
processes according to which people strive to live and to make life worth while”
(Bogardus 1962:44). But first Bogardus pursued psychology.
By the time he finished his bachelor’s degree, Bogardus had obtained a surplus of
academic credits. He was able to use his settlement house experience as the basis for
his master’s thesis on the psychology of adolescence. While preparing his thesis
Bogardus familiarized himself with research methods, learning how to accurately
and objectively gather, classify, and report data. And he learned how to be objective
when making inferences. He was awarded a master’s degree in psychology from
Northwestern in 1909.
During his first year of graduate school Bogardus determined that teaching might
be his best career option. He initially considered becoming a high school teacher,
both to try out the field of teaching and to save money for graduate school. Instead,
according to Thomas Lasswell, Bogardus took the advice of a friend and spoke to
Albion Small, head of the Department of Sociology at the University of Chicago
who urged him to apply for a scholarship. Bogardus was awarded the scholarship for
1 year and had it renewed the following year. This gave him enough money to
complete 2 years of doctoral study in sociology. It was then that he was introduced
5) Springer
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388 Am Soc (2007) 38:383-395
to the fundamentals of sociological theory. Small also made him aware of “‘the
ongoing of the social process,’ universal and powerful yet subject in some ways to
human direction” (Bogardus 1962:47).
In addition to Small, Bogardus took classes from W. I. Thomas (Bogardus
1962:48). The book of Thomas (1909) on Social ?gins was published the same
year that Bogardus began his doctoral studies. It may have been Thomas who
stimulated Bogardus’s interest in quantitatively measuring attitudes toward racial and
ethnic groups, having introduced the sociological concept of race prejudice in a
highly influential 1904 paper (McKee 1993). Thomas is also known for his work on
social attitudes as well as his prominent role in the attempt to create a scientific
sociology (Faris 1967). Chicago professor Robert Park also had a profound impact
on Bogardus. Park published numerous articles on race during the teens (Hughes et al.
1950) while Bogardus was studying at Chicago. And Bogardus (1928) repeatedly
cited Park’s work on race in his later book immigration and Race Attitudes.
Another factor that influenced the development of the Bogardus Social Distance
Scale was the nature of academic sociology. At the time that Bogardus was being
educated professional sociologists were trying to present their discipline to the academic
community as well as the general public as a form of scientific inquiry. To be sure, the
importance of scientific objectivity for social inquiry had been recognized since the
1880s when sociology first became an academic discipline. The goal was first
articulated by Auguste Comte, the person who coined the term “sociology.” In the late
nineteenth century American scholars followed suit adding to Comte ‘s aspiration a
desire to apply sociology to “human welfare and the survival of …civilization” (Faris
1967:3). However, unable to engage in “slow, calm, objective research,” these men
failed to establish a truly scientific image for sociology, leaving the task to the newly
established Department of Sociology at the University of Chicago (Faris 1967:6). The
Bogardus Social Distance Scale is one result of their efforts. It displays “the 1920s
craze for measurement” coupled with clear reformist values (Bannister 1987:10).
Entering Sociology
In the spring of 1911, Bogardus received his Ph.D. in sociology and had begun the
search for a college faculty position. At the time there were very few openings for
full time sociologists. Eventually, however, he was able to find one in South Dakota,
and another at USC. Although South Dakota was closer to Chicago, he accepted the
USC position because it “was in a more promising location from the standpoint of
both a growing community and a region of complicated social problems calling for
sociological research” (Bogardus 1962:51). Bogardus began at USC with an
appointment in the Department of Economics and Sociology. While he primarily
taught sociology courses, during his first semester he was assigned a course in
Money and Banking (Bogardus 1962). In 1915 he was asked to found the
Department of Sociology at USC and became its first chair, retaining this position
until 1946.
In 1916 Bogardus established and became the editor of America’s second
sociological journal, Sociological Monographs, which later became known as the
Journal of Applied Sociology (Lasswell 1973). In 1920 he was promoted to direct
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Am Soc (2007) 38:383-395 389
the USC Division of Social Work. It was then that he organized Alpha Kappa Delta, the
sociological honor society. In 1921 Bogardus established the USC School of Social
Work (USC archives). He did all this while publishing three books: Introduction to the
Social Sciences (Bogardus 1913), Essentials of Social Psychology (Bogardus 1918)
and Essentials of Americanwtion (Bogardus 1919). Bogardus published two more
books in 1922: Introduction to Sociology (Bogardus 1922a) and A Htory of Social
Thought (Bogardus 1922b), as well as many other later books. In 1931 he was elected
president of the American Sociological Association.
Bogardus became involved with a social settlement organization called the All
Nations Foundation of Los Angeles. It was founded in 1914 to serve immigrants in
the impoverished east-central section of the city. By “good fortune” the foundation
requested that he survey boys and the challenges they face (Bogardus 1962:58). The
subjects were not just from the poverty-stricken neighborhood in which All Nations
was functioning, but also included children from middle-class and upper-class
neighborhoods. The results were published in a Bogardus (1925) book about the
lives of boys in Los Angeles. Bogardus always had a great deal of appreciation for
ethnic and racial diversity. His w7ork for the All Nations Foundation reflects this, as
does his participation in the International Institute of Los Angeles. The Institute was
founded in 1914 to assist immigrants in adjusting to American society (Bogardus
1962). According to Lasswell a commitment to diversity is also indicated by the
number of early graduate students working with Bogardus who were from foreign
countries, especially those from Asia. Bogardus also had a strong interest in seeing
“women and minorities” enter the field of sociology, Lasswell claimed. Above all,
Bogardus was more than just an academic student of race relations; he also made an
effort to improve them.
In a letter to Episcopal Dean Dillard Robinson of the Trinity Cathedral in Newark
Bogardus wrote, “As a sociologist I learned long ago that the human race is one,
with similar problems and with a universal need for encouragement of many kinds”
(USC Bogardus Papers, November 16, 1970). As it happens, Dillard Robinson was
the first African-American Episcopal Dean in the United States. In another letter to
an unknown party Bogardus argued that people who cannot read or write should be
given the opportunity to obtain these skills, and that people of all races should have
at least some knowledge about their “civic and community responsibilities and
opportunities” (USC Bogardus Papers, October 12, 1965). In still another letter
Bogardus discussed his experience at a conference in Indianapolis: “We had a great
time in Indianapolis. The address on ‘Race Attitudes’ was given to the Inter-racial
Committee with about 100 present?half Negroes and half Whites” (USC Bogardus
Papers, April 19, 1932).
Scale is Born
Bogardus was introduced to the concept of social distance by Robert Park.
According to Park (1923:39) the concept refers to “an attempt to reduce to
something like measurable terms the grades and degrees of understanding and
intimacy which characterize personal and social relations generally.” It is “the degree
of intimacy and understanding” that exists between individuals or social groups
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390 Am Soc (2007) 38:383-395
(Hughes et al. 1950:88). Prejudice is in turn the “more or less instinctive and
spontaneous disposition to maintain social distances” from other groups (Park
1923:343).
Park got these ideas from Georg Simmel whose lectures he attended while in
graduate school in Berlin. This was the only formal instmction in sociology that
Park ever received. According to Hinkle (1994:284) “Park was Simmel’s champion
at the University of Chicago.” In fact, a textbook written by Park and Burgess (1921)
{Introduction to the Science of Sociology) contains more selections from Georg
Simmel than from any other author. One of these selections is titled “The Stranger.”
In this essay Simmel outlined the problematic aspects of group membership. The
stranger is a person who has come into contact with a racial or cultural group, but is
nevertheless excluded from membership. The stranger may not even be concerned
with obtaining membership. Simmel describes the stranger as being, in the words of
Park and Burgess, “the combination of the near and the far” (Park and Burgess 1921,
in Levine et al. 1976:836).
The stranger, Simmel writes, first appears as a trader, one who is not fixed in
space, yet settles for a time in the community?a “potential wanderer.” He unites in
his person the qualities of “nearness and remoteness, concern and indifference.”…
This conception of the stranger pictures him as one who is not intimately and
personally concerned with the social life about him (Levine et al. 1976:830).
Park believed that the concept of social distance as illustrated by Simmel in “The
Stranger” could be used to study race and ethnic relations. In his 1924 survey of
Japanese-Americans Park attempted to do just that. This was called the “Pacific Coast
Race Relations Survey” with Bogardus as its regional director (Bogardus 1959:Preface).
Park asked Bogardus to design a “quantitative indicator of social distance” (Harvey
1987:80). In 1924 Bogardus created the first edition of the Social Distance Scale, a
pioneering statistical measure in the field of race and ethnic relations (Faris 1967:108).
Bogardus was clearly concerned with racial issues before he invented the Social
Distance Scale. In his 1922 book, A Htory of Social Thought , Bogardus expressed
concern with what he referred to as “the race problem” which he acknowledged to be
one of the major social dilemmas confronting America (Owen et al. 1981:80).
Bogardus hoped that the Thomas social survey method could shed light on this
problem, and could potentially be used to propose solutions. In particular, he
believed that by combining Thomas’s social survey with “appropriate statistical
analyses,” scholars could cast “a flood of light” on here-to-fore hidden aspects of
society (Owen et al. 1981:80).
Some historians claim that the increased interest in race relations nationwide was
largely due to the influx of Asian immigrants in the far west (Levine et al.
1976:836). Indeed, in a document that discusses the Pacific Sociological Association
(University of Southern California Bogardus Archive, Los Angeles) that Bogardus
founded, one author argues that race relations’ interest “came to a climax in 1924 with
the passing of anti-Japanese legislation in California in that year” (USC Bogardus
Archives). What he is referring to is the 1924 Immigration Act that prohibited “aliens
ineligible to citizenship” from entering the United States (Chan 1991:55).
The Bogardus notes on file at the USC Archives show that he considered the
distinction between social distance and spatial distance. He noted that in rural areas
there is much more spatial distance between people compared to urban areas. On the
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Am Soc (2007) 38:383-395 391
other hand in urban areas there are typically greater class distinctions and thus more
social distance. In another note he drew four concentric circles undoubtedly based on
the concentric zone theory of crime and delinquency that was so prominent at the
University of Chicago. In the smallest circle there are “close relations” and next come
“friends.” The next even larger circle includes “acquaintances,” then “strangers” and
the largest circle includes “enemies.” While there is a certain logic to this Bogardus
drawing it does not provide a ready scale for mapping individual perceptions of social
distance. On another page he drew a triangle that he used to display “triangular
personal distance” between teachers, parents and pupils at each intersection of the
triangle. The triangle also provides no scale to measure personal perceptions.
In any case, with the help of faculty members from 25 universities and colleges
Bogardus administered the first Social Distance Scale survey in 1926 with race as the
focus of interest, and he subsequently used it every 10 years through 1966, with the
exception of 1936 when he was traveling abroad (Bogardus 1967:3). By using the same
survey instrument at regular intervals he was able to trace the evolution of America’s
experience with diversity and difference through four decades. This remains one of the
most celebrated historical social psychological tools in American intellectual history.
Uses of the Bogardus Social Distance Scale
The Bogardus Social Distance Scale is one of the oldest psychological attitude
scales. According to Campbell (1952:322) “only the Harper test of liberalism
conservatism is older among attitude tests that have been used beyond the research
in which they were originally presented.” The Bogardus Social Distance Scale is still
a commonly used method of measuring prejudice. Published research using the scale
has appeared in professional journals and conference papers as recently as 2006 (See
for example: Doell 2006; Morgan 2006; Sakuragi 2006). Additionally, Schaefer
(1987:30) claims that the Social Distance Scale is “so widely used…that it is
frequently referred to as the Bogardus scale.” Newcomb (1950:164) refers to the
Bogardus Social Distance Scale as “one of the landmarks in the history of attitude
measurement.” It has been used in several disciplines including sociology, political
science, psychology, language studies, and education.
The scale has been translated into a variety of languages, including Czech
(Rysavy 2003), French (Lambert 1952), Japanese (Smythe and Kono 1953), Serbo
Croatian (Culig 2005) and Spanish (Betancor et al. 2002). The Social Distance Scale
has also been used in a variety of countries including Australia (McAllister and
Moore 1991), Egypt (Sell 1990). Ethiopia (Brown 1967), France (Lambert 1952),
India (Chatterjea and Basu 1978; Singh 1965; Subramanian et al. 1973), Israel
(Pirojnikoff, Hadar and Hadar 1971), Jamaica (Richardson 1983), Lebanon (Starr
1978), New Zealand (McCreary 1952), Nigeria (Adewuya and Makanjuola 2005;
Ogunlade 1972), Pakistan (Zaidi 1967a, b), The Philippines (Yenko 1970), South
Africa (Groenewald and Heaven 1977; Oipen 1973), Surinam (Brinkerhoff and
Jacob 1994) and Taiwan (Maykovich 1980; Hunt 1956). Finally, the scale can be
used with both children (Morgan 2006) and adults (Sakuragi 2006).
According to Sartain and Bell (1949:85) the items used in the Social Distance
Scale “are of the ‘generalized’ variety” and can therefore be applied to any social
4? Springer
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392 Am Soc (2007) 38:383-395
group, not just races. In order to find examples of studies that utilize the scale we
searched the Education Full Text, Psyclnfo, Sociological Abstracts, and the Web of
Science databases. With the latter database we limited the search to publications from
the year 2006 and used the Boolean terms TS = (social AND distance AND scale). With
the former databases we used the phrase Bogardus Social Distance Scale and did not
limit our search. The database searches returned eight results from Education Full Text,
72 results from Psyclnfo, 29 results from Sociological Abstracts, and 28 results from the
Web of Science. These included journal articles, dissertations and conference papers and
dealt with analyses of attitudes toward the mentally ill (Adewuya and Makanjuola
2005), religious groups (Nataraj 1965; Hunt 1956), ethnic groups (Sakuragi 2006;
Parillo and Donoghue 2005; Randall and Delbridge 2005), racial groups (Morgan
2006; Kinloch 1973; Morsbach and Morsbach 1967), disabled people (Eisenman
1986; Benton et al. 1968), people with specific diseases (Benton et al. 1968),
homosexuals (Staats 1978), nationality groups (Morsbach and Morsbach 1967; Zaidi
1967a; Hunt 1956) and finally, occupational groups (Singh 1965). The scale can also
be used to show which groups in a community are most prejudiced (Morgan 2006;
Randall and Delbridge 2005; McAllister and Moore 1991; Sell 1990). The following
table provides an illustration of a Bogardus Social Distance Scale (Table 1).
The Social Distance Scale is an example of a Guttman scale in that it is
unidimensional and cumulative. The unidimensional aspect means that the scale
items can be used to measure a single theoretical concept and only that concept. For
example, in a scale composed of items that measure prejudice, items that measure a
different concept would not be included. The items contained in a unidimensional
scale can be placed on a continuum. In this sense, the scale is also cumulative. The
Social Distance Scale usually consists of five to seven statements that express
progressively more or less intimacy toward the group considered. Typical scale
anchors are “would have to live outside of my country (7)” and “would marry (1)”
(Cover 1995:403). In this case, a respondent who accepts item “seven” would be
more prejudiced than a respondent who marks item “one” or any other item on the
scale. The cumulative aspect also means that a respondent who expresses a given
degree of intimacy will endorse items expressing less intimacy. A respondent willing
to accept a member of a group in their neighborhood will also accept that same group in
their country. Conversely, those who refuse to accept a group in their country will also
refuse to accept them in their neighborhood. A scale is indeed unidimensional and
Table 1 Bogardus Social Distance Scale
Mexicans Germans
To close kinship by marriage
To my club as personal chums
To my street as neighbors
Employment in my occupation
Citizenship in my country
1. Place an “X” in the box indicating the most intimate relationship that you are willing to accept with a
member of each of the groups indicated.
2. Think of each group as a whole, and not the best or the worst member(s) that you have encountered.
3. Please provide your first feeling reaction in each case.
Scale items taken from Miller (1991).
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Am Soc (2007) 38:383-395 393
cumulative if at any point on the scale a respondent’s attitudes change from accepting to
not accepting, then there will be no further changes in response. The respondent willing
to allow a minority into their nation, but not into their neighborhood or occupation will
in addition not accept a member of the group in marriage.
Conclusion
In the spirit of Mills this article has shown how the invention of the Bogardus Social
Distance Scale was the result of a unique convergence of biographical and historical
circumstances. The sociologist who invented the scale, Emory Bogardus, was
influenced by factors that permeated his own unique experiences, the discipline of
sociology, as well as the larger societal context in which he and his fellow sociologists
lived. A primary factor that affected the invention of the Scale was the phenomena of
race conflict and the attempts by early American sociologists to present then discipline
as a form of scientific inquiry. The atmosphere in sociology at the University of Chicago
clearly had a profound impact on Bogardus. Without the direct leadership of Park it is
doubtful that Bogardus would have created the Social Distance Scale. In addition, there
was the racial turmoil in Chicago during the years Bogardus lived there as a student. The
racist treatment of Asian immigrants in California occurred as Bogardus began his
career at USC. Trouble almost seemed to follow him around.
This research.also shows how qualitative historical and biographical information
can be utilized by sociologists to learn more about their profession to fulfill the
promise of what Mills called “the sociological imagination” to determine how an
individual’s historical and cultural environment influences his or her “inner life” and
“external career” Mills (1959:5). Just as their historical and cultural environments
influence individuals, they also influence this environment. Both things seem to be
true for Bogardus. The circumstances of Bogardus’s personal life combined with the
societal and academic environment in which he was educated played a significant
role in the development of the Social Distance Scale. The Social Distance Scale has,
in turn, had a profound influence on the landscape of American sociology.
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Hanson, E. (1999). 77z$75,000 72% 44% 27% 26%
Educational Attainment
High school or less 70% 12% 16% 23%
Some college 71% 22% 24% 31%
College degree
ormore
74% 50% 30% 24%
Source: Duggan, Maeva, nicole B. Ellison, Cliff lampe, Amanda lenhart, and Mary
Madden. 2015, January 9. “Social Media update 2014.” The pew research Center.
Washington, DC: The pew research Center.
a seminude or nude photo of herself or
himself, projecting a sexual presentation
of self, may be horrified if one of the par-
ents or a potential employer visits the Face-
book site! Furthermore, the photo could
be intercepted by a disgruntled boyfriend,
reproduced, and made to “go viral” (seen
by hundreds or thousands of people).
Cyberspace interaction is common
among all age, gender, and race groups,
although clear patterns are also present in
who is engaged in this form of social inter-
action and how people use it. Age is still a
strong predictor of use. Younger people are
more likely to use Facebook, Twitter, and
Instagram, but older people are interact-
ing online in ever-increasing numbers.
Another age difference is how they use
Internet. Young people, aged 18 to 29, are
considerably more likely than other Ameri-
cans to use mostly their cell phone for
Internet interactions (50 percent among
18- to 29-year-olds; 35 percent among 30-
to 49-year-olds; 14 percent among 50- to
64-year-olds; and only 10 percent among
65 and older Americans;Duggan and
Smith 2013).
Although women and men are roughly
the same overall in Internet usage (about
85 percent use the Internet), gender dif-
ferences can still be found in the type of
usage. Women are more likely to use email
to write to friends and family, share news,
plan events, and forward jokes. Table 5.3◆
shows how women are much more likely
to use Facebook than are men. Accessing
the Internet mostly through cell phones
differs by race or ethnicity. Sixty percent
of Hispanic Americans report using their
cell phone mostly to go online, and only
27 percent of Whites report mostly using
their cell phone (Pew Research Center 2014).
The implications of these cyberspace interac-
tions are the subject of much sociological research.
The Internet creates more opportunity for people to
misrepresent themselves or even create completely
false—or even stolen—identities. Studies find that
computer-mediated interactions also follow some
of the same patterns that are found in face-to-face
interaction. People still “manage” identities in front
of a presumed audience; they project images of self to
others that are consistent with the identity they have
created for themselves, and they form social networks
that become the source for evolving identities, just
as people do in traditional forms of social interac-
tion. The difference between LinkedIn and Facebook,
for example, indicates that the professional identity
is presented differently than the personal identity
(van Dijck 2013).
In this respect, cyberspace interaction is an applica-
tion of Goffman’s principle of impression management.
People can put forward a totally different and wholly
created self, or identity. One can “give off,” in Goffman’s
terms, any impression one wishes and, at the same time,
know that one’s true self is protected by anonymity. This
gives the individual quite a large and free range of roles
and identities from which to choose. As predicted by
symbolic interaction theory, of which Goffman’s is one
variety, the reality of the situation grows out of the inter-
action process itself. This is a central point of symbolic
interaction theory and is central to sociological analysis
generally: Interaction creates reality.
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1 2 2   CHA pT E r 5
Cyberspace interaction has thus resulted in new
forms of social interaction in society—in fact, a new
social order containing both deviants and conformists.
These new forms of social interaction have their own
rules and norms, their own language, their own sets of
beliefs, and practices or rituals—in short, all the ele-
ments of culture, as defined in Chapter 2. For sociolo-
gists, cyberspace also provides an intriguing new venue
in which to study the connection between society and
social interaction.
What is society?
Society is a system of social interaction that includes
both culture and social organization. Society includes
social institutions, or established organized social
behavior, and exists for a recognized purpose; social
structure is the patterned relationships within a society.
What holds society together?
According to theorist Emile Durkheim, society with
all its complex social organization and culture, is held
together, depending on overall type, by mechanical
solidarity (based on individual similarity) and organic
solidarity (based on a division of labor among dissimi-
lar individuals). Two other forms of social organization
also con trib ute to the cohesion of a society: gemein-
schaft (“community,” characterized by cohesion based
on friendships and loyalties) and gesellschaft (“society,”
characterized by cohesion based on complexity and
differentiation).
What are the types of societies?
Societies across the globe vary in type, as determined
mainly by the complexity of their social structures, their
division of labor, and their technologies. From least to
most complex, they are foraging, pastoral, horticultural,
agricultural (these four constitute preindustrial societ-
ies), industrial, and postindustrial societies.
What are the forms of social interaction in society?
All forms of social interaction in society are shaped
by the structure of its social institutions. A group is a
collection of individuals who interact and communi-
cate with each other, share goals and norms, and have
a subjective awareness of themselves as a distinct social
unit. Status is a hierarchical position in a structure.
A role is the behavior others expect from a person asso-
ciated with a particular status. Patterns of social interac-
tion influence nonverbal interaction as well as patterns
of attraction and affiliation.
What theories are there about social
interaction?
Social interaction takes place in society within the con-
text of social structure and social institutions. Social
interaction is analyzed in several ways, including the
social construction of reality (we impose meaning and
reality on our interactions with others); ethnomethod-
ology (deliberate interruption of interaction to observe
how a return to “normal” interaction is accomplished);
impression management (a person “gives off ” a particu-
lar impression to “con” the other and achieve certain
goals, as in cyberspace interaction); and social exchange
theory.
How is technology changing social interaction?
Increasingly, people engage with each other through
cyberspace interaction. Social norms develop in
cyberspace as they do in face-to-face interaction,
but people in cyberspace can also manipulate the
impression that they give off, thus creating a new
“virtual” self.
Chapter Summary
achieved status 111
ascribed status 111
collective
consciousness 106
division of labor 107
ethnomethodology 117
gemeinschaft 107
gesellschaft 107
group 111
impression
management 119
macroanalysis 104
master status 112
mechanical solidarity 106
microanalysis 104
nonverbal
communication 114
organic solidarity 106
postindustrial society 110
preindustrial society 108
role 112
role conflict 113
role modeling 113
role set 113
role strain 113
social institution 105
social interaction 104
social organization 105
social structure 106
society 104
status 111
status inconsistency 111
status set 111
Key Terms
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D
. T
ro
zz
o/
A
la
m
y
6
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125
It’s Saturday night. You feel like staying in, perhaps to read a book, play video games, watch a movie. You’re just not “up” for going out as you often do. Just as you are settling
it, you get a text from a friend saying, “Hey, let’s party; great
band at our favorite place. Let’s go.” Very soon, another friend
texts, “I’m in! See you there.” And another, “Me too.” Before
you know it, you are in the club, enjoying yourself but per-
haps wishing you had just had a quiet night at home. The next
morning, as you nurse your headache, you wonder why you
went. You had really wanted a quiet night alone, but you soon
found yourself surrounded by others, doing what they were
doing, even though it wasn’t how you had planned to spend
your evening. What happened?
The answer is that you were subjected to group
behavior—one of the most interesting and strongest
phenomena in the social world. We like to think of ourselves
as individuals and, of course, we are, but even as individuals,
our behavior is strongly influenced by the groups to which we
belong. At any given moment, we belong to multiple groups,
some with more influence than others. Understanding group
behavior is critical to understanding people’s behavior.
Consider this: If someone told you that you could catch
a spaceship to a next level of existence, beyond anything you
had ever known on Earth, would you take a lethal combination
of drugs and alcohol to get you there? Surely not, you must
be thinking! But that is precisely what thirty-nine members
of the Heaven’s Gate cult did in 1997 in a mansion in Rancho
Santa Fe, California. They were told by the group leader that
a spaceship was coming, following the tail of Comet Hale-
Bopp and that they would be transported to a better place.
Although seemingly completely irrational, this behavior can
only be understood by analyzing how these thirty-nine indi-
viduals became subject to the control of such an extremist
group—in other words, succumbing to group pressure.
Group pressure also escalates violent behaviors. You might
recall a horrific rape that occurred in New Delhi, India, in 2012,
when seven men gang-raped a twenty-three-year-old medical
school student on a public bus. The young woman died two
weeks later from the severe injuries. Rape is a violent act even
when committed by one person, but research finds that rape
involving more than one perpetrator—that is, group rape—is
Groups and Organizations
●● Understand the
sociological concept of
groups and the different
forms groups take
●● Analyze the social
processes that produce
conformity in groups
●● Explain the social
structures that
characterize formal
organizations and
bureaucracies
●● Compare and contrast
the major sociological
theories of groups and
organizations
in this chapter, you will learn to:
Types of Groups 126
Social Influence in Groups 133
Formal Organizations and
Bureaucracies 137
Functionalism, Conflict Theory,
and Symbolic Interaction:
Theoretical Perspectives 143
Chapter Summary 144
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Editorial review has deemed that any suppressed content does not materially affect the overall learning experience. Cengage Learning reserves the right to remove additional content at any time if subsequent rights restrictions require it.
1 2 6   CHAPT Er 6
Types of Groups
Each of us is a member of many groups simultaneously.
We have relationships in groups with family, friends,
team members, and professional colleagues. Within
these groups are gradations in relationships: We are
generally closer to our siblings (our sisters and broth-
ers) than to our cousins; we are intimate with some
friends, merely sociable with others. If we count all our
group associations, ranging from the powerful associa-
tions that define our daily lives to the thinnest connec-
tions with little feeling (other pet lovers, other company
employees), we will uncover connections to literally
hundreds of groups.
What is a group? Recall from Chapter 5, a group is
two or more individuals who interact, share goals and
norms, and have a subjective awareness as “we,” that
is, as a distinct social unit. To be considered a group, a
social unit must have all three characteristics, although
some groups are more bound together than others.
Consider two superficially similar examples: The indi-
viduals in a line waiting to board a train are unlikely
to have a sense of themselves as one group. A line of
prisoners chained together and waiting to board a bus
to the penitentiary is more likely to have a stronger
sense of common feeling.
As you remember from the previous chapter, cer-
tain gatherings are not groups in the strict sense, but
may be social categories (for example, teenagers, truck
drivers) or audiences (everyone watching a movie). The
importance of defining a group is not to perfectly decide
if a social unit is a group—an unnecessary endeavor—
but to help us understand the behavior of people in
society. As we inspect groups, we can identify character-
istics that reliably predict trends in the behavior of the
group and even the behavior of individuals in the group.
The study of groups has application at all levels of
society, from the attraction between people who fall in
love to the characteristics that make some corporations
drastically outperform their competitors—or that lead
them into bankruptcy. The aggregation of individuals
into groups has a transforming power, and sociologists
understand the social forces that make these transfor-
mations possible. Within the confines of this chapter,
we move from the micro level of analysis (the analy-
sis of groups and face-to-face social influence) to the
usually far more violent and involves more severe
forms of violation than rape by a single perpetrator.
Scholars conclude that the group behavior involved
in a gang rape intensifies violence as the group
members succumb to the power of a group leader
and/or feel they must participate or they will be
ostracized by the group (Woodhams et al. 2012).
In less dramatic and disturbing examples,
group influence also shapes all kinds of ordinary
behavior. Juries are groups, and jury decision mak-
ing is clearly influenced by group processes. When
a jury deliberates, a consensus is formed as more
members of the group (that is, the jury) move to a
particular verdict. Moreover, the larger the faction,
the less willing an individual juror will be to defy
the weight of group opinion. As we shall see, this is group size effect: an effect of sheer numbers in the
group independent of the effects of individual actions and thoughts (Vidmar and Hans 2007).
You can probably think of examples in your own experience when you succumbed to group pressure,
even when your individual judgment told you to do or think something different. Perhaps you smoke
cigarettes, knowing full well that they are very harmful to your health. Maybe you have purchased some-
thing from the latest fashion trend, even though you really could not spare the money, or maybe you have
gone out drinking with friends because “everybody was doing it.”
People are highly subject to the social influences of groups. Whether a relatively small group—such
as a jury or your friendship circle—or a large bureaucratic organization, such as the government or a work
organization, people are influenced by the sociological forces of group behavior.
Eighteen men and twenty-one women committed mass
suicide as part of the Heaven’s Gate cult in 1997, all of them
dressed alike in dark clothes and Nike sneakers. This is an
extreme example of group conformity.
H
O
O
ld
/R
eu
te
rs
The annual running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain, is a
death-defying exercise in group behavior.
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GrOUPS AN d OrGAN I zATI O N S  1 27
relatively more macro level of analysis (the analysis of
formal organizations and bureaucracies).
Dyads and Triads: Group
Size Effects
Even the smallest groups are of acute sociological inter-
est and can exert considerable influence upon individ-
uals. A dyad is a group consisting of exactly two people.
A triad consists of three people. This seemingly minor
distinction, first scrutinized by the German sociologist
Georg Simmel (1858–1918), can have critical conse-
quences for group behavior (Simmel 1950/1902). Sim-
mel was interested in discovering the effects of size on
groups, and he found that the mere difference between
two and three people spawned entirely different group
dynamics (the behavior of a group over time).
Imagine two people standing in line for lunch. First
one talks, then the other, then the first again. The inter-
action proceeds in this way for several minutes. Now a
third person enters the interaction. The character of the
interaction suddenly changes: At any given moment, two
people are interacting more with each other than either
is with the third. When the third person wins the atten-
tion of the other two, a new dyad is formed, supplanting
the previous pairing. The group, a triad, then consists of
a dyad (the pair that is interacting) plus an isolate.
Triadic segregation is what Simmel called the ten-
dency for triads to segregate into a pair and an isolate
(a single person). A triad tends to segregate into a coalition
of the dyad against the isolate. The isolate then has the
option of initiating a coalition with either member of
the dyad. This choice is a type of social advantage, lead-
ing Simmel to coin the principle of tertius gaudens, a Latin
term meaning “the third one gains.” Simmel’s reasoning
has led to numerous contemporary studies of coalition
formation in groups (Holyoke 2009; Konishi and Ray 2003).
For example, interactions in a triad often end up
as “two against one.” You may have noticed this prin-
ciple of coalition formation in your own conversations.
Perhaps two friends want to go to a movie you do not
want to see. You appeal to one of them to go instead to
a minor league baseball game. She wavers and comes
over to your point of view. Now you have formed a coali-
tion of two against one. The friend who wants to go to
the movies is now the isolate. He may recover lost social
ground by trying to form a new coalition by suggesting a
new alternative (going bowling or to a different movie).
This flip-flop interaction may continue for some time,
demonstrating another observation by Simmel: A triad
is a decidedly unstable social grouping, whereas dyads
are relatively stable. The distinction between dyads
and triads is just one person but the presence of that
one person changes the character of the interaction
within the group. Simmel is known as the discoverer of
group size effect—the effects of group number on group
behavior independent of the personality characteristics
and opinions of the members themselves.
Primary and Secondary Groups
Charles Horton Cooley (1864–1929), a famous soci-
ologist of the Chicago School of Sociology, introduced
the concept of the primary group, defined as a group
One of the best examples of the primary group is that
consisting of parent and child.
Ja
ni
ne
W
ie
de
l P
ho
to
lib
ra
ry
/A
la
m
y
The annual running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain, is a
death-defying exercise in group behavior.
Jo

A
nt
on
io
H
er
na
iz
/A
ge
F
ot
os
to
ck
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Editorial review has deemed that any suppressed content does not materially affect the overall learning experience. Cengage Learning reserves the right to remove additional content at any time if subsequent rights restrictions require it.
1 2 8   CHA PT Er 6
Modern society is often characterized
as remote, alienating, and without much
feeling of community or belonging to a
group. This image of society has been
carefully studied by sociologist Robert
Wuthnow, who noticed that people in
the United States are increasingly look-
ing to small groups as places where they
can find emotional and spiritual support
and where they find meaning and com-
mitment, despite the image of society as
an increasingly impersonal force.
Research Question: Wuthnow began
his research by noting that, even with
the individualistic culture of U.S. society,
small groups play a major role in this
society. He saw the increasing tendency
of people to join recovery groups, read-
ing groups, spiritual groups, and myriad
other support groups. Wuthnow began
his research by asking these specific
questions: What motivates people to join
support groups? How do these groups
function? What do members like most
and least about such groups? His broad-
est question, however, was to wonder
how the proliferation of small support
groups influences the wider society.
Research Methods: To answer these
questions, a large research team of
fifteen scholars designed a study that
included both a quantitative and a
qualitative dimension. They distributed
a survey to a representative sample of
more than 1000 people in the United
States. Supplementing the survey were
Sharing the Journey
interviews with more than 100 support
group members, group leaders, and
clergy. The researchers chose twelve
groups for extensive study; researchers
spent six months to three years tracing
the history of these groups, meeting with
members and attending group sessions.
Research Results: Based on this
research, Wuthnow concludes that the
small group movement is fundamentally
altering U.S. society. Forty percent of all
Americans belong to some kind of small
support group. As the result of people’s
participation in these groups, social
values of community and spirituality
are undergoing major transformation.
People say they are seeking community
when they join small groups, whether
the group is a recovery group, a religious
group, a civic association, or some other
small group. People turn to these small
groups for emotional support more than
for physical or monetary support.
Conclusions and Implications: Wuthnow
argues that large-scale participation
in small groups has arisen in a social
context in which the traditional sup-
port structures in U.S. society, such as
the family, no longer provide the sense
of belonging and social integration that
they provided in the past. Geographic
mobility, mass society, and the erosion
of local ties all contribute to this trend.
People still seek a sense of community,
but they create it in groups that also
allow them to maintain their individuality.
In voluntary small groups, you are free
to leave the group if it no longer meets
your needs.
Wuthnow also concludes that these
groups represent a quest for spirituality
in a society when, for many, traditional
religious values have declined. As a con-
sequence, support groups are redefining
what is sacred. They also replace explicit
religious tenets imposed from the out-
side with internal norms that are implicit
and devised by individual groups. At the
same time, these groups reflect the
pluralism and diversity that characterize
society. In the end, they buffer the trend
toward disintegration and isolation that
people often feel in mass societies.
Questions to Consider
1. Are you a member of a voluntary
small group? If so, what sense of
community does the group provide
for you? How do you maintain
your sense of individuality at the
same time?
2. What social changes do you observe
in the world around you that might
encourage people to join various
support groups?
3. Some people join support groups
in the aftermath of major life
transition—a death, recovery from
addiction, the desire to lose weight,
and so on. What does group mem-
bership in such a situation provide
for individuals?
Source: Wuthnow, Robert. 1994. Sharing the
Journey: Support Groups and America’s New
Quest for Community. New York: Free Press.
doing sociological research
consisting of intimate, face-to-face interaction and
relatively long-lasting relationships. Cooley had in
mind the family and the early peer group. In his origi-
nal formulation, “primary” was used in the sense of
“first,” the intimate group of the formative years (Cooley
1967/1909). The insight that there was an important
distinction between intimate groups and other groups
proved extremely fruitful. Cooley’s somewhat narrow
concept of family and childhood peers has been elab-
orated upon over the years to include a variety of inti-
mate relations as examples of primary groups.
Primary groups have a powerful influence on an
individual’s personality or self-identity. The effect of
family on an individual can hardly be overstated. The
weight of peer pressure on school children is particu-
larly notorious. Street gangs are a primary group, and
their influence on individuals is significant; in fact,
gang members frequently think of themselves as a fam-
ily. Inmates in prison very frequently become members
of a gang—primary groups perhaps based mainly upon
race or ethnicity—as a matter of their own personal sur-
vival. The intense camaraderie formed among Marine
Support groups, such as this group therapy session, often
provide people a feeling of community, even when faced
with individual troubles.
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Editorial review has deemed that any suppressed content does not materially affect the overall learning experience. Cengage Learning reserves the right to remove additional content at any time if subsequent rights restrictions require it.
GrOUPS ANd OrGAN IzATI O N S  1 2 9
Corps units in boot camp and in war is another classic
example of primary group formation and the resulting
intense effect on individuals and upon their survival.
In contrast to primary groups are secondary
groups, those that are larger in membership, less inti-
mate, and less long lasting. Secondary groups tend to
be less significant in the emotional lives of people. Sec-
ondary groups include all the students at a college or
university, all the people in your neighborhood, and all
the people in a bureaucracy or corporation.
→Thinking Sociologically
Identify a group of which you are a part. How does one
become a member of this group? Who is included and who
is excluded? does the group share any unique language
or other cultural characteristics (such as dress, jargon,
or other group identifiers)? does anyone ever leave the
group, and if so, why? Would you describe this group
mainly as a primary or a secondary group? Why?
Primary and secondary groups serve different
needs. Primary groups give people intimacy, compan-
ionship, and emotional support. These human desires
are termed expressive needs (also called socioemo-
tional needs). Family and friends share and amplify
your good fortune, rescue you when you misbehave,
and cheer you up when life looks grim. Many studies
have shown the overwhelming influence of family and
friendship groups on religious and political affiliation,
as shown in the box “Doing Sociological Research:
Sharing the Journey.”
Secondary groups serve instrumental needs (also
called task-oriented needs). Athletic teams form to have
fun and win games. Political groups form to raise funds
and influence the government. Corporations form to
make profits, and employees join corporations to earn
a living. The true distinction between primary and sec-
ondary groups is in how intimate the group members
feel about one another and how dependent they are on
the group for sustenance and identity.
Secondary groups occasionally take on the charac-
teristics of primary groups, even if temporarily. This is
precisely what happened to a group of miners who, for
nearly three months in 2011, were trapped a half mile
below the surface in Chile’s Atacama Desert. When the
thirty-three miners were eventually rescued, an event
that was covered live on the international news, we
learned that this was a very striking example of the tran-
sition from a largely secondary group to an exception-
ally close-knit primary group. A strong leader (foreman
Luis Urzúa) insisted that, “It was one for all and all for
one down there.” As the men reported it, the experience
transformed all thirty-three men into a large and very
close family (primary group) even as they later coped
with their newfound fame, celebrity, and requests to
endorse products (Padgett et al. 2011).
Reference Groups
Primary and secondary groups are groups to which
members belong. Both are called membership groups.
In contrast, reference groups are those to which you
may or may not belong but use as a standard for evalu-
ating your values, attitudes, and behaviors (Merton and
Rossi 1950). Reference groups are generalized versions
of role models. They are not “groups” in the sense that
the individual interacts within (or in) them. Do you pat-
tern your behavior on that of sports stars, musicians,
military officers, or business executives? If so, those
models are reference groups for you.
Imitation of reference groups can have both posi-
tive and negative effects. Members of a Little League
baseball team may revere major league baseball play-
ers and attempt to imitate laudable behaviors such as
tenacity and sportsmanship. But young baseball fans
are also liable to be exposed to tantrums, fights, and
tobacco chewing and spitting. This illustrates that the
influence of a reference group can be both positive and
negative.
Reference groups do not have to be actual peo-
ple. As we have been seeing throughout this book, the
media can serve as a powerful reference group, influ-
encing how people perceive themselves. Positive repre-
sentations of one’s reference group can promote strong
self-esteem; negative representations and negative ste-
reotypes, such as of racial–ethnic groups, can produce
diminished self-esteem. The representation of racial
Support groups, such as this group therapy session, often
provide people a feeling of community, even when faced
with individual troubles.
Ji
m
P
ic
ke
re
ll/
St
oc
k
Co
nn
ec
tio
n/
G
lo
w
Im
ag
es
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Editorial review has deemed that any suppressed content does not materially affect the overall learning experience. Cengage Learning reserves the right to remove additional content at any time if subsequent rights restrictions require it.
1 3 0   CH A PTEr 6
and ethnic groups in a society can have a striking posi-
tive effect perhaps even among children acquiring their
lifetime set of group affiliations (Harris 2006; Zhou and
Bankston 2000).
In-Groups, Out-Groups,
and Attribution Error
When groups have a sense of themselves as “us,” they
will also have a complementary sense of other groups
as “them.” The distinction is commonly characterized
as in-groups versus out-groups. The concept was origi-
nally elaborated by the early sociological theorist W. I.
Thomas (1963–1047) (Thomas 1931). College fraterni-
ties and sororities certainly exemplify “in” versus “out.”
So do families. So do gangs—especially so. The same
can be true of the members of your high school class,
your sports team, your racial group, your gender, and
your social class.
Attribution theory is the principle that we all make
inferences about the personalities of others, such as
concluding what the other is “really like.” These attri-
butions depend on whether you are in the in-group or
the out-group. Thomas F. Pettigrew has summarized the
research on attribution theory, showing that individu-
als commonly generate a significantly distorted percep-
tion of the motives and capabilities of other people’s
acts based on whether that person is an in-group or
out-group member (Baumeister and Bushman 2008;
Gilbert and Malone 1995; Pettigrew 1992).
Pettigrew and others describe the misperception
as attribution error, meaning errors made in attribut-
ing causes for people’s behavior to their membership in
a particular group, such as a racial group. Attribution
error has several dimensions, all tending to favor the in-
group over the out-group. All else being assumed equal,
we tend to perceive people in our in-group positively
and those in out-groups negatively, regardless of their
actual personal characteristics:
1. When onlookers observe improper behavior by an
out-group member, onlookers are likely to attribute
the deviance to the disposition (the personality) of
the wrongdoer. Disposition refers to the perceived
“true nature” or “inherent nature” of the person,
often considered to be genetically determined. For
example, a White person may see a Hispanic person
carrying a knife and, without further information,
attribute this behavior to the presumed “inherent ten-
dency” for Hispanics to carry knives and be violent.
The same would be true if a Hispanic person, without
additional information, assumed that all Whites have
the same “inherent tendency” to be racist.
2. When the same behavior is exhibited by an in-
group member, the perception is commonly held
that the act is due to the situation of the wrongdoer,
Initiation into a group can mean losing one’s individual
identity, especially when strict conformity to the group is
enforced. New initiates into military life routinely have their
hair cut, symbolic of the dominance of group identity over
individual identity.
D
av
id
M
er
ca
do
/R
eu
te
rs
As with the African American women’s sorority, delta Sigma
Theta, groups often use clothing styles and colors to signify
group belonging.
Bo
nn
ie
J
o
M
ou
nt
/T
he
W
as
hi
ng
to
n
Po
st
/G
et
ty
Im
ag
es
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Editorial review has deemed that any suppressed content does not materially affect the overall learning experience. Cengage Learning reserves the right to remove additional content at any time if subsequent rights restrictions require it.
GrOUPS AN d OrG AN IzATI O N S  1 3 1
not to the in-group member’s inherent disposi-
tion or personality. For example, a White person
may see another White person carrying a knife and
conclude, without further information, that the
weapon must be carried for protection in a danger-
ous area.
3. If an out-group member is seen to perform in some
laudable way, the behavior is often attributed to a
variety of special circumstances, and the out-group
member is seen as “the exception.”
4. An in-group member who performs in the same
laudable way is given credit for a worthy personal-
ity disposition.
Typical attribution errors include misperceptions
between racial groups and between men and women
(Taylor et al. 2013; Kluegel and Bobo 1993). In the case
of race, recent events in the news tend to bear this
out : In the case of a Black youth shot and killed by a
White policeman, and without further information,
a White person will tend to conclude that the White
policeman was probably justified in the shooting. All
else being equal, a Black person, without further infor-
mation, will conclude that the shooting was probably
unjustified and may well have been murder. These
conclusions accurately describe—on the average—the
reactions of Blacks and Whites to the well-publicized
shootings of Black men by White police, such as the
shootings of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida;
Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri; and, tragically,
several others. Even in the aftermath of these police
shootings, surveys find a large gap in how much
White and Black Americans have confidence in the
police (Drake 2014).
A related phenomenon has been seen in men’s per-
ceptions of women coworkers. Meticulous behavior in
a man is perceived positively and is seen by other men
as “thorough”; in a woman, the exact same behavior is
perceived negatively and is considered “picky.” Behav-
ior applauded in a man as “aggressive” is condemned
in a woman exhibiting the same behavior as “pushy” or
“bitchy” (Uleman et al. 1996).
Social Networks
As already noted, no individual is a member of only one
group. Social life is far richer than that. A social network
is a set of links between individuals, between groups, or
between other social units, such as bureaucratic orga-
nizations or even entire nations (Salganik 2015; Aldrich
and Ruef 2006; Hargittai and Centeno 2001; Mizruchi
1992). One could say that any given person belongs
simultaneously to several networks (Wasserman and
Faust 1994). With the development of social media (see
Chapter 2), networks that may have once been face-to-
face have now developed through electronic media,
such as on Facebook and Twitter. The development of
social media brings a new dimension to the study and
analysis of networks because you may be in a network
with people you do not even know. Nonetheless, your
group of friends, or all the people on an electronic mail-
ing list to which you subscribe, or all of your Facebook
subscribers are social networks, some human, some
electronic.
Let us do a bit of network analysis (including
group size effects) right now. Assume first that a group
consisting of only two people has by definition one
two-way relationship (each knows the other person-
ally). A group of three people will thus have three pos-
sible two-way relationships; and a group of four people
will have six possible two-way relationships. Extending
this simple counting of the number of pairs (i.e., two-
way relationships) shows that a group of five people
has ten possible two-way relationships; a group of six
people fifteen possible two-way relationships; and so
on. With even as few as thirty “friends” on Facebook,
there are actually 435 possible two-way (i.e., mutual)
relationships! That is a lot of mutual relationships! As
early as the 1950s, Robert Bales (1951) estimated that
thirty is the limit for the number of people that can be
in an intimate “small group” such that each person can
have or recall a perception of each other member as
an individual person. How “close” can your Facebook
friends really be?
Networks can be critical to your success in life.
Numerous research studies indicate that people get jobs
via their personal networks more often than through
formal job listings, want ads, or placement agencies
(Ruef et al. 2003; Petersen et al. 2000; Granovetter 1995,
1974). Getting a job is more often a matter of whom you
As with the African American women’s sorority, delta Sigma
Theta, groups often use clothing styles and colors to signify
group belonging.
research finds that social networks are critical to finding
jobs, even when those networks might be relatively weak.
Ji
m
W
es
t/
A
la
m
y
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Editorial review has deemed that any suppressed content does not materially affect the overall learning experience. Cengage Learning reserves the right to remove additional content at any time if subsequent rights restrictions require it.
1 32   CHA PTEr 6
know than what you know. Who you know, and whom
they know in turn, is a social network that may have a
marked effect on your life and career.
Networks form with all the spontaneity of other
forms of human interaction (Wasserman and Faust
1994). Networks evolve, such as social ties within
neighborhoods, professional contacts, and associations
formed in fraternal, religious, occupational, and volun-
teer groups. Networks to which you are only weakly tied
(you may know only one person in your neighborhood)
provide you with access to that entire network, hence
the sociological paradox that there is “strength in weak
ties” (Granovetter 1973).
Networks based on race, class, and gender form
with particular readiness. This has been especially
true of job networks. The person who leads you to
a job is likely to have a similar social background.
Research indicates that the “old boy network”—any
network of White, male corporate executives—is less
important than it used to be, although it is certainly
not by any means gone. The diminished importance
of the old boy network is because of the increasing
prominence of women and minorities in business
organizations. In fact, among African American and
Latino individuals, one’s family can provide network
contacts that can lead to jobs and upward mobility
(Dominguez and Watkins 2003). Still, as we will see in
various places later in this book, women and minori-
ties are considerably underrepresented in corporate
life, especially in high-status jobs, and since 2004, the
presence of women and racial minorities on corpo-
rate boards has actually declined (Alliance for Board
Diversity 2013). Some recent research shows that
Blacks and Latinos relative to Whites are still dispro-
portionately harmed by a lack of network contacts
(Smith 2007).
The recent research of Gile et al. (2015) on net-
work size has shown that network size is a very impor-
tant force in human existence. His network research
has been used to identify populations and subpopu-
lations that are at risk of being struck with the human
immunodeficiency virus (HIV) syndrome, the basis of
the venereal disease AIDS. Using network sampling
of pairs of individuals (network pairs as referred to
previously), the researchers found that the estimated
number of HIV-infected individuals in Curitiba, Brazil,
turned out to be five to ten times higher than estimates
that used standard survey sampling (that is, sampling
individuals, not pairs). Thus, sampling using a net-
work approach revealed a surprisingly large number of
infected individuals.
Social Networks as “Small Worlds”
Networks can reach around the world, but how big is
the world? How many of us, when we discover some-
one we just met is a friend of a friend, have remarked,
“My, it’s a small world, isn’t it?”? Research into what
has come to be known as the small world problem has
shown that networks make the world a lot smaller than
you might otherwise think.
Original small world researchers Travers and
Milgram wanted to test whether a document could
be routed via the U.S. postal system to a complete
stranger more than 1000 miles away using only a
chain of acquaintances (Watts 1999; Watts and Stro-
gatz 1998; Kochen 1989; Lin 1989; Travers and Mil-
gram 1969). If so, how many steps would be required?
The researchers organized an experiment back in
1969 in which approximately 300 senders were all
charged with getting a document to one receiver, a
complete stranger. (Remember that all this was well
before the advent of the desktop computer in the
1980s.) The receiver was a male Boston stockbroker.
The senders were one group of Nebraskans and one
group of Bostonians chosen completely at random.
Every sender in the study was given the receiver’s
name, address, occupation, alma mater, year of grad-
uation, wife’s maiden name, and hometown. They
were asked to send the document directly to the
stockbroker only if they knew him on a first-name
basis. Otherwise, they were asked to send the folder
Is getting a job simply a matter of get-
ting the right credentials and training?
Hardly, according to sociologists. Even in
a good job market, one needs the help
of social networks to find a job. This has
been clearly demonstrated by sociologist
Finding a Job: The Invisible Hand
Deirdre Royster, who compared the
experiences of two groups of men: One
group was White, the other Black. Both
had graduated from vocational school.
The Black and White men had comparable
educational credentials, the same values,
and the same work ethic; yet, the White
men were far more likely to gain employ-
ment than were the Black men. Why?
Royster’s research revealed that the most
significant difference between the two
groups was access to job networks, just as
Granovetter’s work on job networks would
predict (Royster 2003; Granovetter 1995).
what would a sociologist say?
03083_ch06_ptg01.indd 132 18/08/15 10:21 AM
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GrOUPS ANd OrGAN I zATI O N S  1 33
to a friend, relative, or acquaintance known on a first-
name basis who might be more likely than the sender
to know the stockbroker.
How many intermediaries do you think it took, on
average, for the document to get through? (Most people
estimate from twenty to hundreds.) The average num-
ber of intermediate contacts was only 6.2! However,
only about one-third of the documents actually arrived
at the target. This was still quite impressive, consider-
ing that the senders did not know the target person—
hence, the current expression that any given person in
the country is on average only about “six degrees of sep-
aration” from any other person. In this sense, the world
is indeed “small.”
This original small world research has recently
been criticized on two grounds: First, only one-third of
the documents actually reached the target person. The
6.2 average intermediaries applied only to these com-
pleted chains. Thus, two-thirds of the initial documents
never reached the target person. For these people, the
world was certainly not “small.” Second, the sending
chains tended to closely follow occupational, social
class, and ethnic lines, just as general network theory
would predict (Kleinfeld 1999; Wasserman and Faust
1994). Thus, the world may indeed be “small,” but only
for people in your immediate social network (Ruef et al.
2003; Watts 1999).
A study of Black national leaders by Taylor and
associates (Jackson et al. 1995; Taylor 1992) shows that
Black leaders form a very closely knit network, one
considerably more closely knit than longer-established
White leadership networks (Domhoff 2002; Jackson
2000; Jackson et al. 1995, 1994; Alba and Moore 1982;
Moore 1979; Kadushin 1974). The world is indeed quite
“small” for America’s Black leadership. Included in the
study were Black members of Congress, mayors, busi-
ness executives, military officers (generals and full
colonels), religious leaders, civil rights leaders, media
personalities, entertainment and sports figures, and oth-
ers. The study found that when considering only direct
personal acquaintances—not indirect links involving
intermediaries—one-fifth of the entire national Black
leadership network know each other directly as a friend
or close acquaintance. The Black leadership network is
considerably more closely connected than White lead-
ership networks. The Black network has greater density.
Add only one intermediary, the friend of a friend, and
the study estimated that almost three-quarters of the
entire Black leadership network are included. There-
fore, any given Black leader can generally get in touch
with three-quarters of all other Black leaders in the
country either by knowing them personally (a “friend”)
or via only one common acquaintance (a “friend of a
friend”). That’s pretty amazing when one realizes that
the study is considering the population of Black leaders
in the entire country.
Social Influence in Groups
The groups in which we participate exert tremendous
influence on us. We often fail to appreciate how pow-
erful these influences are. For example, who decides
what you should wear? Do you decide for yourself
each morning, or is the decision already made for you
by fashion designers, role models, and your peers?
Consider how closely your hair length, hair styling, and
choice of jewelry have been influenced by your peers.
Did you invent your skinny jeans, your dreadlocks,
or your blue blazer? People who label themselves as
“nonconformists” often conform rigidly to the dress-
code and other norms of their in-group (a type of
small network).
A group such as one’s family even influences your
adult life long after children have grown up and formed
households of their own. The choice of political party
among adults (Republican, Democratic, or Indepen-
dent) correlates strongly with the party of one’s parents,
again demonstrating the power of the primary group.
Seven out of ten people vote with the political party
of their parents, even though these same people insist
that they think for themselves when voting (Worchel
et al. 2000). Furthermore, most people share the reli-
gious affiliation of their parents, although they will
insist that they chose their own religion, free of any
influence by either parent.
Streaking, or running nude in a public place—relatively popu-
lar among college students in the 1970s and early 1980s and
still popular on some campuses—is more common as a group
activity than as a strictly individual one. This illustrates how
the group can provide the people in it with deindividuation, or
diffusion of responsibility among group members—a type of
merging of self with group. This allows individuals to feel less
responsibility or blame for their actions, thus convincing them
that the group must share the blame.
Re
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1 3 4   CH A PT Er 6
We all like to think we stand on our own two feet,
immune to a phenomenon as superficial as group pres-
sure. The conviction that one is impervious to social influ-
ence results in what social psychologist Philip Zimbardo
calls the not me syndrome: When confronted with a
description of group behavior that is disappointingly
conforming and not individualistic, most individuals
counter that some people may conform to social pres-
sure, “but not me”; or “some people yield quickly to styles
of dress, but not me”; or “some people yield to autocratic
authority figures, but not me” (Taylor et al. 2013; Zim-
bardo et al. 1977). Sociological experiments often reveal
a dramatic gulf between what people think they will do
and what they actually do. The original conformity study
by Solomon Asch discussed next is a case in point.
The Asch Conformity Experiment
We learned in the previous sections that social influ-
ences are evidently quite strong. Are they strong
enough to make us disbelieve our own senses? Are they
strong enough to make us misperceive what is obvi-
ously objective, actual fact? In a classic piece of work
known as the Asch conformity experiment, researcher
Solomon Asch showed that even simple objective facts
cannot withstand the distorting pressure of group influ-
ence (Asch 1955, 1951).
Examine the two illustrations in ▲ Figure 6.1.
Which line on the right is more nearly equal in length
to the line on the left (Line S)? Line B, obviously. Could
anyone fail to answer correctly?
In fact, Solomon Asch discovered that social pres-
sure of a rather gentle sort was sufficient to cause an
astonishing rise in the number of wrong answers. Asch
lined up five students at a table and asked which line
in the illustration on the right is the same length as the
line on the left. Unknown to the fifth student, the first
four were confederates—collaborators with the experi-
menter who only pretended to be participants. For sev-
eral rounds, with similar photos, the confederates gave
correct answers to Asch’s tests. The fifth student also
answered correctly, suspecting nothing. Then on sub-
sequent trials the first student gave a wrong answer.
The second student gave the same wrong answer. Third,
wrong. Fourth, wrong. Then came the fifth student’s turn.
If you were the fifth student, what would you have done?
In Asch’s experiment, fully one-third of all students
in the fifth position gave the same wrong answer as the
confederates at least half the time. Forty percent gave
“some” wrong answers. Only one-fourth of the students
consistently gave correct answers in defiance of the
invisible pressure to conform.
Line length is not a vague or ambiguous stimulus.
It is clear and objective, yet one-third of all subjects, a
very high proportion, gave wrong answers. The subjects
fidgeted and stammered while doing it, but they did it
nonetheless. Those who did not yield to group pressure
showed even more stress and discomfort than those
who yielded to the (apparent) opinion of the group.
Would you have gone along with the group? Per-
haps, perhaps not. Sociological insight grows when we
acknowledge the fact that fully a third of all participants
will yield to the group. The Asch experiment has been
repeated many times over the years, with students and
nonstudents, old and young, in groups of different sizes,
and in different settings (Baumeister and Bushman 2008;
Worchel et al. 2000). The results remain essentially the
same! A third to a half of the participants make a judg-
ment contrary to fact, yet in conformity with the group.
Finally, the Asch findings have consistently revealed a
group size effect: The greater the number of individuals
(confederates) giving an incorrect answer (from five up
to fifteen confederates), then the greater the number of
subjects per group giving an incorrect answer.
The Milgram Obedience Studies
What are the limits of social group pressure? In terms of
moral and psychological issues, judging the length of a
line is a small matter. What happens if an authority fig-
ure demands obedience—a type of conformity—even
if the task is something the test subject (the person)
finds morally wrong and reprehensible? A chilling
answer emerged from the now famous Milgram obedi-
ence studies done from 1960 through 1973 by Stanley
Milgram (Milgram 1974).
In this study, a naive research subject entered a lab-
oratory-like room and was told that an experiment on
learning was to be conducted. The subject was to act as a
“teacher,” presenting a series of test questions to another
person, the “learner.” Whenever the learner gave a wrong
answer, the teacher would administer an electric shock.
A B CS
▲ Figure 6.1 Lines from Asch Experiment
Source: Asch, Solomon. 1956. “Opinion and Social Pressure.” Scientific
American 19 (July): 31–36.
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GrOUPS AN d OrGAN I zATI O N S  1 35
The test was relatively easy. The teacher read pairs
of words to the learner, such as:
blue box
nice house
wild duck
The teacher then tested the learner by reading a
multiple-choice answer, such as
blue: sky ink box lamp
The learner had to recall which term completed the
pair of terms given originally, in this case, “bluebox.”
If the learner answered incorrectly, the teacher was to
press a switch on the shock machine, a formidable-looking
device that emitted an ominous buzz when activated. For
each successive wrong answer, the teacher was to increase
the intensity of the shock by 15 volts.
The machine bore labels clearly visible to the
teacher: Slight shock, moderate shock, strong shock,
very strong shock, intense shock, extreme intense shock,
danger: severe shock, and lastly, XXX at 450 volts. As
the voltage rose, the learner responded with increased
squirming, groans, then screams.
The experiment was rigged. The learner was a con-
federate. No shocks were actually delivered. The true
purpose of the experiment was to see if any “teacher”
would go all the way to 450 volts. If the subject (teacher)
tried to quit, the experimenter responded with a
sequence of prods:
“Please continue.”
“The experiment requires that you continue.”
“It is absolutely essential that you continue.”
“You have no other choice, you must go on.”
In the first experiment, fully 65 percent of the vol-
unteer subjects (“teachers”) went all the way to 450
volts on the shock machine!
Milgram himself was astonished. Before carrying
out the experiment, he had asked a variety of psycholo-
gists, sociologists, psychiatrists, and philosophers to
guess how many subjects would actually go all the way
to 450 volts. The opinion of these consultants was that
only one-tenth of one percent (one in one thousand)
would actually do it!
What would you have done? Remember the “not
me” syndrome. Think about the experimenter—a clear
professorial authority figure—saying, “You have no
other choice, you must go on.” Most people claim they
would refuse to continue as the voltage escalated. The
importance of this experiment derives in part from
how starkly it highlights the difference once again
between what people think they will do and what they
actually do.
Milgram devised a series of additional experi-
ments in which he varied the conditions to find out
what would cause subjects not to go all the way to 450
volts. He moved the experiment from an impressive
university laboratory to a dingy basement to coun-
teract some of the tendency for people to defer to a
scientist conducting a scientific study. One learner
was then instructed to complain of a heart condition
with increasing trials. Still, well over half of the sub-
jects delivered the maximum shock level! Speculat-
ing that women might be more humane than men (all
prior experiments used only male subjects), Milgram
did the experiment again using only women subjects
(and male “learners”). The results? Exactly the same.
Social class background made no difference. Racial
and ethnic differences had no detectable effect on
compliance rate.
At the time that the Milgram experiments were con-
ceived, the world was watching the trial in Jerusalem of
World War II Nazi Adolf Eichmann. Millions of Jews,
Gypsies, homosexuals, and communists were mur-
dered between 1939 and 1945 by the Nazi party, led by
Adolf Hitler. As head of the Gestapo’s “Jewish section,”
Eichmann oversaw the deportation of Jews to concen-
tration camps and the mass executions that followed.
Eichmann disappeared after the war, was abducted in
Argentina by Israeli agents in 1961, and was transported
to Israel, where he was tried and ultimately hanged for
crimes against humanity.
The world wanted to see what sort of monster
could have committed the crimes of the holocaust, but
a jarring picture of Eichmann emerged. He was slight
and mild mannered, not the raging ghoul that every-
one expected. He insisted that although he had indeed
been a chief administrator in an organization whose
product was mass murder, he was guilty only of doing
what he was told to do by his superiors. He did not
hate Jews, he said. In fact, he had a Jewish half-cousin
whom he hid and protected. He claimed, “I was just
following orders.”
These photographs show how intimidating and authorita-
tive the Milgram experiment must have been, such as the
formidable-looking shock generator. The first photo shows
an experimental subject (seated) and the experimenter
(in lab coat, standing). A large majority (65 percent) of
subjects did not terminate the experiment when seeing
the person allegedly shocked, even in some cases going all
the way to the maximum shock level.
Co
ur
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o
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le
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M
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1 3 6   CHA PTEr 6
How different was Adolph Eichmann from the
rest of us? The political theorist Hannah Arendt dared
to suggest in her book Eichmann in Jerusalem (1963)
that evil on a giant scale is banal. It is not the work
of monsters, but an accident of civilization. Arendt
argued that we need only look into ourselves to find
the villain.
The Iraqi Prisoners at Abu Ghraib:
Research Predicts Reality?
We have just learned that ordinary people will do hor-
rible things to other humans simply because of the
influence of the group, because of an authority figure,
or because of a combination of both. This has been
the lesson of the Asch studies and the Milgram stud-
ies. Fairly recent events in the world have once again
shown vividly and clearly how accurate such sociologi-
cal and psychological experiments are in the prediction
of actual human behavior.
In the spring of 2004, it was revealed that American
soldiers who were military police guards at a prison in
Iraq (the prison was named Abu Ghraib) had engaged
in severe torture of Iraqi prisoners of war. The tor-
ture included sexual abuse of the prisoners—having
male prisoners simulate sex with other male prison-
ers, positioning their mouths next to the genitals of
another male prisoner, and other such acts. Still other
acts of torture involved physical abuse such as beat-
ings, stomping on the fingers of prisoners (thus frac-
turing them), and a large number of other physical
acts of torture, including bludgeoning, some alleg-
edly resulting in deaths of prisoners. Such tortures
are clearly outlawed by the Geneva convention and
by clearly stated U.S. principles of war. Both male and
female guards participated in these acts of torture.
The guards later claimed that they were simply follow-
ing orders, either orders directly given or indirectly
assumed. At the time, President George W. Bush and
then secretary of defense Donald H. Rumsfeld both
claimed that the acts of torture were merely the acts
of a “corrupt few” and that the vast majority of Ameri-
can soldiers would never engage in such horrible acts.
Since then, it has come to light via CIA memoranda
that certain kinds of torture were indeed formal U.S.
policy.
Now consider what we know from research. The
Milgram studies strongly suggest that many ordinary
soldiers who were not at all “corrupt,” at least not
more than average, would indeed engage in these
acts of torture, particularly if they believed that they
were under orders to do so or if they believed that
they would not be punished in any way if they did. The
American soldiers must bear a significant portion of
the responsibility for their own behavior. Nonethe-
less, the causes of the soldiers’ behaviors lie not in
the personalities of a “corrupt few” (their “natures”)
but in the social structure and group pressures of the
situation.
The soldiers (guards) in the Abu Ghraib prison may
not have received direct orders to torture prisoners, but
they did so nonetheless. A now classic study of a simu-
lated prison by Haney, Banks, and Zimbardo (1973)
shows this effect quite clearly. In this study, Stanford
University students were told by an experimenter to
enter a dungeon-like basement. Half were told to pre-
tend to be guards (to role-play being a guard) and half
were told that they were prisoners (to role-play being
a prisoner). Which students were told what was ran-
domly determined.
After two or three days, the guards, completely on
their own, began to act very sadistically and brutally
toward the prisoners—having them strip naked, simu-
late sex, act subservient, and so on. Interestingly, the
prisoners for the most part did just what the guards
wanted them to do, no matter how unpleasant the
requested act! The experiment was so scary that the
researchers terminated the experiment after six days—
more than a week early.
Remember that this study was conducted in
1973—thirty-one years before Abu Ghraib. Yet, this
simulated prison study (as well as the Asch and
Milgram studies) predicted quite precisely how both
“guards” and “prisoners” would act in a real prison
situation. Group influence effects uncovered by the
Asch as well as the Milgram studies ruled in both the
simulated prison of 1973 as well as the only too real
Iraq prison of 2004.
Debunking Society’s Myths←
Myth: People in groups are just individuals who make
up their own minds about how to think and behave.
Sociological Perspective: The Asch, Milgram, and
simulated prison experiments conclusively show that
people are profoundly influenced by group pressure,
often causing them to make up their minds contrary
to objective fact and even to deliberately cause harm
to another person.
Groupthink
Wealth, power, and experience are apparently not
enough to save us from social influences. Groupthink,
as described by I. L. Janis, is the tendency for even
highly educated group members to reach a consen-
sus opinion, even if that opinion is downright stupid
(Janis 1982).
Janis reasoned that because major government
policies are often the result of group decisions, it would
be fruitful to analyze group dynamics that operate at
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Editorial review has deemed that any suppressed content does not materially affect the overall learning experience. Cengage Learning reserves the right to remove additional content at any time if subsequent rights restrictions require it.
GrOUPS AN d OrGA N IzATI O N S  1 37
the highest level of government—for instance, in the
office of the president of the United States. The presi-
dent makes decisions based upon group discussions
with his advisers. The president is human and thus
susceptible to group influence. Janis discovered a
common pattern of misguided thinking in his inves-
tigations of presidential decisions. He surmised that
outbreaks of this groupthink had several things in
common:
1. An illusion of invulnerability
2. A falsely negative impression of those who are
antagonists to the group’s plans
3. Discouragement of dissenting opinion
4. An illusion of unanimity
Groupthink influences many important decisions,
such as going to war, in close-knit presidential admin-
istrations. The U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelli-
gence fingered groupthink as leading to the intelligence
failures that led government leaders to underestimate
the terrorist threats to the United States prior to the ter-
rorist attacks via airplanes on the Trade Center Towers
in New York City and the Pentagon on September 11
in 2001—the infamous “9/11” attacks on the United
States. Groupthink is not inevitable when a team gath-
ers to make a decision, but it is common and appears
in all sorts of groups, from student discussion groups
to the highest councils of power (Tsoukalas 2007;
Paulus et al. 2001).
Debunking Society’s Myths←
Myth: A group of experts brought together in a small
group will solve a problem according to their collective
expertise.
Sociological Perspective: Groupthink can lead even
the most qualified people to make disastrous decisions
because people in groups in the United States tend to
seek consensus at all costs.
Risky Shift
The term groupthink is commonly associated with
group decision making with consequences that are not
merely unexpected but disastrous. Another group phe-
nomenon, risky shift, may help explain why the prod-
ucts of groupthink are frequently calamities. Have you
ever found yourself in a group engaged in a high-risk
activity that you would not do alone? When you cre-
ated mischief as a child, were you not usually part of a
group? If so, you might well have been in the thrall of
risky shift—the general tendency for groups to be more
risky than individuals taken singly.
Risky shift was first observed by MIT graduate stu-
dent James Stoner (1961). Stoner gave study participants
descriptions of a situation involving risk, such as one in
which people seeking a job must choose between job
security and a potentially lucrative but risky advance-
ment. The participants were then asked to decide how
much risk the person should take. Before performing
his study, Stoner believed that individuals in a group
would take less risk than individuals alone, but he found
the opposite: After his groups had engaged in open dis-
cussions, they favored greater risk than they would have
before discussion.
→ See for YourSelF ←
Think of a time when you engaged in some risky behavior.
What group were you part of, and how did the group influ-
ence your behavior? How does this illustrate the concept
of risky shift? Is there more risky shift with more people in
the group? If so, this would illustrate a group size effect.
Stoner’s research has stimulated literally hundreds
of studies using males and females, different nation-
alities, different tasks, and other variables (Taylor et al.
2013; Yardi and Boyd 2010; Worchel et al. 2000). The
results are complex. Much, but not all, group discus-
sion leads to greater risk-taking. In subcultures that
value caution above daring, as in some work groups of
Japanese and Chinese firms, group decisions are less
risky after discussion than before. The shift can occur
in either direction, driven by the influence of group dis-
cussion, but there is generally some kind of shift in one
direction or the other rather than no shift at all (Kerr
1992). This is called polarization shift.
What causes risky shifts? The most convincing
explanation is that deindividuation occurs. Deindi-
viduation is the sense that one’s self has merged with a
group. In terms of risk-taking, one feels that responsibil-
ity (and possibly blame) is borne not only by oneself but
also by the group. This seems to have happened among
the American prison guards who tortured prisoners at
Abu Ghraib prison: Each guard could convince himself
or herself that responsibility, hence blame, was to be
borne by the group as a whole. The greater the number
of people in a group, the greater the tendency toward
deindividuation. In other words, deindividuation is
a group size effect. As groups get larger, trends in risk-
taking are amplified.
Formal Organizations
and Bureaucracies
Groups, as we have seen, are capable of greatly influenc-
ing individuals. The study of groups and their effects on
the individuals represent an example of microanalysis,
to use a concept introduced in Chapter 5. In contrast,
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1 3 8   CHAPT Er 6
the study of formal organizations and bureaucracies, a
subject to which we now turn, represents an example
of macroanalysis. The focus on groups drew our atten-
tion to the relatively small and less complex, whereas
the focus on organizations draws our attention to the
relatively large and structurally more complex.
A formal organization is a large secondary group,
highly organized to accomplish a complex task or tasks
and to achieve goals efficiently. Many of us belong to
various formal organizations: work organizations,
schools, and political parties, to name a few. Formal
organizations are formed to accomplish particular tasks
and are characterized by their relatively large size, com-
pared with a small group such as a family or a friendship
circle. Often, organizations consist of an array of other
organizations. The federal government is a huge organi-
zation comprising numerous other organizations, most
of which are also vast. Each organization within the fed-
eral government is also designed to accomplish specific
tasks, be it collecting your taxes, educating the nation’s
children, or regulating the nation’s transportation sys-
tem and national parks.
Organizations develop routine practices that
result in the production of an organizational culture.
Organizational culture refers to the collective norms
and values that shape the behavior of people within an
organization; in other words, it is the environment of
the organization. Organizational culture is present in
any organization and involves both formal and informal
norms. The culture of an organization may be reflected
in certain symbols and rituals, perhaps even a certain
style of dress. Organizational culture guides the behav-
iors of people within the organization, shaping what is
perceived to be appropriate and inappropriate. Indeed,
organizations appear very different depending upon
their culture. Corporate organizational culture has
tended to be somewhat formal and restrictive, although
new and innovative companies, such as Google and
Facebook, have considerably transformed these tra-
ditional organizational cultures. Even when it is infor-
mal, organizational culture guides behavior within the
organization.
Organizational culture can also produce problems
for organizations, as was found in the scandal at Penn
State University involving the sexual abuse of young
boys by assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. The
special investigative report that analyzed these inci-
dents and made recommendations to the university
specifically pointed at organizational culture as a con-
tributing factor in the failure of Penn State University
to stop Sandusky’s behavior. Certainly, the individual
behavior of Sandusky, now serving a prison term, is
to blame, but the special counsel’s report also blames
the organizational culture of the university for failing to
investigate when repeated reports of Sandusky’s behav-
ior came forward. The report cited the repeated failure
of four university leaders (the president, the famed
football coach Joe Paterno, the athletic director, and the
university vice president) for participating in an organi-
zational culture that resisted outside perspectives, had
the pervasive goal of protecting the university’s reputa-
tion, and had an excessive reverence for football, plac-
ing football above the protection of children and youths.
Organizations tend to be persistent, although they
are also responsive to the broader social environment
where they are located (DiMaggio and Powell 1991).
Organizations are frequently under pressure to respond
to changes in the society by incorporating new prac-
tices and beliefs into their structure. Business corpora-
tions, as an example, have had to respond to increasing
global competition; they do so by expanding into new
international markets, developing a globally focused
workforce, and trimming costs by eliminating workers
and various layers of management.
Organizations can be tools for innovation, depend-
ing on the organization’s values and purpose. Rape
crisis centers are examples of organizations that origi-
nally emerged from the women’s movement because
of the perceived need for services for rape victims.
Rape crisis centers have, to some degree, changed how
police departments and hospital emergency person-
nel respond to rape victims. By advocating changes
in rape law and services for rape victims, rape crisis
centers have generated change in other organiza-
tions as well (Martin 2005; Schmitt and Martin 1999;
Fried 1994).
Types of Organizations
Sociologists Blau and Scott (1974) and Etzioni (1975)
classify formal organizations into three categories dis-
tinguished by their types of membership affiliation:
normative, coercive, and utilitarian.
Normative Organizations. People join normative
organizations to pursue goals that they consider worth-
while. They obtain personal satisfaction, but no mon-
etary reward for membership in such an organization.
In many instances, people join the normative organiza-
tion for the social prestige that it offers. Many are service
and charitable organizations and are often called vol-
untary organizations. They include organizations such
as Kiwanis clubs, political parties, religious organiza-
tions, the National Association for the Advancement of
Colored People (NAACP), B’nai B’rith, La Raza, and other
similar voluntary organizations that are concerned with
specific issues. Such groups have been created to meet
particular needs, sometimes ones that members see as
unmet by other organizations.
Gender, class, race, and ethnicity all play a role in
who joins what voluntary organization. Social class
is reflected in the fact that many people do not join
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GrOUPS AN d OrGA N IzATI O N S  1 3 9
certain organizations simply because they cannot
afford to join. Membership in a professional organiza-
tion, as one example, can cost hundreds of dollars each
year. Those who feel disenfranchised, however, may
join grassroots organizations—voluntary organizations
that spring from specific local needs that people think
are unmet. Tenants may form an organization to protest
rent increases or lack of services, or a new political party
may emerge from people’s sense of alienation from exist-
ing political party organizations. African Americans,
Latinos, and Native Americans have formed many of
their own voluntary organizations in part because of
their historical exclusion from traditional White volun-
tary organizations. Some of these are vibrant, ongoing
organizations in their own right, such as the African
American organizations Delta Sigma Theta and Alpha
Kappa Alpha sororities, and the fraternities Alpha Phi
Alpha, Kappa Alpha Psi, and Omega Psi Phi—known
colloquially in song and poetry by its members as
“Q Psi Phi, ’til I die” (Giddings 1994).
Coercive Organizations. Coercive organizations
are characterized by membership that is largely invol-
untary. Prisons are an example of organizations that
people are coerced to “join” by virtue of punishment
for their crime. Similarly, mental hospitals are coercive
organizations: People are placed in them, often invol-
untarily, for some form of psychiatric treatment. In
many respects, prisons and mental hospitals are simi-
lar in their treatment of inmates or patients. They both
have strong security measures such as guards, locked
and barred windows, and high walls (Rosenhan 1973;
Goffman 1961).
The sociologist Erving Goffman has described
coercive organizations as total institutions. A total
institution is an organization that is cut off from the
rest of society and one in which resident individu-
als are subject to strict social control (Foucault 1995;
Goffman 1961). Total institutions include two popula-
tions: the “inmates” and the staff. Within total institu-
tions, the staff exercises complete power over inmates,
for example, nurses over mental patients and guards
over prisoners. The staff administers all the affairs of
everyday life, including basic human functions such
as eating and sleeping. Rigid routines are character-
istic of total institutions, thus explaining the common
complaint by those in hospitals that they cannot sleep
because nurses repeatedly enter their rooms at night,
regardless of whether the patient needs medication or
treatment. However, the problem of such rigid routines
has eased somewhat in some institutions.
Utilitarian Organizations. The third type of orga-
nization named is utilitarian organization. These are
large organizations, either for-profit or nonprofit, that
individuals join for specific purposes, such as mon-
etary reward. Large business organizations that gener-
ate profits (in the case of for-profit organizations) and
salaries and wages for the organization’s employees
(as with either for-profit or nonprofit organizations) are
utilitarian organizations. Examples of large, for-profit
organizations include Microsoft, Amazon.com, and
Google. Examples of large nonprofit organizations that
pay salaries to employees are colleges and universities,
the Educational Testing Service (ETS), churches, and
organizations such as the National Collegiate Athletic
Association (NCAA).
Bureaucracy
As a formal organization develops, it is likely to become
a bureaucracy, a type of formal organization charac-
terized by an authority hierarchy, a clear division of
labor, explicit rules, and impersonality. Bureaucracies
are notorious for their unwieldy size and complexity
as well as their reputation for being remote and cum-
bersome organizations that are highly impersonal and
machinelike in their operation. The federal government
is a good example of a cumbersome bureaucracy that
many believe is ineffective because of its sheer size.
Numerous other formal organizations have developed
into huge bureaucracies: Microsoft, Disney, many uni-
versities, hospitals, state motor vehicle registration sys-
tems, and some law firms.
The early sociological theorist Max Weber
(1947/1925) analyzed the classic characteristics of a
bureaucracy. These characteristics represent what he
called an ideal type—a model rarely seen in reality
but that defines the principal characteristics of a social
form. The characteristics of bureaucracies described as
an ideal type are:
1. High degree of division of labor and specializa-
tion. The notion of the specialist embodies this
criterion. Bureaucracies ideally employ special-
ists in the various positions and occupations, and
these specialists are responsible for a specific set
of duties. Sociologist Charles Perrow (2007, 1994,
1986) notes that many modern bureaucracies have
hierarchical authority structures and an elaborate
division of labor.
2. Hierarchy of authority. In bureaucracies, positions
are arranged in a hierarchy so that each is under the
supervision of a higher position. Such hierarchies
are often represented in an organization chart,
a diagram in the shape of a pyramid that shows
the relative rank of each position plus the lines of
authority between each. These lines of authority
are often called the “chain of command,” and they
show not only who has authority, but also who is
responsible to whom and how many positions are
responsible to a given position.
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1 4 0   CHA PT Er 6
3. Rules and regulations. All the activities in a bureau-
cracy are governed by a set of detailed rules and
procedures. These rules are designed, ideally, to
cover almost every possible situation and prob-
lem that might arise, including hiring, firing, salary
scales, and rules for sick pay and absences.
4. Impersonal relationships. Social interaction in the
(ideal) bureaucracy is supposed to be guided by
instrumental criteria, such as the organization’s
rules, rather than by expressive needs, such as per-
sonal attractions or likes and dislikes. The ideal is
that the objective application of rules will mini-
mize matters such as personal favoritism—giving
someone a promotion simply because you like him
or her or firing someone because you do not like
him or her. Of course, as we will see, sociologists
have pointed out that bureaucracy has “another
face”—the informal social interaction that actually
keeps the bureaucracy working and often involves
interpersonal friendships and social ties, typically
among people taken for granted in these organiza-
tions, such as the support staff, traditionally con-
sisting largely of women.
5. Career ladders. Candidates for the various positions
in the bureaucracy are supposed to be selected on
the basis of specific criteria, such as education,
experience, and standardized examinations. The
idea is that advancement through the organization
becomes a career for the individual. Some organi-
zations, such as some universities and some law
firms, have a policy of tenure—a guarantee of con-
tinued employment until one’s retirement from the
organization.
6. Efficiency. Bureaucracies are designed to coordinate
the activities of many people in pursuit of organiza-
tional goals. Ideally, all activities have been designed
to maximize this efficiency. The whole system is
intended to keep social-emotional relations and
interactions at a minimum and instrumental inter-
action at a maximum.
Bureaucracy’s “Other Face”
All the characteristics of Weber’s “ideal type” are general
defining characteristics. Rarely do actual bureaucracies
meet this exact description. A bureaucracy has, in addi-
tion to the ideal characteristics of structure, an informal
structure. This includes social interactions, even net-
work connections, in bureaucratic settings that ignore,
change, or otherwise bypass the formal structure and
rules of the organization. This informal structure often
develops among those who are taken for granted in
organizations, such as secretaries and administrative
assistants—who are most often women. Sociologist
Charles Page (1946) coined the phrase bureaucracy’s
other face to describe this condition.
This other face is informal culture. It has evolved
over time as a reaction to the formality and imperson-
ality of the bureaucracy. Thus, administrative assis-
tants and secretaries will sometimes “bend the rules
a bit” when asked to do something more quickly than
usual for a boss they like and bend the rules in another
direction for a boss they do not like by slowing down
or otherwise sabotaging the boss’s work. Researchers
have noted, for example, that secretaries and assis-
tants may well have more authority than their job
titles and salaries suggest. As a way around the cum-
bersome formal communication channels within the
organization, the informal network, or “grapevine”
(a type of social network, as mentioned previously)
often works better, faster, and sometimes even more
accurately than the formal channels. As with any
culture, the informal culture in the bureaucracy has
its own norms or rules. One is not supposed to “stab
friends in the back,” such as by “ratting on” them to a
boss or spreading a rumor about them that is intended
to get them fired. Yet, just as with any norms, there is
deviation from the norms, and “backstabbing” and
“ratting” does happen.
Problems of Bureaucracies
In contemporary times, problems have developed that
grow out of the nature of the complex bureaucracy. Two
problem areas already discussed are the occurrence
of risky shift in work groups and the development of
groupthink. Additional problems include a tendency to
ritualism and the potential for alienation on the part of
those within an organization.
Ritualism. Rigid adherence to rules can produce
a slavish following of them, regardless of whether it
accomplishes the purpose for which the rule was origi-
nally designed. The rules become ends in themselves
rather than means to an end: This is organizational
ritualism.
A classic example of the consequences of organi-
zational ritualism was the tragedy involving the space
shuttle Challenger in 1986. Only seconds after liftoff, as
hundreds watched live, the Challenger exploded, killing
schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe, and six other crew-
members. Many still remember where they were and
exactly what they were doing when they heard about
the tragedy. The failure of the essential O-ring gaskets
on the solid fuel booster rockets of the Challenger shut-
tle caused the catastrophic explosion. It was revealed
later that the O-rings were known to become brittle at
below-freezing temperatures, as was the temperature
at the launch pad the evening before the Challenger
lifted off.
Why did the managers and engineers at NASA
(National Aeronautics and Space Administration) allow
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GrOUPS AN d OrGAN I zATI O N S  1 4 1
the shuttle to lift off given these conditions and their
prior knowledge? The managers had all the informa-
tion about the O-rings before the launch. Furthermore,
engineers had warned them against the danger. In a
detailed analysis of the decision to launch, sociologist
Diane Vaughan (1996) (yes—a sociologist!) uncovered
both risky shift and organizational ritualism within
the organization. The NASA insiders, confronted with
signals of danger, proceeded as if nothing was wrong
when they were repeatedly faced with the evidence
that something was indeed very wrong. They, in effect,
normalized their own behavior so that their actions
became acceptable to them, representing nothing out
of the ordinary. This is an example of organizational
ritualism, as well as what Vaughan calls the “normaliza-
tion of deviance.”
Unfortunately, history repeated itself on February
1, 2003, when the space shuttle Columbia, upon its
return from space, broke up in a fiery descent into the
atmosphere above Texas, killing all who were aboard.
The evidence shows that a piece of hard insulating
foam separated from an external fuel tank during
launch and struck the shuttle’s left wing, damaging
it and dislodging its heat-resistant tiles that are nec-
essary for reentry. The absence of these tiles caused
a burn-up upon reentry into the atmosphere. With
eerie similarity to the earlier 1986 Challenger acci-
dent, subsequent analysis concluded that a “flawed
institutional culture” and—citing sociologist Diane
Vaughan—a normalization of deviance accompany-
ing a gradual erosion of safety margins were among
the causes of the Columbia accident (Schwartz and
Wald 2003).
No single individual was at fault in either acci-
dent. The story is not one of evil but rather of the
ritualism of organizational life in one of the most
powerful bureaucracies in the United States. It is
a story of rigid group conformity within an orga-
nizational setting and of how deviant behavior is
redefined, that is, socially constructed, just as also
happened in the Penn State Sandusky scandal,
already discussed. Organizational culture overshad-
ows individual good judgment, creating a decrease in
safety and increased risk. This is one of the hazards of
organizational behavior.
Alienation. The stresses on rules and procedures
within bureaucracies can result in a decrease in the
overall cohesion of the organization. This often psy-
chologically separates a person from the organization
and its goals. This state of alienation results in increased
turnover, tardiness, absenteeism, and overall dissatis-
faction with an organization.
Alienation can be widespread in organizations
where workers have little control over what they do, or
where workers themselves are treated like machines
employed on an assembly line, doing the same repeti-
tive action for an entire work shift. Alienation is not
restricted to manual labor, however. In organizations
where workers are isolated from others, where they
are expected only to implement rules, or where they
think they have little chance of advancement, alien-
ation can be common. As we will see, some organiza-
tions have developed new patterns of work to try to
minimize worker alienation and thus enhance their
productivity.
The McDonaldization of Society
Sometimes the problems and peculiarities of bureau-
cracy can have effects on the total society. This has
been the case with what George Ritzer (2010) has called
McDonaldization, a term coined from the well-known
fast-food chain. In fact, 90 percent of U.S. children
between ages 3 and 9 visit McDonald’s each month!
Ritzer noticed that the principles that characterize fast-
food organizations are increasingly dominating more
aspects of U.S. society, indeed, of societies around the
world. McDonaldization refers to the increasing and
ubiquitous presence of the fast-food model in most
organizations that shape daily life. Work, travel, leisure,
Evidence of the “Mcdonaldization of society” can be seen
everywhere, perhaps including on your own campus. Shop-
ping malls, food courts, sports stadiums, even cruise ships
reflect this trend toward standardization.
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1 4 2   CHAPT Er 6
shopping, health care, politics, and even education
have all become subject to McDonaldization. Each
industry is based on a principle of high and efficient
productivity, which translates into a highly rational
social organization, with workers employed at low pay
but with customers experiencing ease, convenience,
and familiarity.
Ritzer argues that McDonald’s has been such a
successful model of business organization that other
industries have adopted the same organizational char-
acteristics, so much so that their nicknames associate
them with the McDonald’s chain: McPaper for USA
Today, McChild for child-care chains like KinderCare,
and McDoctor for the drive-in clinics that deal quickly
and efficiently with minor health and dental problems.
Based in part upon Max Weber’s concept of the
ideal bureaucracy mentioned earlier, Ritzer identifies
four dimensions of the McDonaldization process—
efficiency, calculability, predictability, and control:
1. Efficiency means that things move from start to fin-
ish in a streamlined path. Steps in the production of
a hamburger are regulated so that each hamburger
is made exactly the same way—hardly characteris-
tic of a home-cooked meal. Business can be even
more efficient if the customer does the work once
done by an employee. In fast-food restaurants, the
claim that you can “have it your way” really means
that you assemble your own sandwich or salad.
2. Calculability means there is an emphasis on the
quantitative aspects of products sold: size, cost, and
the time it takes to get the product. At McDonald’s,
branch managers must account for the number of
cubic inches of ketchup used per day; likewise, ice
cream scoopers in chain stores measure out prede-
termined and exact amounts of ice cream.
3. Predictability is the assurance that products will be
exactly the same, no matter when or where they are
purchased. Eat an Egg McMuffin in New York, and
it will likely taste just the same as an Egg McMuffin
in Los Angeles or Paris!
4. Control is the primary organizational principle
that lies behind McDonaldization. Behavior of the
customers and workers is reduced to a series of
machinelike actions. Ultimately, efficient technol-
ogies replace much of the work that humans once
performed.
McDonaldization clearly brings many benefits. There
is a greater availability of goods and services to a wide
proportion of the population; instantaneous service
and convenience to a public with less free time; pre-
dictability and familiarity in the goods bought and
sold; and standardization of pricing and uniform qual-
ity of goods sold, to name a few benefits. However,
this increasingly rational system of goods and services
also spawns irrationalities. For example, the majority
of workers at McDonald’s lack full-time employment,
have no worker benefits, have no control over their
workplace, have no pension, and quit on average after
only four or five months.
Diversity in Organizations
The hierarchical structuring of positions within orga-
nizations results in the concentration of power and
influence with a few individuals at the top. Because
organizations tend to reflect patterns within the broader
society, this hierarchy, like that of society, is marked by
inequality in race, gender, and class relations. Although
the concentration of power in organizations is incom-
patible with the principles of a democratic society,
organizations are structured by hierarchies and dis-
crimination is still quite pervasive, especially among
the power elite, White men still predominate, and stud-
ies find that, even though the presence of women and
people of color is growing in positions of organizational
leadership, they tend to take on the same values as the
dominant group, evidence once again of group confor-
mity (Zweigenhaft and Domhoff 2006).
Debunking Society’s Myths←
Myth: Putting more women and people of color into
positions of power will transform institutions.
Sociological Perspective: Not necessarily. Although
having diverse people involved in decision making tends
to produce more innovation, there is also a tendency for
new members of a group to conform to the values and
orientations of the dominant group (zweigenhaft and
domhoff 2006).
A classic study by Rosabeth Moss Kanter (1977)
shows how the structure of organizations leads to
obstacles in the advancement of groups who are under-
represented in the organization. People who are under-
represented in the organization become tokens; they
feel put “out front” and under the all-too-watchful
eyes of their superiors as well as peers. As a result—as
research since Kanter’s has shown—they often suf-
fer severe stress (Smith 2007; Jackson 2000). They may
be assumed to be incompetent, getting their position
simply because they are women, minorities, or both—
even in instances where the person has had superior
admissions qualifications. This is stressful for a person
and shows that tokenism can have very negative conse-
quences (Guttierez y Muhs et al. 2012).
Social class, in addition to race and gender, plays a
part in determining people’s place within formal orga-
nizations. Employees of middle- and upper-class ori-
gins in organizations make higher salaries and wages
and are more likely to get promoted than are people of
Few organizational boards and executive committees
contain minorities and women, unlike what is pictured
here.
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GrOUPS ANd OrGAN IzATI O N S  1 43
lower social class origins, even for individuals who are
of the same race or ethnicity. Few organizational boards
and executive committees contain minorities and
women: When present, they are often tokens. This even
holds for people coming from families of lower social
class status who are as well educated as their middle-
and upper-class coworkers. Thus their lower salaries
and lack of promotion cannot necessarily be attributed
to a lack of education. In this respect, their treatment
in the bureaucracy only perpetuates rather than less-
ens the negative effects of the social class system in the
United States.
The social class stratification system in the United
States produces major differences in the opportuni-
ties and life chances of individuals, and the bureau-
cracy simply carries these differences forward. Class
stereotypes also influence hiring practices in organi-
zations. Personnel officers look for people with “cer-
tain demeanors,” a code phrase for those who convey
middle-class or upper-middle-class standards of dress,
language, manners, and so on, which some people may
be unable to afford or may not possess.
Even as the structure of organizations reproduces
the race, class, and gender inequalities that perme-
ate society, ample research now finds that diversity
within organizations has numerous benefits. Diverse
groups—that is, diverse people—bring different expe-
riences and perspectives to organizations and to orga-
nizational decision making. Of course, the problem is
that there is still pressure on such people to conform
to the dominant culture of the organization. That pres-
sure to conform can silence dissent, as groupthink
would suggest, especially if those who bring diversity
to the organization, such as women, gays, lesbians,
bisexuals, transgender people, and people of color,
are treated as tokens or silenced because they are dif-
ferent. When people are tokens in organizations, they
are pressured not to stand out or, when they speak out,
they may be ignored—or, worse, others take credit for
their ideas.
Nonetheless, new research on diversity is consis-
tently demonstrating the benefit of diversity for all kinds
of organizations. In schools, all students learn more
when in classrooms where there are people from differ-
ent backgrounds (Gurin et al. 2002). In business orga-
nizations, racial diversity is associated with increased
sales revenues, more customers, a stronger market
share, and higher profits (Herring 2009). There is ample
evidence that companies are now much more aware of
the fact that innovation is more likely to occur in diverse
work organizations (Page 2007). On college campuses,
more cross-race interaction produces a more positive
campus climate (Valentine et al. 2012).
Debunking Society’s Myths←
Myth: diversity is a real problem for organizations.
Sociological Perspective: despite the challenges
posed by trying to create more diverse work organiza-
tions, research shows that more diverse organizations
have greater profits and are more innovative (Bell 2011;
Herring 2009; Page 2007).
Functionalism, Conflict
Theory, and Symbolic
Interaction: Theoretical
Perspectives
All three major sociological perspectives—function-
alism, conflict theory, and symbolic interaction—
are exhibited in the analysis of formal organizations
and bureaucracies (see ◆ Table 6.1). The functional
perspective, based in this case on the early writing
of Max Weber, argues that certain functions, called
eufunctions (that is, positive functions), characterize
bureaucracies and contribute to their overall unity.
The bureaucracy exists to accomplish these eufunc-
tions, such as efficiency, control, impersonal relations,
and a chance for individuals to develop a career within
the organization. As we have seen, however, bureau-
cracies develop the “other face” (informal interaction
and culture, as opposed to formal or bureaucratic
interaction and culture), as well as problems of ritu-
alism and alienation of people from the organization.
These latter problems are called dysfunctions (negative
Few organizational boards and executive committees
contain minorities and women, unlike what is pictured
here.
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1 4 4   CHA PTEr 6
◆ Table 6.1 Theoretical Perspectives on Organizations
Functionalist Theory Conflict Theory Symbolic Interaction Theory
Central Focus Positive functions (such
as efficiency) contribute
to unity and stability of
the organization.
Hierarchical nature of bureaucracy
encourages conflict between
superiors and subordinates, men
and women, and people of different
racial or class backgrounds. Tokenism
often results.
This theory stresses the role of
self in the bureaucracy and how
the self develops and changes.
Relationship of
Individual to the
Organization
Individuals, like parts of a
machine, are only partly
relevant to the operation
of the organization.
Individuals are subordinated to
systems of power and experience
stress and alienation as a result.
Interaction between superiors
and subordinates forms the
structure of the organization.
Criticism Hierarchy can result in
dysfunctions such as
ritualism and alienation.
This theory de-emphasizes the posi-
tive ways that organizations work.
This theory tends to downplay
overall social organization.
© Cengage Learning
functions), which have the consequence of contribut-
ing to disunity, lack of harmony, and less efficiency in
the bureaucracy. Finally, with increasing diversity in
organizations, tokenism, an organizational dysfunc-
tion, may result.
The conflict perspective argues that the hierar-
chical or stratified nature of the bureaucracy in effect
encourages rather than inhibits conflict among indi-
viduals within it. These conflicts are between superiors
and subordinates, as well as between racial and ethnic
groups, men and women, and people of different social
class backgrounds, hampering smooth and efficient
running of the bureaucracy. Furthermore, conflict the-
ory helps us understand the power structures that exist
in organizations—both the formal ones that come from
the organizational hierarchy and the less formal ways
that power is exercised between people and among
groups within the organization.
Symbolic interaction theory stresses the role of the
self in any group and especially how the self develops
as a product of social interaction. Within organizations,
people may feel that their “self ” becomes subordinated
to the larger structure of the organization. This is espe-
cially true in bureaucratic organizations where individ-
uals often feel overwhelmed by the sheer complexity of
working through bureaucratic structures. But symbolic
interaction also emphasizes the creativity of human
beings as social actors and thus would be a good per-
spective to use if analyzing how people change organi-
zational structures and cultures.
What are the types of groups?
Groups are a fact of human existence and permeate
virtually every facet of our lives. Group size is impor-
tant, and determines quite a bit, as does the other-
wise simple distinction between dyads and triads.
Primary groups form the basic building blocks of
social interaction in society. Reference groups play a
major role in forming our attitudes and life goals, as
do our relationships with in-groups and out-groups.
Social networks partly determine things such as who
we know and the kinds of jobs we get. Networks
based on race or ethnicity, social class, and other
social factors are extremely closely connected and
are very dense. Network research has shown that
network sampling (for example, sampling pairs of
individuals) predicts who is at risk for AIDS/HIV bet-
ter than does traditional survey sampling.
How strong is social influence?
The social influence groups exert on us is tremen-
dous, as seen by the Asch conformity experiments.
The Milgram experiments demonstrated that the inter-
personal influence of an authority figure can cause an
individual to act against his or her deep convictions.
The torture and abuse of Iraqi prisoners of war by
American soldiers/prison guards serves as testimony
to the powerful effects of both social influence and
authority structures. The Iraqi tortures were in effect
experimentally predicted by a simulated prison study
done in the United States over thirty years earlier.
Chapter Summary
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GrOUPS ANd OrGAN IzATI O N S  1 4 5
What is the importance of groupthink
andriskyshift?
Groupthink can be so pervasive that it adversely affects
group decision making and often results in group deci-
sions that by any measure are simply stupid. Risky shift
(and polarization shift) similarly often compel individ-
uals to reach decisions that are at odds with their better
judgment.
What are the types of formal organizations
and bureaucracies, and what are some of
their problems?
There are several types of formal organizations, such
as normative, coercive, or utilitarian. Weber typified
bureaucracies as organizations with an efficient divi-
sion of labor, an authority hierarchy, rules, impersonal
relationships, and career ladders. Bureaucratic rigidi-
ties often result in organizational problems such as
ritualism and resulting “normalization of deviance.”
The McDonaldization of society has resulted in greater
efficiency, calculability, and control in many industries,
probably at the expense of some individual creativity.
Formal organizations perpetuate society’s inequali-
ties on the basis of race or ethnicity, gender, and social
class. Current research finds, however, that innova-
tion in organizations is more likely if there is greater
diversity—and thus a variety of perspectives—within
the organization.
What do functional, conflict, and symbolic
interaction theories say about organizations?
Functional, conflict, and symbolic interaction theo-
ries highlight and clarify the analysis of organizations
by specifying both organizational functions and dys-
functions (functional theory); by analyzing the conse-
quences of hierarchical, gender, race, and social class
conflict in organizations (conflict theory); and, finally,
by studying the importance of social interaction and
integration of the self into the organization (symbolic
interaction theory).
attribution error 130
attribution theory 130
bureaucracy 139
coalition 127
coercive organization 139
deindividuation 137
dyad 127
expressive needs 129
formal organization 138
group 126
group size effect 126
groupthink 136
ideal type 139
instrumental needs 129
Mcdonaldization 141
normative organization 138
organizational culture 138
organizational
ritualism 140
polarization shift 137
primary group 127
reference group 129
risky shift 137
secondary group 129
social network 131
total institution 139
triad 127
utilitarian
organization 139
Key Terms
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3
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147
In the early 1970s, an airplane carrying forty members of an amateur rugby team crashed in the Andes Mountains in South America. The twenty-seven survivors were stranded at
12,000 feet in freezing weather and deep snow. There was no
food except for a small amount of chocolate and some wine. A
few days after the crash, the group heard on a small transistor
radio that the search for them had been called off.
Scattered in the snow were the frozen bodies of dead
passengers. Preserved by the freezing weather, these bodies
became, after a time, sources of food. At first, the survivors
were repulsed by the idea of eating human flesh, but as the
days wore on, they agonized over the decision about whether
to eat the dead crash victims, eventually concluding that they
had to eat if they were tolive.
In the beginning, only a few ate the human meat, but soon
the others began to eat too. The group experimented with
preparations as they tried different parts of the body. They
developed elaborate rules (social norms) about how, what,
and whom they would eat.
After two months, the group sent out an expedition of
three survivors to find help. The group was rescued, and the
world learned of their ordeal. Their cannibalism (the eating
of other human beings) generally came to be accepted as
something they had to do to survive. Although people might
have been repulsed by the story, the survivors’ behavior was
understood as a necessary adaptation to their life-threatening
circumstances. The survivors also maintained a sense of them-
selves as good people even though what they did profoundly
violated ordinary standards of socially acceptable behavior in
most cultures in the world (Henslin 1993; Read1974).
Was the behavior of the Andes crash survivors socially
deviant? Were the people made crazy by their experience, or
was this a normal response to extreme circumstances?
Compare the Andes crash to another case of human can-
nibalism. In 1991, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Jeffrey Dahmer
pled guilty to charges of murdering at least fifteen men in
his home. Dahmer lured the men to his apartment, where he
murdered and dismembered them, then cooked and ate some
of their body parts. For those he considered most handsome,
he boiled the flesh from their heads so that he could save and
●● Present a sociological
definition of deviance as a
social construction
●● Compare and contrast
theoretical approaches
to understanding deviant
behavior
●● Explain the importance
of labels in determining
deviant behavior
●● Relate the social structure
associated with deviant
identities and deviant
communities
●● Examine the race, class,
and gender disparities
within the criminal justice
system
in this chapter, you will learn to:
Defining Deviance 148
Sociological Theories
ofDeviance 151
Crime and Criminal Justice 159
Chapter Summary 166
Deviance and Crime
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1 4 8   CH aPT ER 7
admire their skulls. Dahmer was seen as a total social deviant, someone who violated every principle of
human decency. Even hardened criminals were disgusted by Dahmer. In fact, he was killed by another
inmate in prison in 1994.
Why was Dahmer’s behavior considered so deviant when that of the Andes survivors was not? The
answer can be found by looking at the situation in which these behaviors occurred. For the Andes survi-
vors, eating human flesh was essential for survival. For Dahmer, however, it was murder. From a sociologi-
cal perspective, the deviance of cannibalism resides not just in the act itself but also in the social context
in which it occurs. The exact same behavior—eating other human beings—is considered reprehensible in
one context and acceptable in another. That is the essence of the sociological explanation. The nature of
deviance is not simply about the deviant act itself, nor is deviance just about the individual who engages
in the behavior. Instead, social deviance is socially constructed and a product of social structure.
Defining Deviance
Sociologists define deviance as behavior that is recog-
nized as violating expected rules and norms. Deviance
is more than simple nonconformity—most of us may
“break the rules” now and again. Behavior that departs
significantly from social expectations is deviant. In the
sociological perspective on deviance, there are four
main identifying characteristics:
●● Deviance emerges in a social context, not just in the
behavior of individuals; sociologists see deviance in
terms of group processes and judgments. Deviance,
therefore, can change overtime, or from one setting
to another.
●● Groups judge behaviors differently. What is deviant
to one group may be normative to another.
●● Established rules and norms are socially created, not
just morally decided or individually imposed.
●● Deviance lies not just in behavior itself but also in the
social responses to behavior and people engaged in
the behavior.
Sociological Perspectives
onDeviance
Strange, unconventional, or nonconformist behavior
is often understandable in its sociological context.
Consider suicide. Are all people who commit suicide
suffering with mental illness? Might their behavior
instead be explained by social factors? Think about it.
There are conditions under which suicide may well
be acceptable behavior—for example, someone who
voluntarily receives a lethal dose of medicine to end
her life in the face of a terminal illness, compared to a
despondent person who jumps from a window.
Sociologists distinguish two types of deviance:
formal and informal. Formal deviance is behavior that
breaks laws or official rules. Crime is an example. There
are formal sanctions against formal deviance, such as
imprisonment and fines. Informal deviance is behavior
that violates customary norms. Although such deviance
may not be specified in law, it is judged to be deviant by
those who uphold the society’s norms.
→See for YourSelf ←
Perform an experiment by doing something mildly deviant
for a period, such as carrying around a teddy bear doll
and treating it as a live baby, or standing in the street and
looking into the air, as though you are looking at some-
thing up there. Make a record of how others respond to
you, and then ask yourself how labeling theory is impor-
tant to the study of deviance.
How might reactions to you differ had you been of
another race or gender? You might want to structure this
question into your experiment by teaming up with a class-
mate of another race or gender. You could then compare
each of your responses to the samebehavior. a note of
caution: Do not do anything illegal ordangerous. Even the
most seemingly harmless acts of deviance can generate
strong reactions, so be careful in planning your sociological
exercise!
The study of deviance includes both the study of why
people violate laws or norms and the study of how soci-
ety reacts. Labeling theory is discussed in detail later, but
it recognizes that deviance is not just in the breaking of
norms or rules but it includes how people react to those
behaviors. Sociologists consider the social context of
the behavior, the social construction of that behavior as
deviant, and the response to the behavior (Becker 1963).
Debunking Society’s Myths←
Myth: Deviance is bad for society because it disrupts
normal life.
Sociological Perspective: Deviance tends to stabilize
society. By defining some forms of behavior as deviant,
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DEvian CE an DC Ri M E  1 4 9
people are affirming the social norms of groups. in this
sense, society actually creates deviance to some extent
(Durkheim 1951/1897).
The Social Context of Deviance. Even the most
unconventional behavior can be understood if we know
the context in which it occurs. Behavior that is devi-
ant in one circumstance may be normal in another, or
behavior may be ruled deviant only when performed by
certain people. For example, people who break gender
stereotypes may be judged as deviant even though their
behavior is considered normal for the other sex. Women
who have painted fingernails, shaved legs, and wear eye
makeup are feminine and “normal.” Except for those
who are on stage or on camera, men who wear nail pol-
ish and makeup are usually regarded as “deviant.”
Another example regards the consumption of
alcohol, a legal drug. Whether someone who drinks
is judged to be an alcoholic depends in large part on
the social context in which one drinks, not solely on
the amount of alcohol consumed. Drinking wine from
a bottle in a brown bag on the street corner is consid-
ered highly deviant. Having martinis in a posh bar is
perfectly acceptable among adults. The act of drinking
alcohol is not intrinsically deviant. The societal reaction
to it determines deviance.
The definition of deviance can also change over
time. Acquaintance rape (also called “date rape”), for
example, was not considered social deviance until fairly
recently. Women have been presumed to mean yes
when they said no, and men were expected to “seduce”
women through aggressive sexual behavior. Even now,
women who are raped by someone they know may not
think of it as rape. If they do, they may find that pros-
ecuting the offender is difficult because others do not
think of it as rape, especially under certain circum-
stances, such as the woman being drunk.
Understanding the context in which deviance
occurs and the context in which it is punished reveals
much about the norms of society. The sociologist Emile
Durkheim argued that one reason acts of deviance are
publicly punished is that the social order is threatened
by deviance. Judging those behaviors as deviant and
punishing them confirms general social standards.
Therein lies the value of widely publicized trials and
public executions. The punishment affirms the collec-
tive beliefs of the society, reinforces social order, and
inhibits future deviant behavior, especially as defined
by those with the power to judge others.
The Influence of Social Movements. The per-
ception of deviance may also be influenced by social
movements, which are networks of groups that orga-
nize to support or resist changes in society (see
Chapter 16). With a change in the social climate, for-
merly acceptable behaviors may be newly defined as
deviant. Cigarette smoking, for instance, was once
considered glamorous, sexy, and “cool.” The social cli-
mate toward smoking, however, has changed. In 1987,
only 17 percent of people thought that smoking should
be banned in public places. Recent estimates are that
over half (56 percent) supported a ban on smoking
cigarettes in public spaces (Riffkin 2014). The increase
in public disapproval of smoking results as much from
social and political movements as it does from the
known health risks.
The antismoking movement was successful in
articulating to the public that smoking is dangerous.
The ability of people to mobilize against something,
in this case cigarette smoking, is just as important to
creating the context for deviance as is any evidence
of risk of harm from cigarettes. In other words, there
has to be a social response for deviance to be defined
as such; scientific evidence of harm in and of itself is
not enough.
Many people consider all drug use to
be criminal or deviant behavior, but
“drugs” includes a broad spectrum of
substances. Alcohol, tobacco, caffeine,
and prescription drugs are all legal
drugs. Let’s consider prescription drugs.
Most people would agree that using a
medication that has been prescribed to
you by a medical doctor for a legitimate
Drugs as Deviance or Crime
illness is neither deviant nor criminal.
The same drug used by someone who
does not have an illness or a prescrip-
tion to use the medication would be
considered deviance. Sociological
research shows that the nonmedical
use of prescription drugs is increas-
ingly a problem on college campuses
and among high school adolescents.
So-called “study drugs” are used to
help students maintain focus on their
academics. The drugs, like Adderall or
Ritalin, are intended to aid those with
diagnosed ADHD, but other students
are using them to help improve aca-
demic performance. There are health
risks and criminal consequences, yet
most students do not consider using
these study drugs as deviant (Nargiso
et al. 2015).
what would a sociologist say?
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1 5 0   CH a PTER7
The Social Construction
of Deviance
Perhaps because it violates social conventions or
because it sometimes involves unusual behavior, devi-
ance captures the public imagination. Commonly, how-
ever, the public understands deviance as the result of
individualistic or personality factors. Many people see
deviants as crazy, threatening, “sick,” or in some other
way inferior, but sociologists see deviance as influenced
by society—the same social processes and institutions
that shape all social behavior.
Deviance, for example, is not necessarily irrational
or “sick” and may be a positive and rational adaptation
to a situation. Think of the Andes survivors discussed in
this chapter’s opener. Was their action (eating human
flesh) irrational, or was it an inventive and rational
response to a dreadful situation? To use another exam-
ple, is marijuana use part of a deviant subculture, or are
some people using marijuana as a rational response to
personal circumstances, such as illness?
Marijuana use, especially by smoking a “joint” or
inhaling through a “bong,” although legal in some states,
is considered deviant behavior. Most Americans do not
use it and consider marijuana use undesirable behav-
ior. Using medical marijuana, though, to help with the
pain and nausea from cancer treatments is a rational
choice and blurs the lines of deviant and “normative”
behavior. In fact, if marijuana is distributed to patients
in pill form, consistent with other types of medication,
most people think marijuana use is acceptable. The
actual use of marijuana is only seen as deviant in the
context of how it is administered. Taking a marijuana
pill is not considered as deviant as smoking a joint or
inhaling marijuana smoke through a bong (Rudski
2014). The social context in which marijuana use takes
place includes both how it is used and why.
Also, in some subcultures or situations, deviant
behavior is encouraged and praised. Have you ever
been egged on by friends to do something that you
thought was deviant, or have you done something you
knew was wrong? Many argue that the reason so many
college students drink excessively is that the student
subculture encourages them to do so—even though
students know it is harmful. High-risk drinking is char-
acterized by drinking to the point of vomiting, blacking
out, and possibly even dying from alcohol poison-
ing. Still, a college campus with a culture of drinking
will encourage people to drink heavily, despite the
known risks.
The Medicalization of Deviance
Commonly, people will say that someone who commits
a very deviant act is “sick.” This common explanation is
what sociologists call the medicalization of deviance
(Conrad and Schneider 1992). Medicalizing deviance
attributes deviant behavior to a “sick” state of mind,
where the solution is to “cure” the deviance through
therapy or other psychological treatment.
As an example, some evidence indicates that alco-
holism may have a genetic basis, and certainly alco-
holism must be understood at least in part in medical
terms, but viewing alcoholism solely from a medical
perspective ignores the social causes that influence
the development and persistence of this behavior.
Practitioners know that medical treatment alone does
not solve the problem. The social relationships, social
Smoking for recreational purposes and using pipes or bongs
is considered more deviant than using marijuana for medici-
nal purposes.
In
kk
St
ud
io
s/
iS
to
ck
ph
ot
o.
co
m
High-risk drinking of alcohol is acceptable behavior among
students on many college campuses. This same behavior
among adults outside of the college culture is considered
problematic and possibly alcoholism.
©
w
av
eb
re
ak
m
ed
ia
/S
hu
tt
er
st
oc
k.
co
m
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Editorial review has deemed that any suppressed content does not materially affect the overall learning experience. Cengage Learning reserves the right to remove additional content at any time if subsequent rights restrictions require it.
DEvianCE an D C R iM E  1 51
conditions, and social habits of those with alcoholism
must be altered, or the behavior is likely to recur.
→Thinking Sociologically
Consider the problem of domestic violence and discuss
it with friends. How do they explain it? is there evidence
that the medicalization of deviance exists in your friends’
answers?
Sociologists criticize the medicalization of devi-
ance for ignoring the effects of social structures on the
development of deviant behavior. From a sociological
perspective, deviance originates in society, not just in
individuals. Changing the incidence of deviant behav-
ior requires changes in society, in addition to changes
in individuals. Deviance, to most sociologists, is not a
pathological state but an adaptation to the social struc-
tures in which people live. Factors such as family back-
ground, social class, racial inequality, and the social
structure of gender relations in society produce devi-
ance, and these factors must be considered to explain it.
The point is that deviance is both created and defined
within a social context. It is not just weird, pathological,
or irrational behavior. Sociologists who study deviance
understand it in the context of social relationships and
society. They define deviance in terms of existing social
norms and the social judgments people make about one
another—deviance is socially constructed. Indeed, devi-
ant behavior can sometimes be indicative of changes that
are taking place in the cultural folkways. Whereas body
piercing and tattooing were associated with gangs and
disrespectable people only a few years ago, it is now con-
sidered fashionable among young, middle-class people.
In sum, a sociological perspective on deviance
asks: Why is deviance more common in some groups
than others? Why are some more likely to be labeled
deviant than others, even if they engage in the exact
same behavior? How is deviance related to patterns of
inequality in society? Sociologists do not ignore indi-
vidual psychology, or the medicalization argument, but
integrate it into an explanation of deviance that focuses
on the social conditions surrounding the behavior,
going beyond explanations of deviance that root it in
the individual personality.
Sociological Theories
of Deviance
Sociologists have drawn on several major theoretical
traditions to explain deviant behavior, including func-
tionalism, conflict theory, and symbolic interaction
theory.
Functionalist Theories of Deviance
Recall that functionalism is a theoretical perspective
that interprets all parts of society, even those that may
seem dysfunctional, as contributing to the stability of the
whole. At first glance, deviance seems to be dysfunctional
for society. Functionalist theorists argue otherwise (see
◆ Table 7.1). They contend that deviance is functional
because it creates social cohesion. Branding certain
behaviors as deviant provides contrast with behaviors
that are considered normal, giving people a heightened
sense of social order. Norms are meaningless unless
there is deviance from them; thus, deviance is necessary
to clarify society’s norms. Group coherence then comes
from sharing a common definition of legitimate, as well
as deviant, behavior. The collective identity of a group
is affirmed when group members ridicule or condemn
others they define as deviant. To give an example, think
about how many people define transgender people.
Although lesbian, gay, and transgender people reject this
label of deviance, the label affirms the presumed normal-
ity of biological sex matching gender identity.Labeling
someone else an “outsider” is, in other words, a way of
affirming one’s “insider” identity (Becker 1963).
Durkheim: The Study of Suicide. The functionalist
perspective on deviance stems originally from the work
of Emile Durkheim (1858–1917). One of Durkheim’s
◆ Table 7.1 Sociological Theories of Deviance
Functionalist Theory Symbolic Interaction Theory Conflict Theory
Deviance creates social cohesion. Deviance is a learned behavior,
reinforced through group membership.
Dominant classes control the definition
of and sanctions attached to deviance.
Deviance results from structural
strains in society.
Deviance results from the process of
social labeling, regardless of the actual
commission of deviance.
Deviance results from social inequality
in society.
Deviance occurs when people’s
attachment to social bonds is diminished.
Those with the power to assign deviant
labels themselves produce deviance.
Elite deviance and corporate deviance
go largely unrecognized and unpunished.
© Cengage Learning
High-risk drinking of alcohol is acceptable behavior among
students on many college campuses. This same behavior
among adults outside of the college culture is considered
problematic and possibly alcoholism.
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1 52   CH aPT ER 7
central concerns was how society maintains its coher-
ence (or social order). Durkheim saw deviance as
functional for society because it produces solidarity
among society’s members. He developed his analysis of
deviance in large part through his analysis of suicide.
Through this work, he discovered a number of impor-
tant sociological points. First, he criticized the usual
psychological interpretations of why people commit
suicide, turning instead to sociological explanations
with data to back them up. Second, he emphasized the
role of social structure in producing deviance. Third,
he pointed to the importance of people’s social attach-
ments to society in understanding deviance. Finally,
he elaborated the functionalist view that deviance pro-
vides the basis for social cohesion.
Durkheim was the first to argue that the causes of
suicide were to be found in social factors, not individ-
ual personalities. Observing that the rate of suicide in
a society varies with time and place, Durkheim looked
for causes linked to these factors other than emotional
stress. Durkheim argued that suicide rates are affected
by the different social contexts in which they emerge.
He looked at the degree to which people feel integrated
into the structure of society and their social surround-
ings as social factors producing suicide.
Durkheim analyzed three types of suicide: anomic
suicide, altruistic suicide, and egoistic suicide. Anomie,
as defined by Durkheim, is the condition that exists
when social regulations in a society break down: The
controlling influences of society are no longer effective,
and people exist in a state of relative normlessness. The
term anomie refers not to an individual’s state of mind,
but instead to social conditions.
Anomic suicide occurs when the disintegrating
forces in the society make individuals feel lost or alone.
Teenage suicide is often cited as an example of anomic
suicide. Feelings of depression and hopelessness can
lead to suicide. The rate of suicide among returning vet-
erans may well constitute anomic suicide, for example,
if they return from war feeling as if no one understands
them (Finley et al. 2015). Suicide is more likely commit-
ted by those who have been sexually abused as children
and who may feel they can talk to no one (Jakubczyk
etal. 2014).
Altruistic suicide occurs when there is excessive
regulation of individuals by social forces. An example
is someone who commits suicide for the sake of a reli-
gious or political cause. For example, after hijackers
on September 11, 2001 (“9/11”) took control of four
airplanes—crashing two into the World Trade Center in
New York, one into the Pentagon, and despite the inter-
vention of passengers, one into a Pennsylvania farm
field—many wondered how anyone could do such a
thing, killing themselves in the process. Although soci-
ology certainly does not excuse such behavior, it can
help explain it. Terrorists and suicide bombers are so
regulated by their extreme beliefs that they are willing
to die and kill as many people as possible to achieve
their goals. As Durkheim argued, altruistic suicide
results when individuals are excessively dominated by
the expectations of their social group. People who com-
mit altruistic suicide subordinate themselves to collec-
tive expectations, even when death is the result.
Egoistic suicide occurs when people feel totally
detached from society. Ordinarily, people are inte-
grated into society by work roles, ties to family and
community, and other social bonds. When these bonds
are weakened through retirement, loss of family and
friends, or socioeconomic hardship, the likelihood of
egoistic suicide increases.
Egoistic suicide is also more likely to occur among
people who are not well integrated into social networks.
Thus it should not be surprising that women have lower
suicide rates than men (Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention 2013).
Durkheim’s major point is that suicide is a social,
not just an individual, phenomenon. Durkheim sees
sociology as the discovery of the social forces that influ-
ence human behavior. As individualistic as suicide
might seem, Durkheim uncovered the influence of
social structure on suicide.
Applying Durkheim’s Theory of Suicide: School
Shootings. Durkheim’s analysis of suicide can help
you understand the horrific acts of mass murder ram-
pages that have occurred in schools, movie theaters, and
other places. Why would someone go into a public place,
kill many people and then shoot themselves? Adam
Lanza, as just one example, killed twenty first-grade
children and six teachers at the Sandy Hook Elementary
School in Newtown, Connecticut, on Friday morning,
December14, 2012. Lanza then shot and killed himself
with a semiautomatic weapon immediately after killing
the children and teachers. Before he shot the children,
he also shot his own mother four times in the head, kill-
ing her at her home, using her guns. In 2007, Seung-Hui
Cho, a college student at Virginia Tech University, shot
and killed thirty-two students, wounded fourteen oth-
ers, and then killed himself. James Eagan Holmes shot
and killed twelve people and injured seventy others in
a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, in 2012, except in
this case, he did not kill himself. How would Durkheim
explain these and, sadly to say, likely other murder/
suicide tragedies?
Durkheim would see that there are social– structural
elements that are common to these school shoot-
ings, including the killings at Columbine High School
( Colorado) in 1999. In all these cases, the killing, and in
some cases suicide, was committed by individuals who
could be characterized as extremely socially isolated
and utterly outside a network of peers. All of the perpe-
trators in these shootings were social isolates, and most
This photo shows the makeshift memorial at the Sandy
Hook Elementary School in newtown, Connecticut, in
December 2012, after twenty children and six adults died
in a shooting by one man.
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DEvianCE an DC R iM E  1 53
committed suicide immediately after their carnage. In
Durkheim’s sense, all of these instances represented
examples of egoistic suicide and anomic suicide, given
the attributes of social isolation, lack of integration into
society, troubled individual histories, and a desire to
“make their mark” in history by killing the largest num-
ber of individuals possible in a single attack (Newman
et al. 2006).
Not only are there personality (psychological) sim-
ilarities among these mass murderers, but all of these
individuals also shared striking common sociological
conditions. Each act also took place in the social con-
text of a culture that decidedly permits and encourages
gun ownership.
Merton: Structural Strain Theory. The functional-
ist perspective on deviance has also been elaborated by
the sociologist Robert Merton (1910–2003). Merton’s
structural strain theory traces the origins of deviance to
the tensions caused by the gap between cultural goals and
the means people have available to achieve those goals.
Merton noted that societies are characterized by both
culture and social structure. Culture establishes goals
for people in society. Social structure provides, or fails to
provide, the means for people to achieve those goals. In a
well-integrated society, according to Merton, people use
accepted means to achieve the goals society establishes.
In other words, the goals and means of the society are
in balance. When the means are out of balance with the
goals, deviance is likely to occur. According to Merton,
this imbalance, or disjunction, between cultural goals
and structurally available means can actuallycompel the
individual into deviant behavior (Merton 1968).
To explain further, a collective goal in U.S. society
is the achievement of economic success. The legitimate
means to achieve such success are education and jobs,
but not all groups have equal access to those means.
The result is structural strain that produces deviance.
According to Merton, poor and working-class individ-
uals are most likely to experience these strains because
they internalize the same goals and values as the rest
of society but have blocked opportunities for success.
Structural strain theory therefore helps explain the
high correlation that exists between unemployment
and crime.
▲ Figure 7.1 illustrates how strain between cultural
goals and structurally available means can produce
deviance. Conformity is likely to occur when the goals
are accepted and the means for attaining the goals are
made available to the individual by the social structure.
If this does not occur, then cultural–structural strain
exists, and at least one of four possible forms of devi-
ance is likely to result: innovative deviance, ritualistic
deviance, retreatism deviance, or rebellion.
Consider the case of female prostitution: The pros-
titute has accepted the cultural values of the dominant
society—obtaining economic success and material
wealth. Yet if she is poor, then the structural means to
attain these goals are less available to her, and turning
to prostitution may result.
Other forms of deviance also represent strain
between goals and means. Retreatism deviance becomes
likely when neither the goals nor the means are avail-
able. Examples of retreatism are those with severe
alcoholism or people who are homeless or reclusive.
Ritualistic deviance is illustrated in the case of college
women with eating disorders, such asbulimia (purg-
ing oneself after eating). The cultural goal of extreme
thinness is perceived as unattainable, even though the
Cultural goals
accepted?
Institutionalized
means toward
goal available?
Conformity
Innovative deviance
Ritualistic deviance
Retreatism deviance
Rebellion
Yes
Yes
No
No
Yes
No
Yes
No
No (old means)
Yes (new means)
No (old goals)
Yes (new goals)
▲ figure 7.1 Merton’s Structural Strain Theory
This photo shows the makeshift memorial at the Sandy
Hook Elementary School in newtown, Connecticut, in
December 2012, after twenty children and six adults died
in a shooting by one man.
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Ja
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bs
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hu
tt
er
st
oc
k.
co
m
©
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en
ga
ge
2
01
6
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1 54   CH aPTER 7
means for trying to attain it are plentiful, for example,
good eating habits and proper diet methods. Finally,
rebellion as a form of deviance is likely to occur when
new goals are substituted for more traditional ones, and
also new means are undertaken to replace older ones,
as by force or armed combat. Many right-wing extremist
groups, such as the American Nazi party, “skinheads,”
and the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), are examples of this type
of deviance.
Social Control Theory. Taking functionalist the-
ory in another direction, Travis Hirschi has developed
social control theory to explain deviance. Social control
theory, a type of functionalist theory, suggests that devi-
ance occurs when a person’s (or group’s) attachment
to social bonds is weakened (Gottfredson and Hirschi
1995, 1990; Hirschi 1969). According to this view, people
internalize social norms because of their attachments to
others. People care what others think of them and there-
fore conform to social expectations because they accept
what people expect. You can see here that social control
theory, like the functionalist framework from which it
stems, assumes the importance of the socialization pro-
cess in producing conformity to social rules. When that
conformity is broken, deviance occurs.
Social control theory assumes there is a common
value system within society, and breaking allegiance
to that value system is the source of social deviance.
This theory focuses on how deviants are (or are not)
attached to common value systems and what situations
break people’s commitment to these values. Social
control theory suggests that most people probably feel
some impulse toward deviance at times but that the
attachment to social norms prevents them from actu-
ally participating in deviant behavior. Sociologists find
that high school students who participate on an ath-
letic team and are committed to academic success (like
taking Advanced Placement classes and exams) are
least likely to engage in any crimes or get suspended
from school (Veliz and Shakib 2012). Involvement with
sports and academic success are examples of accepted
social norms that help prevent deviance.
Functionalism: Strengths and Weaknesses. 
Functionalism emphasizes that social structure, not
just individual motivation, produces deviance. Func-
tionalists argue that social conditions exert pressure on
individuals to behave in conforming or nonconforming
ways. Types of deviance are linked to one’s place in the
social structure; thus a poor person blocked from eco-
nomic opportunities may use armed robbery to achieve
economic goals, whereas a Wall Street trader may use
insider trading to achieve the same.Functionalists
acknowledge that people choose whether to behave
in a deviant manner but believe that they make their
choice from among socially prestructured options. The
emphasis in functionalist theory is on social structure,
not individual action. In this sense, functionalist theory
is highly sociological.
Functionalists also point out that what appears to
be dysfunctional behavior may actually be functional
for the society. An example is the fact that most people
consider prostitution to be dysfunctional behavior.
From the point of view of an individual, that is true. It
demeans the women who engage in it, puts them at
physical risk, and subjects them to sexual exploitation.
From the view of functionalist theory, however, pros-
titution supports and maintains a social system that
links women’s gender roles with sexuality, associates
sex with commercial activity, and defines women as
passive sexual objects and men as sexual aggressors. In
other words, what appears to be deviant may actually
serve various purposes within society.
Critics of the functionalist perspective argue that
it does not explain how norms of deviance are first
established. Despite its analysis of the ramifications of
deviant behavior for society as a whole, functionalism
does little to explain why some behaviors are defined as
normative and others as illegitimate. Who determines
social norms and on whom such judgments are most
likely to be imposed are questions seldom asked by
anyone using a functionalist perspective. Functional-
ists see deviance as having stabilizing consequences
in society, but they tend to overlook the injustices that
labeling someone deviant can produce. Others would
say that the functionalist perspective too easily assumes
that deviance has a positive role in society; thus func-
tionalists rarely consider the differential effects that the
administration of justice has on different groups. The
tendency in functionalist theory to assume that the sys-
tem works for the good of the whole too easily ignores
the inequities in society and how these inequities are
reflected in patterns of deviance. These issues are left
for sociologists who work from the perspectives of con-
flict theory and symbolic interaction.
Conflict Theories of Deviance
Recall that conflict theory emphasizes the unequal
distribution of power and resources in society. It links
the study of deviance to social inequality. Based on
the work of Karl Marx, conflict theory sees a dominant
class as controlling the resources of society and using
its power to create the institutional rules and belief sys-
tems that support its power. Like functionalist theory,
conflict theory is a macrostructural approach; that is,
both theories look at the structure of society as a whole
in developing explanations of deviant behavior.
Because some groups of people have access to
fewer resources in capitalist society, they are forced
into crime to sustain themselves. Conflict theory posits
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DEvian CE an DC Ri M E  1 55
that the economic organization of capitalist societies
produces deviance and crime. The high rates of crime
among the poorest groups, especially economic crimes
such as theft, robbery, prostitution, and drug selling,
are a result of the economic status of these groups.
Rather than emphasizing values and conformity as a
source of deviance as do functional analyses, conflict
theorists see crime in terms of power relationships and
economic inequality (Grant and Martínez 1997).
The upper classes, conflict theorists point out, can
also better hide crimes they commit because affluent
groups have the resources to mask their deviance and
crime. As a result, a working-class man who beats his
wife is more likely to be arrested and prosecuted than
an upper-class man who engages in the same behav-
ior. In addition, those with greater resources can afford
to buy their way out of trouble by paying bail, hiring
expensive attorneys, or even resorting to bribes.
Corporate crime is crime committed within the
legitimate context of doing business. Conflict theorists
expand our view of crime and deviance by revealing the
significance of such crimes. They argue that appropriat-
ing profit based on exploitation of the poor and work-
ing class is inherent in the structure of capitalist society.
Elite deviance refers to the wrongdoing of wealthy
and powerful individuals and organizations (Simon
2011). Elite deviance includes what early conflict theo-
rists called white-collar crime (Sutherland and Cressey
1978; Sutherland 1940). Elite deviance includes tax eva-
sion; illegal campaign contributions; illegal investment
schemes that steal money from innocent investors; cor-
porate scandals, such as fraudulent accounting prac-
tices that endanger or deceive the public but profit the
corporation or individuals within it; and even govern-
ment actions that abuse the public trust.
The ruling groups in society develop numerous
mechanisms to protect their interests according to con-
flict theorists who argue that law, for example, is cre-
ated by elites to protect the interests of the dominant
class. Thus law, supposedly neutral and fair in its form
and implementation, works in the interest of the most
well-to-do (Weisburd et al. 2001, 1991; Spitzer 1975).
Conflict theory emphasizes the significance of
social control in managing deviance and crime. Social
control is the process by which groups and individuals
within those groups are brought into conformity with
dominant social expectations. Social control can take
place simply through socialization, but dominant groups
can also control the behavior of others through marking
them as deviant. An example is the historic persecution
of witches during the Middle Ages in Europe and during
the early colonial period in America (Ben-Yehuda 1986;
Erikson 1966). Witches often were women who were
healers and midwives—those whose views were at odds
with the authority of the exclusively patriarchal hierar-
chy of the church, then the ruling institution.
One implication of conflict theory, especially when
linked with labeling theory, is that the power to define
deviance confers an important degree of social con-
trol. Social control agents are those who regulate and
administer the response to deviance, such as the police
and mental health workers. Members of powerless
groups may be defined as deviant for even the slight-
est infraction against social norms, whereas others may
be free to behave in deviant ways without consequence.
Oppressed groups may actually engage in more devi-
ant behavior, but it is also true that they have a greater
likelihood of being labeled deviant and incarcerated
or institutionalized, whether or not they have actually
committed an offense. This is evidence of the power
wielded by social control agents.
When powerful groups hold stereotypes about
other groups, the less powerful people are frequently
assigned deviant labels. As a consequence, the least
powerful groups in society are subject most often to
social control. You can see this in the patterns of arrest
data. All else being equal, poor people are more likely
to be considered criminals and therefore are more
likely to be arrested, convicted, and imprisoned than
middle- and upper-class people. The same is true of
Latinos, Native Americans, and African Americans.
Sociologists point out that this does not necessarily
mean that these groups are somehow more criminally
prone; rather, they take it as partial evidence of the
differential treatment of these groups by the criminal
justice system.
Conflict Theory: Strengths and Weaknesses. 
The strength of conflict theory is its insight into the
significance of power relationships in the definition,
identification, and handling of deviance. It links the
commission, perception, and treatment of crime to
inequality in society and offers a powerful analysis
of how the injustices of society produce crime and
result in different systems of justice for disadvantaged
and privileged groups. This theory is not without its
weaknesses, however, and critics point out that laws
protect most people, not just the affluent, as conflict
theorists argue.
In addition, although conflict theory offers a pow-
erful analysis of the origins of crime, it is less effective
in explaining other forms of deviance. For example,
how would conflict theorists explain the routine devi-
ance of middle-class adolescents? They might point out
that consumer marketing drives much of middle-class
deviance. Profits are made from the accoutrements of
deviance—rings in pierced eyebrows, “gangsta” rap
music, and so on—but economic interests alone can-
not explain all the deviance observed in society. As
Durkheim argued, deviance is functional for the whole
of society, not just those with a major stake in the
economic system.
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1 56   CH aPT ER 7
Symbolic Interaction Theories
ofDeviance
Whereas functionalist and conflict theories are mac-
rosociological theories, certain microsociological theo-
ries of deviance look directly at the interactions people
have with one another as the origin of social deviance.
Symbolic interaction theory holds that people behave
as they do because of the meanings people attribute to
situations. This perspective emphasizes the meanings
surrounding deviance, as well as how people respond
to those meanings. Symbolic interaction emphasizes
that deviance originates in the interaction between dif-
ferent groups and is defined by society’s reaction to cer-
tain behaviors.
Symbolic interactionist theories of deviance
originated in the perspective of the Chicago School
of Sociology. W. I. Thomas (1863–1947), one of the
early sociologists from the University of Chicago, was
among the first to develop a sociological perspective
on social deviance. Thomas explained deviance as
a normal response to the social conditions in which
people find themselves. Thomas was one of the first
to argue that delinquency was caused by the social
disorganization brought on by slum life and urban
industrialism. He saw deviance as a problem of social
conditions, less so of individual character or individ-
ual personality.
Differential Association Theory. Thomas’s work
laid the foundation for a classic theory of deviance: dif-
ferential association theory. Differential association
theory, a type of symbolic interaction theory, interprets
deviance, including criminal behavior, as behavior one
learns through interaction with others (Sutherland and
Cressey 1978; Sutherland 1940). Edwin Sutherland
argued that becoming a criminal or a juvenile delin-
quent is a matter of learning criminal ways within the
primary groups to which one belongs. To Sutherland,
people become criminals when they are more strongly
socialized to break the law than to obey it. Differential
association theory emphasizes the interaction people
have with their peers and others in their environment.
Those who “differentially associate” with delinquents,
deviants, or criminals learn to value deviance. The
greater the frequency, duration, and intensity of their
immersion in deviant environments, the more likely it
is that they will become deviant.
Consider the case of cheating on college tests and
assignments. Students learn from others about the
culture of cheating, namely that because everyone
does it, cheating is okay. Students also share the best
ways to cheat without getting caught. Students, who
would ordinarily not engage in criminal or unethical
behavior, are socialized to become cheaters them-
selves. Sociologists found that students who were told
by another student in the room how to cheat on a word
memorization experiment were much more likely to
do it (Paternoster et al. 2013). Differential association
theory offers a compelling explanation for how devi-
ance is culturally transmitted—that is, people pass
on deviant expectations through the social groups in
which they interact.
Critics of differential association theory have
argued that this perspective tends to blame deviance on
the values of particular groups. Differential association
has been used, for instance, to explain the higher rate of
crime among the poor and working class, arguing that
this higher rate of crime occurs because they do not
share the values of the middle class. Such an explana-
tion, critics say, is class biased, because it overlooks the
deviance that occurs in the middle-class culture and
among elites. Disadvantaged groups may share the val-
ues of the middle class but cannot necessarily achieve
them through legitimate means.
Deviance: The Importance of Labels. Labeling
theory is a branch of symbolic interaction theory that
interprets the responses of others as the most signifi-
cant factor in understanding how deviant behavior is
both created and sustained (Becker 1963). The work of
labeling theorists such as Becker stems from the work
of W. I. Thomas, who wrote, “If men define situations as
real, they are real in their consequences” (Thomas and
Thomas 1928: 572). A label is the assignment or attach-
ment of a deviant identity to a person by others, includ-
ing by agents of social institutions. People’s reactions,
not the action itself, produce deviance as a result of the
labeling process.
Linked with conflict theory, labeling theory shows
how those with the power to label an act or a person
deviant and to impose sanctions—such as police, court
officials, school authorities, experts, teachers, and offi-
cial agents of social institutions—wield great power
in determining societal understandings of deviance.
Furthermore, because deviants are handled through
bureaucratic organizations, the workers within these
bureaucracies “process” people according to rules
and procedures, seldom questioning the basis for
those rules.
Once the label is applied, it sticks, and it is difficult
for a person labeled deviant to shed the label—namely,
to recover a nondeviant identity. To give an example,
once a social worker or psychiatrist labels clients as
mentally ill, those people will be treated as mentally
ill, regardless of their actual mental state. In a kind of
“catch-22,” when people labeled as mentally ill plead
that they are indeed mentally sound, this is taken as
evidence that they are, in fact, mentally ill!
A person need not have actually engaged in deviant
behavior to be labeled deviant and for that label to stick.
Labeling theory helps explain why convicts released
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DEvian CE an DC Ri M E  1 57
from prison have such high rates of recidivism (return
to criminal activities). Convicted criminals are formally
and publicly labeled wrongdoers. They are treated with
suspicion ever afterward and have great difficulty find-
ing legitimate employment: The label “ex-con” defines
their future options.
Former inmates struggle to find employment after
release from prison, especially if the person is male and
Black or Hispanic. Sociologist Devah Pager has shown
this clearly through her research. Pager (2007) had pre-
trained role-players pose as ex-cons looking for a job.
These role-players went into the job market and were
interviewed for various jobs; all of them used the same
preset script during the interview. The idea of the study
was to see how many of them would be invited back for
another interview. The results were staggering: Blacks
who were not ex-cons were less likely to be invited back
for a job interview than were Whites who were ex-cons,
even though White ex-cons were not invited back in
large numbers. All ex-cons had trouble being invited
back, but even more so for Black and Hispanic ex-cons.
So the effect of race alone exceeded the effect of incar-
ceration alone. These upsetting differences could not
be attributed to differences in interaction displayed
during the interview, because everyone used the exact
same prepared script.
The prison system in the United States also shows
the power of labeling theory. Prisons, in effect, train
and socialize prisoners into a career of secondary
deviance. (See the box, “Doing Sociological Research:
The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison.”) Reiman
(2012) argues that the goal of the prison system is not to
reduce crime but to impress upon the public that crime
is inevitable, originating only from the lower classes.
Prisons accomplish this, even if unintentionally, by
demeaning prisoners and stigmatizing them as differ-
ent from “decent citizens,” not training them in market-
able skills. As a consequence, these people will never be
able to pay their debt to society, and the prison system
has created the very behavior it intended to eliminate.
Labeling theory suggests that deviance refers
not just to something one does but to something one
becomes. Deviant identity is the definition a person
has of himself or herself as a deviant. Most often, devi-
ant identities emerge over time (Simon 2011; Lemert
1972). A person addicted to drugs, for example, may
not think of herself as a junkie until she realizes she no
longer has nonusing friends. The formation of a devi-
ant identity, like other identities, involves a process of
social transformation in which a new self-image and
new public definition of a person emerge. This is a pro-
cess that involves how people view deviants and how
deviants view themselves.
A social stigma is an attribute that is socially deval-
ued and discredited. Some stigmas result in people
being labeled deviant. The experiences of people who
are disabled, disfigured, or in some other way stigma-
tized are studied in much the same way as other forms
Research Question: Jeffrey Reiman and
Paul Leighton (2012) have studied U.S.
prisons by asking: (1) What happens in
prisons? and (2) What are the percep-
tions of prisons held by those in society?
Research Method: Reiman and Leighton
used field research in prisons to answer
these questions.
Research Results: The researchers
found that the prison system in the
United States, instead of serving as a
way to rehabilitate criminals, is in effect
designed to train and socialize inmates
into a career of crime. It is also designed
in such a way as to assure the public
that crime is a threat primarily from
the poor and that it originates at the
lower rungs of society. Prisons contain
The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison
elements that seem designed to accom-
plish this view.
Conclusions and Implications: One can
“construct” a prison that ends up looking
like a U.S. prison. First, continue to label
as criminal those who engage in crimes
that have no unwilling victim, such as
prostitution or gambling. Second, give
prosecutors and judges broad discretion
to arrest, convict, and sentence based
on appearance, dress, race, and appar-
ent social class. Third, treat prisoners
in a painful and demeaning manner, as
one might treat children. Fourth, make
certain that prisoners are not trained in
a marketable skill that would be useful
upon their release. And, finally, assure
that prisoners will forever be labeled and
stigmatized as different from “decent
citizens,” even after they have paid their
debt to society. Once an ex-con, always
an ex-con. One has thus just socially
constructed a U.S. prison, an institution
that will continue to generate the very
thing that it claims to eliminate.
Questions to Consider
1. In your own opinion, how accurate
is this “construction” of the U.S.
prison? Do you know anyone who
is currently in or recently in prison?
Interview them and get their opinion.
2. How persistent in the coming years
do you think this vision of the U.S.
prison system will be?
Sources: Reiman, Jeffrey H., and Paul Leighton.
2012. The Rich Get Richer and the Poor
Get Prison, 10th ed. Upper Saddle River,
NJ:Pearson.
doing sociological research
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1 5 8   CH aPTER 7
of social deviance. Like other deviants, people with stig-
mas are stereotyped and defined only in terms of their
presumed deviance.
Think, for example, of how people in a wheelchair
are treated in society. Their disability can become a
master status (see Chapter 5), a characteristic of a
person that overrides all other features of the person’s
identity (Goffman 1963). Physical disability can become
a master status when other people see the disability as
the defining feature of the person. People with a par-
ticular stigma are often all seen to be alike. This may
explain why stigmatized individuals of high visibility
are often expected to represent the whole group.
People who suddenly become disabled often
have the alarming experience of their new master sta-
tus rapidly erasing their former identity. People they
know may treat and see them differently. A master sta-
tus may also prevent people from seeing other parts of
a person. A person with a disability may be assumed
to have no meaningful sex life, for example, even if
the disability is unrelated to sexual ability or desire.
Sociologists have argued that the negative judgments
about people with stigmas tend to confirm the “usu-
alness” of others (Goffman 1963). For example, when
welfare recipients are stigmatized as lazy and unde-
serving of social support, others are indirectly pro-
moted as industrious and deserving. Stigmatized
individuals are thus measured against a presumed
norm and may be labeled, stereotyped, and discrimi-
nated against.
Sometimes, people with stigmas bond with others,
perhaps even strangers. This can involve an acknowl-
edgment of kinship or affiliation that can be as subtle
as an understanding look, a greeting that makes a
connection between two people, or a favor extended to
a stranger who the person sees as sharing the presumed
stigma. Public exchanges are common between various
groups that share certain forms of disadvantage, such
as people with disabilities, lesbians and gays, or mem-
bers of other minority groups.
The strength of labeling theory is its recognition
that the judgments people make about presumably
deviant behavior have powerful social effects. Label-
ing theory does not, however, explain why deviance
occurs in the first place. It may illuminate the conse-
quences of a young man’s violent behavior, but it does
not explain the actual origins of the behavior. Labeling
theory helps us understand how some are considered
deviant while others are not, but it does not explain
why some people initially engage in deviant behaviors
and others do not.
Deviant Careers and Communities. In the ordi-
nary context of work, a career is the sequence of
movements a person makes through different posi-
tions in an occupational system (Becker 1963). A
deviant career—a direct outgrowth of the labeling
process—is the sequence of movements people make
through a particular subculture of deviance. Deviant
careers can be studied sociologically, like any other
career. Within deviant careers, people are social-
ized into new “occupational” roles, and are encour-
aged, both materially and psychologically, to engage
in deviant behavior. The concept of a deviant career
emphasizes that there is a progression through devi-
ance: Deviants are recruited, given or denied rewards,
and promoted or demoted. As with legitimate careers,
deviant careers involve an evolution in the person’s
identity, values, and commitment over time. Deviants,
like other careerists, may have to demonstrate their
commitment to the career to their superiors, perhaps
by passing certain tests, such as when a gang expects
new members to commit a crime, perhaps even shoot
someone.
Within deviant careers, rites of passage may bring
increased social status among peers. Punishments
administered by the authorities may even become
badges of honor within a deviant community. Similarly,
labeling a teenager as a “bad kid” for poor behavior in
school may actually encourage the behavior to continue
because the juvenile may take this as a sign of success
as a deviant.
The preceding discussion continues to indicate an
important sociological point: Deviant behavior is not
just the behavior of maladjusted individuals; it often
takes place within a group context and involves group
response. Some groups are actually organized around
particular forms of social deviance; these are called
deviant communities (Mizruchi 1983; Blumer 1969;
Erikson 1966; Becker 1963).
Extensive tattooing is regarded by many as deviant, although
it may seem perfectly ordinary in the context of some
peer groups.
Th
in
ks
to
ck
/S
to
ck
by
te
/G
et
ty
Im
ag
es
Some deviance develops in deviant communities, such as the
neo-nazis/“skinheads” shown marching here. Such right-
wing extremist groups have increased significantly in recent
years, as monitored by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
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DEvianCE an D C R iM E  1 5 9
Like subcultures and countercultures, deviant
communities maintain their own values, norms, and
rewards for deviant behavior. Joining a deviant com-
munity closes one off from conventional society and
tends to solidify deviant careers because the devi-
ant individual receives rewards and status from the
in-group. Disapproval from the out-group may only
enhance one’s status within. Deviant communities also
create a worldview that solidifies the deviant identity
of their members. They may develop symbolic systems
such as emblems, forms of dress, publications, and
other symbols that promote their identity as a deviant
group. Gangs wear their “colors,” and skinheads have
their insignia and music. Both are examples of deviant
communities. Ironically, subcultural norms and values
reinforce the deviant label both inside and outside the
deviant group, thereby reinforcing the deviant behavior.
Some deviant communities are organized spe-
cifically to provide support to those in presumed
deviant categories. Groups such as Alcoholics Anony-
mous, Weight Watchers, and various twelve-step pro-
grams help those identified as deviant overcome their
deviant behavior. These groups, which can be quite
effective, accomplish their mission by encouraging
members to accept their deviant identity as the first
step to recovery.
Crime and Criminal
Justice
The concept of deviance in sociology is a broad one,
encompassing many forms of behavior—legal and
illegal, ordinary and unusual. Crime is one form of
deviance, specifically, behavior that violates particu-
lar criminal laws. Not all deviance is crime. Deviance
becomes crime when institutions of society designate it
as violating a law or laws.
Criminology is the study of crime from a scien-
tific perspective. Criminologists include social sci-
entists such as sociologists who stress the societal
causes and treatment of crime. All the theoretical
perspectives on deviance that we examined ear-
lier contribute to our understanding of crime (see
◆ Table 7.2). According to the functionalist perspec-
tive, crime may be necessary to hold society together.
By singling out criminals as socially deviant, others
are defined as good. The nightly reporting of crime
on television is a demonstration of this sociological
function of crime. Conflict theory suggests that disad-
vantaged groups are more likely to become criminal.
Conflict theory also sees the well-to-do as better able
to hide their crimes and less likely to be punished.
Symbolic interaction helps us understand how peo-
ple learn to become criminals or come to be accused
of criminality, even when they may be innocent. Each
perspective traces criminal behavior to social condi-
tions rather than only to the intrinsic tendencies or
personalities of individuals.
◆ Table 7.2 Sociological Theories of Crime
Functionalist Theory Symbolic Interaction Theory Conflict Theory
Societies require a certain level of
crime in order to clarify norms.
Crime is behavior that is learned
through social interaction.
The lower the social class, the more the
individual is forced into criminality.
Crime results from social structural
strains (such as class inequality)
within society.
Labeling criminals and stigmatizing
them tends to reinforce rather than
deter crime.
inequalities in society by race, class, gender,
and other forces tend to produce criminal
activity.
Crime may be functional to society,
thus difficult to eradicate.
institutions with the power to label,
such as prisons, actually produce
rather than lessen crime.
Reducing social inequality in society is
likely to reduce crime.
© Cengage Learning
Some deviance develops in deviant communities, such as the
neo-nazis/“skinheads” shown marching here. Such right-
wing extremist groups have increased significantly in recent
years, as monitored by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Ji
m
W
es
t/
A
la
m
y
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1 60   CH aPT ER 7
Measuring Crime: How Much
IsThere?
Is crime increasing in the United States? One would cer-
tainly think so from watching the media. Images of vio-
lent crime abound and give the impression that crime
is a constant threat and is on the rise. Data about crime
come from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
based on reports from police departments across the
nation. The data are distributed annually in theUniform
Crime Reports and are the basis for official reports
about the extent of crime and its rise and fall over time.
Although media coverage of crime has remained high
and about the same, data on crime actually show that
violent crime peaked in 1990, but decreased through the
1990s and has continued to decline through 2013 (see
▲ Figure 7.2). The officially reported rate of assault and
robbery has decreased, although rape and murder have
remained roughly the same.
A second major source of crime data is the National
Crime Victimization Surveys published by the Bureau of
Justice Statistics in the U.S. Department of Justice. These
data are based on surveys in which national samples of
people are periodically asked if they have been the vic-
tims of one or more criminal acts. These surveys clearly
show that the likelihood of being a victim of crime is
influenced by one’s race, gender, and social class.
Both of these sources of data—the Uniform Crime
Reports and the National Crime Victimization Surveys—
are subject to the problem of underreporting. About
half to two-thirds of all crimes may not be reported to
police, meaning that much crime never shows up in the
official statistics. Rape is particularly known to be vastly
underreported. Victims may be reluctant to report for a
variety of reasons, including that the police will not take
the rape seriously, especially if the assailant was known
to the victim. Also, the victim may not want to undergo
the continued stress of an investigation and trial.
A Problem with Official Statistics. Official statis-
tics on crime are important for describing the extent of
crime and various patterns in the perpetration and vic-
timization by crime. You have to be cautious, however,
in relying on these official reports because of the logic
of labeling theory. Recall that labeling theorists would
see crime statistics as produced by those with the power
to assign labels. Reported rates of deviant behavior are,
like crime itself, the product of social behavior.
Official statistics are produced by people in various
agencies (police, courts, and other bureaucratic orga-
nizations). These people define, classify, and record
certain behaviors as falling into the category of crime—
or not. Labeling theorists think that official rates of
crime (and deviance) do not necessarily reflect the
actual commission of crime; instead, the official rates
reflect social judgments.
In an interesting example, in the aftermath of the
terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, offi-
cials debated whether to count the deaths of thousands
as murder or as a separate category of terrorism. The
decision would change the official murder rate in New
York City that year. In the end, these deaths were not
counted in the murder rate. That is a unique example,
but an ongoing example is the official reporting of rape.
Research finds that the police are less likely to “count”
some rapes, such as those in which the victim is a pros-
titute, was drunk at the time of the assault, or had a pre-
vious relationship with the assailant. Rapes resulting in
the victim’s death are classified as homicides and thus
do not appear in the official statistics on rape.
Types of Crime
When people think of crime, they may imagine a stereo-
typical criminal—someone who is a stranger, someone
who randomly assaults you, or someone who commits
a quick street crime, like a mugging. Stereotypes about
crime, however, hide the many different kinds of crime
committed—and the characteristics of those who com-
mit them. The different types of crime reveal various
social patterns in the commission of crime and victim-
ization by crime, little of which is random as the stereo-
type suggests.
250
300
350
400
450
1995 2000 2005 2010 2013
200
150
100
50
0
Murder
Robbery
Rape
Aggravated assault
▲ figure 7.2 violent Crime in the United States,
1995–2013 This graph shows that, despite many news
stories about violent crime, the rates of violent crimes have
gone down since 1995.
Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation. 2013. Crime in the United States
2013. Washington, DC: Federal Bureau of Investigation. www.fbi.gov
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DEvianCEan DC Ri M E  1 61
Personal and Property Crimes. The Uniform
Crime Reports report something called the crime
index. The crime index includes the violent crimes of
murder, manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated
assault, plus property crimes of burglary, larceny theft,
and motor vehicle theft. The crime index includes
both personal crimes (violent or nonviolent crimes
directed against people, including murder, aggravated
assault, forcible rape, and robbery) and property crimes
(those involving theft of property without threat of
bodily harm, such as burglary, larceny, auto theft, and
arson). Property crimes are the most frequent criminal
infractions.
Debunking Society’s Myths←
Myth: Crimes, especially very violent ones, are committed
by people who are mentally ill.
Sociological Perspective: People are often shocked
when someone who may live near them commits a violent
crime; “He seemed so normal,” they typically say. This
reaction shows how much the public believes crime and
deviance to be the behavior of poorly adjusted people,
but sociologists find clear patterns in the commission of
crime. violent crime, for example, is most likely commit-
ted by someone who knows the victim, probably well.
Most crime is not random (Best 1999).
Hate Crimes. Hate crime is a relatively new official
category of crime, although hate crimes have certainly
been committed throughout the nation’s history.
Lynching, vandalism of synagogues, and the assault of
gay people are not new, but the formal reporting of hate
crime did not begin until 1980. Now the U.S. Congress,
via the FBI, defines hate crime as a criminal offense
that is motivated in whole or part by bias against a
“race, religion, disability, ethnic origin, or sexual ori-
entation” (www.fbi.gov). This form of crime has been
increasing in recent years, especially against gays and
lesbians, but also because of the ability now to report
and then track such heinous acts. The vast majority of
hate crimes are committed by White offenders—or, in
many cases, unknown offenders. More than half of all
reported hate crimes are committed against people
because of race or ethnicity; 20 percent are based on
sexual orientation of the victim; and another 20 per-
cent are based on religion (Federal Bureau of Investi-
gation 2012).
Human Trafficking. Human trafficking has long
played a role in the national and international econ-
omy. Slavery, for example, is a pernicious example of
human trafficking, but this is a crime that continues
in various forms. The FBI defines human trafficking
as compelling or coercing a person to engage in some
form of labor, service, or commercial sex. Sometimes
The media routinely drive home two
points to the consumer: Violent crime is
always high and may be increasing over
time, and there is much random violence
constantly around us. The media bom-
bard us with stories of “wilding,” in which
bands of youths kill random victims.
Many of us think road rage is extensive
(which it is not) and completely random.
The media vividly and routinely report
such occurrences as pointless, random,
and probably increasing.
The evidence shows that although
violent crime in the United States
increased during the 1970s and 1980s,
it nonetheless began to decrease in
1990 and continues to decrease nation-
ally through the present. For example,
both robbery and physical assaults
Images of Violent Crime
have declined dramatically since 1990.
Yet, according to research (Best 2011,
2008, 1999; Glassner 1999), the media
have consistently given a picture that
violent crime has increased during this
same period and, furthermore, that
the violence is completely unpatterned
and random.
No doubt there are occasions when
victims are indeed picked at random. But
the statistical rule of randomness could
not possibly explain what has come to
be called random violence, a vision of
patternless chaos that is advanced by
the media. If randomness truly ruled,
then each of us would have an equal
chance of being a victim—and of being
a criminal. This is assuredly not the case.
The notion of random violence, and
the notion that it is increasing, ignores
virtually everything that criminologists,
psychologists, sociologists, and exten-
sive research studies know about crime:
It is highly patterned and significantly
predictable, beyond sheer chance, by
taking into account the social structure,
social class, location, race and ethnicity,
gender, labeling, age, whom one’s family
members are, and other such variables
and forces in society that affect both
criminals and victims.
The correct central picture, then,
is clearly not conveyed in the media.
Some have speculated that the picture
maintained in the media of increas-
ing crime is simply a tool to increase
viewer ratings. Criminal violence is not
increasing though, but decreasing, and
it is not random, but highly patterned
and predictable.
a sociological eye on the media
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1 62   CH aPT ER 7
the coercion is overtly physical, but it can also be psy-
chological and subtle, such as a pimp who recruits
prostitutes into a network of sex work by initially seem-
ing to be a boyfriend. Undocumented immigrants are
particularly prone to trafficking as they are a very vul-
nerable population. Children are also among some
of the most vulnerable, especially when coming from
war-torn regions. Estimates of the extent of human
trafficking are difficult to come by, but in 2013, the U.S.
State Department identified nearly 45,000 victims. One
of the problems in getting accurate data is not only the
covert nature of this crime, but also lack of uniformity
in how nations tabulate known cases (U.S. Department
of State 2014).
Gender-Based Violence. Gender-based violence is
the term used to describe the various forms of violence
that are associated with unequal power relationships
between men and women. Gender-based violence
takes many forms, including, but not limited to rape,
domestic violence, sexual abuse and incest, stalking,
and more. Although both men and women can be vic-
tims of gender-based violence, it far more frequently
victimizes women and girls (Bloom 2008).
For all women, victimization by rape is probably the
greatest fear. Although rape is the most underreported
crime, even with underreporting, the FBI estimates that
one rape occurs in the United States every 6.6 minutes
(Federal Bureau of Investigation 2013).
Recently, the nation has focused its attention on
the widespread phenomenon of campus rape, also
referred to as sexual assault. Acquaintance rape is that
committed by an acquaintance or someone the victim
has just met. The extent of acquaintance rape is diffi-
cult to measure. The Bureau of Justice Statistics finds
that 3 percent of college women experience rape or
attempted rape in a given college year, and 13 percent
report being stalked (Fisher et al. 2000). Acquaintance
rape is linked to men’s acceptance of various rape
myths, such as believing that a woman’s “no” means
“yes.” Excessive drinking also increases one’s chances
of being raped during campus parties. Some campus
cultures and environments are especially likely to put
women at risk of rape, particularly in some all-male
groups and organizations, especially those organized
around hierarchy, secrecy among “brothers,” and loy-
alty, which create an atmosphere where rape can occur.
This can help you understand why different organiza-
tions, such as some fraternities, sports teams, churches,
and military schools, have high rates of rape (Langton
and Sinozich 2014; Martin and Hummer 1989).
Sociologists have argued that the causes of rape lie
in women’s status in society—that women are treated
as sexual objects for men’s pleasure. The relationship
between women’s status and rape is also reflected
in data revealing who is most likely to become a rape
victim. African American women, Latinas, and poor
women have the highest likelihood of being raped,
as do women who are single, divorced, or separated.
Young women are also more likely to be rape victims
than older women (U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics
2013). Sociologists interpret these patterns to mean that
the most powerless women are also most subject to this
form of violence.
Identity Theft. A new type of crime has also
emerged in the context of the technological revo-
lution that is changing daily habits. Identity theft is
defined as the use of someone else’s personal identi-
fying information, usually for purposes of some kind
of fraud(Allison et al. 2005). The cost of such crimes
is staggering:Estimates are that financial losses to
individual victims total about five billion dollars per
year. Corporate losses are even greater—47 billion
dollars a year (Holt and Turner 2012; Federal Trade
Commission 2003). Not surprisingly, individuals who
use the Internet for routine activities, such as banking,
email, and instant messaging, are about 50 percent
more likely to be victims of identity theft than others.
Onlineshopping increases risk by about 30 percent.
Men, older people, and those with higher incomes are
most likely to experience victimization from identity
theft (Reyns 2013).
Victimless Crimes. Victimless crimes are those that
violate laws but where there is no complainant. Vic-
timless crimes include various illicit activities, such as
gambling, illegal drug use, and prostitution. Although
there is no victim per se, there is clearly some degree
of victimization in such crimes: Some researchers see
prostitution, in many instances, as containing at least
one victim because of the consequences for one’s
health, safety, and well-being through participation in
such activities. Enforcement of these crimes is typically
not as rigorous as enforcement of crimes against people
or property.
Elite and White-Collar Crime. The term white-
collar crime refers to criminal activities by people of
high social status who commit crime in the context
of their occupation (Sutherland and Cressey 1978).
White-collar crime includes activities such as embez-
zlement (stealing funds from one’s employer), involve-
ment in illegal stock manipulations (insider trading),
and a variety of violations of income tax law, including
tax evasion. Until very recently, white- collar crime sel-
dom generated great public concern, far less than the
concern about street crime. In terms of total dollars,
however, white-collar crime is even more consequen-
tial for society. Scandals involving prominent white-
collar criminals have come to the public eye more
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DEvian CEan DCR i M E  1 63
frequently, such as during the recession of 2008, which
many say resulted from very risky financial practices
and excessive borrowing by the nation’s banks and on
Wall Street.
Corporate Crime. Corporate crime is wrongdo-
ing that occurs within the context of a formal organi-
zation or bureaucracy that is actually sanctioned by
the norms and operating principles of the bureau-
cracy (Simon 2011). This can occur within any kind of
organization—corporate, educational, governmental,
or religious. Sociological studies of corporate crime
show that it is embedded in the ongoing and routine
activities of organizations (Ermann and Lundman
2001). Individuals within the organization may par-
ticipate in the behavior with little awareness that their
behavior is illegitimate. In fact, their actions are likely
to be defined as in the best interests of the organiza-
tion—business as usual. New members who enter the
organization learn to comply with the organizational
expectations or leave.
One of the most upsetting recent examples of mas-
sive corporate malfeasance involved a world-famous
and time-honored American institution: the Johnson
and Johnson Co., manufacturer of medical supplies
such as bandages, baby oil, and artificial limbs. The
company is the manufacturer of the now infamous
DePuy artificial hip joint, adopted by thousands since
2005 to replace their own failing hip joints (Meier 2013).
It turns out that Johnson and Johnson executives knew
years before they officially recalled the faulty DePuy arti-
ficial hip joint in 2010 that it had a deadly design flaw.
In the interest of maintaining high profits, the company
deliberately concealed evidence of the design flaw
from physicians, patients, and their families.Evidently,
the wish to maintain high profits exceeded the wish
to make the patients well and to save their lives. Con-
sultants and medical researchers discovered the flaw
several years before Johnson and Johnson recalled the
DePuy joint, yet company executives totally ignored
these research results. The company eventually reached
a settlement with the thousands of victims, having to
pay out four billion dollars for damages caused by this
corporate crime.
Organized Crime. The structure of crime and crimi-
nal activity in the United States often takes on an orga-
nized, almost institutional character. This is crime in
the form of mob activity and racketeering, known as
organized crime. Organized crime is crime committed
by structured groups typically involving the provision
of illegal goods and services to others. Organized crime
syndicates are typically stereotyped as the Mafia, but
the term can refer to any group that exercises control
over large illegal enterprises, such as the drug trade,
illegal gambling, prostitution, weapons smuggling, or
money laundering. These organized crime syndicates
are often based on racial, ethnic, or family ties, with dif-
ferent groups dominating and replacing each other in
different criminal “industries,” at different periods in
U.S. history.
A key concept in sociological studies of organized
crime is that these industries are organized along the
same lines as legitimate businesses; indeed, organized
crime has taken on a corporate form. There are likely
senior partners who control the profits of the business,
workers who manage and provide the labor for the busi-
ness, and clients who buy the services that organized
crime provides. In-depth studies of the organized crime
underworld are difficult, owing to its secretive nature
and dangers.
Terrorism. The FBI includes terrorism in its defini-
tion of crime, defining it as “the unlawful use of force
or violence against persons or property to intimidate
or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any
segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social
objectives” (Federal Bureau of Investigation 2011). Ter-
rorism crosses national borders, and to understand it
requires a global perspective. Terrorism is also linked to
other forms of international crime. It is suspected that
profits from international drug trade fund the terrorist
organization al Qaeda.
One of the most frightening things about terrorism
as a crime is that its victims, unlike most other crime,
may be somewhat randomly targeted. Suicide bomb-
ers or other armed attackers may select particular
groups because of their identification with the West or
because they are associated with Jewish people. This is
what happened in Paris, in 2015, when terrorists who
were possibly associated with the terrorist group ISIS
(Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) attacked and slaugh-
tered at least seventeen people in a kosher market and
in the offices of a satirical magazine.
Race, Class, Gender, and Crime
Arrest data show a very clear pattern of differential
arrests along lines of race, gender, and class. A key
question is whether this pattern reflects actual differ-
ences in the commission of crime by different groups
or whether it reflects differential treatment by the
criminal justice system. The answer is “both.” Pros-
ecution by the criminal justice system is significantly
related to patterns of race, gender, and class inequal-
ity. We see this in the bias of official arrest statistics, in
treatment by the police, in patterns of sentencing, and
in studies of imprisonment.
Arrest statistics show a strong correlation between
social class and crime, the poor being more likely than
others to be arrested for crimes. Does this mean that
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1 64   CH a PT ER 7
the poor commit more crimes? To some extent, yes,
as unemployment and poverty are related to crime
(Reiman and Leighton 2012). And the reason is simple:
Those who are economically deprived often see no
alternative to crime, as Merton’s structural strain theory
would predict.
Moreover, law enforcement is concentrated in
lower-income and minority areas. People who are bet-
ter off are further removed from police scrutiny and
better able to hide their crimes. When and if white-
collar criminals are prosecuted and convicted, they
tend to receive somewhat lighter sentences. Middle-
and upper-income people may be perceived as being
less in need of imprisonment because they likely have
a job and high-status people to testify for their good
character. White-collar crime is simply perceived as
less threatening than crimes by the poor. Class also
predicts who most likely will be victimized by crime,
with those at the highest ends of the socioeconomic
scale least likely to be victims of violent crime (Barak
et al. 2015).
Bearing in mind the factors that affect the official
rates of arrest and conviction—bias of official statis-
tics, the influence of powerful individuals, discrimina-
tion in patterns of arrest, differential policing—there
remains evidence that the actual commission of crime
varies by race. Why? Sociologists find a compelling
explanation in social structural conditions. Racial
minority groups are far more likely than Whites to be
poor, unemployed, and living in single-parent fami-
lies. These social facts are all predictors of a higher rate
of crime. Note, too, as ▲ Figure 7.3 shows, that African
Americans and Hispanics are generally more likely to
be victimized by crime.
Recently, women’s participation in crime has been
increasing, the result of several factors. Women are
now more likely to be employed in jobs that present
opportunities for crimes, such as property theft, embez-
zlement, and fraud. Violent crime by women has also
increased notably since the early 1980s, possibly
because the images that women have of themselves are
changing, making new behaviors possible. Most sig-
nificant, crime by women is related to their continuing
disadvantaged status in society. Just as crime is linked
to socioeconomic status for men, so is it for women
(Belknap 2001).
Women are somewhat less likely than men to be
victimized by crime, with the exception of gender-
based crimes, although this varies significantly by
race and age. Black women are more likely than White
women to be victims of assault; young Black women
are especially vulnerable. Divorced, separated, and
single women are more likely than married women to
be crime victims.
The Criminal Justice System:
Police, Courts, and the Law
Whether in the police station, the courts, or prison, the
factors of race, class, and gender are highly influential
in the administration of justice in this society. Those
in the most disadvantaged groups are more likely to
be defined and identified as deviant independently of
their behavior and, having encountered these systems
of authority, are more likely to be detained and arrested,
found guilty, and punished.
Debunking Society’s Myths←
Myth: The criminal justice system treats all people
according to the neutral principles of law.
Sociological Perspective: Race, class, and gender
continue to have an influential role in the administration
30
15
20
25
10
5
0
White
22.2
6.8
25.1 24.8
7.5 7
1.6
9.5
NOTE: Rate per 1,000 people.
Black Hispanic Asian/Native
Hawaiian/Other
Pacific Islander
Violent crime Serious violent crime
▲ figure 7.3 victimization by violent
Crime: inequalities by Race This chart
shows that the likelihood of victimization by
violent crime and serious violent crime varies
by racial–ethnic group.
Data Source: Truman, Jennifer L., and Lynn Langton.
2014. Criminal Victimization, 2013. Washington, DC:
Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice.
www.bjs.gov
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DEvian CE an D C R iM E  1 65
of justice. For example, even when convicted of the
same crime as Whites, african american and Latino
male defendants with the same prior arrest record as
Whites are more likely to be arrested, sentenced, and to
besentenced for longer terms than White defendants
(Brame et al. 2014).
The Policing of Minorities. There is little question
that minority communities are policed more heavily
than White neighborhoods. For middle-class Whites, the
presence of the police is generally reassuring, but for
African Americans and Latinos, an encounter with a
police officer can be terrifying. African American par-
ents of young boys have to routinely have “the talk” to
instruct young boys in protecting themselves from the
dangers a police encounter can bring, even when the
child is completely innocent of any wrongdoing. This
has been vividly seen by the public in the aftermath of
the shooting of young Michael Brown by a police offi-
cer in Ferguson, Missouri. Brown’s death at the hands
of a police shooting is not the only example, however,
as demonstrations throughout the nation have shown
such as the riots that occurred in Baltimore following
the police shooting of Freddie Gray.
Police brutality, of which killing is only the most
extreme form, refers to the excessive use of force
by the police. Most cases of police brutality involve
minority citizens, with usually no penalty for the offi-
cers involved. Sociologists have tested several hypoth-
eses for why this occurs, reaching two conclusions:
(1) The greater the proportion of minority residents in a
city, the greater the use of coercive crime control, such
as police force; and (2) spatially segregated minor-
ity populations are the primary targets of coercive
crime control (Smith and Holmes 2014). Both condi-
tions exist in Ferguson, Missouri. This research also
suggests that, to protect minority citizens, we should
focus on reducing residential segregation, which will
require better economic opportunities for Black and
Latino citizens.
Racial profiling has also come to the public’s atten-
tion, although it is a practice that has a long history.
Often referred to half in jest by African Americans as
the offense of “DWB,” or “driving while Black,” racial
profiling is the use of race alone as the criterion for
deciding whether to stop and detain someone on
suspicion of having committed a crime. Police offi-
cers often argue that they “have no choice,” claim-
ing that racial profiling is justified because a high
proportion of Blacks and Hispanics commit crimes.
Although the crime rate for Blacks and Hispanics
is higher than that of Whites, race is a particularly
bad basis for suspicion because the vast majority of
Blacks and Hispanics, like the vast majority of Whites,
do not commit any crime at all. As evidence of this,
studies have found that eight out of every ten auto-
mobile searches carried out by state troopers on the
New Jersey Turnpike over ten years were conducted
on vehicles driven by Blacks andHispanics; the vast
majority of these searches turned up no evidence of
contraband or crimes of any sort (Kocieniewski and
Hanley 2000; Cole 1999). ▲ Figure 7.4 highlights that
minorities feel they are treated less fairly by police
officers.
Race and Sentencing. What happens once minor-
ity citizens are arrested for a crime? Bail is set higher
for African Americans and Latinos than for Whites, and
minorities have less success with plea bargains. Once
on trial, minority defendants are found guilty more
often than White defendants. At sentencing,African
Americans and Hispanics are likely to get longer sen-
tences than Whites, even when they have the same
number of prior arrests and socioeconomic back-
ground as Whites. Young African American men, as
well as Latinos, are sentenced more harshly than any
other group, and once sentenced, they are less likely
to be released on probation (Western 2007, 2014).
Blacks and Hispanics who have already received the
death penalty are even more likely to be executed,
rather than being pardoned or having the execution
postponed, than are Whites who have committed the
same crime (Jacobs et al. 2007). Any number of factors
influences judgments about sentencing, including
race of the judge, severity of the crime, race of the vic-
tim, and the gender of the defendant, but throughout
Recent protests highlight the distrust between police and
african american communities, especially after young Black
men are killed by police officers.
©
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1 6 6   CH a PTER 7
these studies, race is shown to consistently matter—
and matter a lot.
Prisons: Rehabilitation or Mass Incarceration? 
Racial minorities account for more t han half of the
federal and state male prisoners in the United States
(Carson 2014). Blacks have the highest rates of impris-
onment, followed by Hispanics, then Native Americans
and Asians. (Native Americans and Asian Americans
together are less than one percent of the total prison
population.) Hispanics are the fastest-growing minor-
ity group in prison. Native Americans, though a small
proportion of the prison population, are still overrepre-
sented in prisons. In theory, the criminal justice system
is supposed to be unbiased, able to objectively weigh
guilt and innocence. The reality is that the criminal jus-
tice system reflects the racial and class stratification and
biases in society.
The United States and Russia have the highest
rate of incarceration in the world. Yet at the same
time, although the proportions of individuals in the
prison population have increased over time, there
has been a recent leveling off. Although it is cer-
tainly true that Blacks and Hispanics commit dis-
proportionately more crime than Asians and Native
American Indians, it is also true that the structure of
the U.S. criminal justice system disproportionately
propels Blacks and Hispanics into prison at a greater
rate than Whites with the same criminal record. This
is because unemployment is much higher for Blacks
and Hispanics. There is mounting evidence, espe-
cially in the aftermath of the Ferguson, Missouri, and
other police shootings of young, Black teens that fed-
eral and state officials are routinely more hostile to
people of color than to Whites, whether or not they
have run afoul of the criminal justice system. More-
over, practices of both the police and the court sys-
tem are highly discriminatory against Black people
(U.S. Department of Justice 2015). The situation is
so severe and there are so many minority people in
prison now that sociologist Bruce Western calls them
a new color caste in U.S. society—in other words, a
society unto itself (Western 2007).
The United States, then, is putting offenders in
prison at a record pace. Is crime being deterred? Are
prisoners being rehabilitated? Are Black and Hispanic
men simply being warehoused—put on a shelf? In
the end, the mass incarceration of so many citizens
challenges the fundamental promise of a democratic
society.
How do sociologists define deviance?
Deviance is behavior that violates norms and rules of
society. The definition of deviance occurs in a social
context and is socially constructed, sometimes by the
actions of social movements.
What does sociological theory contribute to the
study of deviance?
Functionalist theory sees both deviance and crime as
functional for the society because it affirms what is
acceptable by defining what is not. Structural strain
theory, a type of functionalist theory, predicts that
societal inequalities actually force and compel indi-
viduals into deviant and criminal behavior. Conflict
theory explains deviance and crime as a consequence
of unequal power relationships and inequality in soci-
ety. Symbolic interaction theory explains deviance and
crime as the result of meanings people give to vari-
ous behaviors. Differential association theory, a type
of symbolic interaction theory, interprets deviance
as behavior learned through social interaction with
other deviants.
Chapter Summary
Percent saying Blacks in their community are
treated less fairly than Whites…
In the courts
In dealing with
the police
0 10 20 30 40 50
40%
51%
70%
60 70 80
Hispanics
Blacks
Whites37%
27%
68%
▲ figure 7.4 a Racial Divide: The
Criminal Justice System This figure
shows that, when asked if the criminal
justice treats Blacks in the community
less fairly, Blacks and Hispanics are much
more likely than Whites to think so.
Source: Anderson, Monica. 2014. “Vast Majority
of Blacks View the Criminal Justice System as
Unfair.” Pew Research Center. Washington, DC:
Pew Research Center. www.pewresearch.org
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DEvian CE an DC Ri M E  1 67
What is the importance of labeling in the study
of deviance?
Labeling theory argues that societal reactions to behav-
ior produce deviance, with some groups having more
power than others to assign deviant labels to people.
Some groups suffer from stigmas that may define them
in a master status.
What are deviant careers and communities?
Sometimes people develop deviant careers, that is, a
sequence of movements people make through a par-
ticular subculture of deviance. Deviance can also occur
within deviant communities, groups that are organized
around particular forms of social deviance.
How is the criminal justice system shaped
by social factors?
Class disparities exist in both arrest rates and rates
of victimization. Despite public fears, middle- and
upper-class Americans face lower risk of being vic-
tims of crime. Minorities and disadvantaged citizens
are more likely to be both offenders and victims. Gen-
der disparities also exist. At all stages of the criminal
justice system, from racial profiling to arrest to sen-
tencing to incarceration, Black Americans and His-
panics face a greater risk of prosecution in the criminal
justice system.
altruistic suicide 152
anomic suicide 152
anomie 152
crime 159
criminology 159
deviance 148
deviant career 158
deviant community 158
deviant identity 157
differential association
theory 156
egoistic suicide 152
elite deviance 155
gender-based violence 162
hate crime 161
labeling theory 156
master status 158
medicalization of
deviance 150
racial profiling 165
social control 155
social control agents 155
social control theory 154
stigma 157
structural strain
theory 153
Key Terms
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A
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169
Social Differentiation and Social
Stratification 170
The Class Structure of the United
States: Growing Inequality 173
The Distribution of Income
and Wealth  175
Analyzing Social Class 179
Social Mobility: Myths and
Realities 185
Why Is There Inequality? 187
Poverty 190
Chapter Summary 197
One afternoon in a major U.S. city, two women go shop-ping. They are friends—wealthy, suburban women who shop for leisure. They meet in a gourmet res-
taurant and eat imported foods while discussing their chil-
dren’s private schools. After lunch, they spend the afternoon
in exquisite stores—some of them large, elegant department
stores; others, intimate boutiques where the staff knows them
by name. When one of the women stops to use the bathroom
in one store, she enters a beautifully furnished room with an
upholstered chair, a marble sink with brass faucets, fresh flow-
ers on a wooden pedestal, shining mirrors, an ample supply of
hand towels, and jars of lotion and soaps. The toilet is in a pri-
vate stall with solid doors. In the stall, there is soft toilet paper
and another small vase of flowers.
The same day, in a different part of town, another woman
goes shopping. She lives on a marginal income earned as a
stitcher in a textiles factory. Her daughter badly needs a new
pair of shoes because she has outgrown last year’s pair. The
woman goes to a nearby discount store where she hopes to
find a pair of shoes for under $15, but she dreads the experi-
ence. She knows her daughter would like other new things—a
bathing suit for the summer, a pair of jeans, and a blouse. But
this summer, the daughter will have to wear hand-me-downs
because bills over the winter have depleted the little money
left after food and rent. For the mother, shopping is not rec-
reation but a bitter chore reminding her of the things she is
unable to get for her daughter.
While this woman is shopping, she, too, stops to use the
bathroom. She enters a vast space with sinks and mirrors lined
up on one side of the room and several stalls on the other.
The tile floor is gritty and gray. The locks on the stall doors are
missing or broken. Some of the overhead lights are burned
out, so the room has dark shadows. In the stall, the toilet
paper is coarse. When the woman washes her hands, she
discovers there is no soap in the metal dispensers. The mirror
before her is cracked. She exits quickly, feeling as though she
is being watched.
Social Class and Social
Stratification
●● Explain how class is a
social structure
●● Describe the class structure
of the United States
●● Identify the different
components of class
inequality
●● Analyze the extent of social
mobility in the United States
●● Compare and contrast
theoretical models of class
inequality
●● Investigate the causes
and consequences of
U.S.poverty
in this chapter, you will learn to:
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Editorial review has deemed that any suppressed content does not materially affect the overall learning experience. Cengage Learning reserves the right to remove additional content at any time if subsequent rights restrictions require it.
1 70   CHA PTER 8
Social Differentiation
and Social Stratification
All social groups and societies exhibit social differentia-
tion. Status, as we have seen earlier, is a socially defined
position in a group or society. Different statuses develop
in any group, organization, or society. Think of a sports
organization. The players, the owners, the managers,
the fans, the cheerleaders, and the sponsors all have a
different status within the organization. Together, they
constitute a whole social system, one that is marked by
social differentiation.
Two scenarios, one society. The difference is the mark of a society built upon class inequality. The
signs are all around you. Think about the clothing you wear. Are some labels worth more than others? Do
others in your group see the same marks of distinction and status in clothing labels? Do some people you
know never seem to wear the “right” labels? Whether it is clothing, bathrooms, schools, homes, or access
to health care, the effect of class inequality is enormous, giving privileges and resources to some and
leaving others struggling to get by.
Great inequality divides society. Nevertheless, most people think that equal opportunity exists for
all in the United States. The tendency is to blame individuals for their own failure or attribute success to
individual achievement. Many think the poor are lazy and do not value work. At the same time, the rich
are admired for their supposed initiative, drive, and motivation. Neither is an accurate portrayal. There are
many hardworking individuals who are poor, but they seldom get credit for their effort. At the same time,
many of the richest people have inherited their wealth or have had access to resources (such as the best
schools or access to elite networks) that others can barely imagine.
Observing and analyzing class inequality is fundamental to sociological study. What features of soci-
ety cause different groups to have different opportunities? Why is there such an unequal allocation of
society’s resources? Sociologists respect individual achievements but have found that the greatest cause
for disparities in material success is the organization of society. Instead of understanding inequality as the
result of individual effort, sociologists study the social structural origins of inequality.
→See for YourSelf ←
Take a shopping trip to different stores and observe the
appearance of stores serving different economic groups.
What kinds of bathrooms are there in stores catering to
middle-class clients? The rich? The working class? The
poor? Which ones allow the most privacy or provide the
nicest amenities? What fixtures are in the display areas?
Are they simply utilitarian with minimal ornamentation, or
are they opulent displays of consumption? Take detailed
notes of your observations, and write an analysis of what
this tells you about social class in the United States.
Social class differences make it seem as if some people are living in two different societies.
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Editorial review has deemed that any suppressed content does not materially affect the overall learning experience. Cengage Learning reserves the right to remove additional content at any time if subsequent rights restrictions require it.
SoCIAl ClASS AnD SoCIAl STRATIf I CATIo n   1 7 1
Status differences can become organized into a
hierarchical social system. Social stratification is a
relatively fixed, hierarchical arrangement in society by
which groups have different access to resources, power,
and perceived social worth. Social stratification is a sys-
tem of structured social inequality. Again using sports
as an example, you can see that many of the players earn
extremely high salaries, although most do not. Those
who do are among the elite in this system of inequality,
but the owners control the resources of the teams and
hold the most power in this system. Sponsors (includ-
ing major corporations and media networks) are the
economic engines on which this system of stratification
rests. Fans are merely observers who pay to watch the
teams play, but the revenue they generate is essential
for keeping this system intact. Altogether, sports are sys-
tems of stratification because the groups that constitute
the organization are arranged in a hierarchy where
some have more resources and power than others.
Some provide resources; others take them. Even within
the field of sports, there are huge differences in which
teams—and which sports—are among the elite.
All societies seem to have a system of social strati-
fication, although they vary in the degree and complex-
ity of stratification. Some societies stratify only along a
single dimension, such as age, keeping the stratification
system relatively simple. Most contemporary societies
are more complex, with many factors interacting to cre-
ate different social strata. In the United States, social
stratification is strongly influenced by class, which is in
turn influenced by matters such as one’s occupation,
income, and education, along with race, gender, and
other influences such as age, region of residence, eth-
nicity, and national origin (see ◆ Table 8.1).
Sports are a huge part of American cul-
ture. Whether you are an athlete, a fan,
or just an observer, sports are a window
into how social class shapes some of our
most popular activities.
Start with the ideas of functionalism
and the work of classical theorist Emile
Durkheim. Durkheim was interested in
the cultural symbols and events that bind
people together. Think of how many
sports symbols, such as jerseys, hats,
and bumper stickers, are common sights
in everyday life. These symbols project
an identity to others that make a claim
about being part of a collective group,
Social Class and Sports
but sometimes, they reflect social class
locations, too. Rich people, for example,
are not likely to be wearing NASCAR
caps, but may well have yacht club logos
on their polo shirts and ties.
As Max Weber would point out, class,
power, and prestige are all tangled up in
sports. There are significant class differ-
ences associated with different sports,
some having more prestige than others.
Prestige is also interwoven with power,
as you can see during political elections,
where you see politicians all over the
place—at tailgate parties and hanging out
in the expensive box seats. Beyond the
connection between power, politics, and
prestige, sports is big business.
Corporate profits and sponsorship are
very apparent, even in college sports. Look
at the advertisements on most college
scoreboards. Various plays in a football
game might be featured as an “AT&T All-
America Play of the Week!” Think of how
much money is spent on commercials.
Social class in the world of sports is
everywhere, even though the workers
who help put on events are often invisible.
Some of the athletes are very highly paid,
but working-class people serve the food in
stadiums, clean up after the fans leave, and
take out all the trash. Sports are an amaz-
ing example of a class-based social system.
what would a sociologist say?
◆ Table 8.1 Inequality in the United States
●● one in five children (19.5 percent) in the United States lives in poverty, including 38 percent of African American children,
30percent of Hispanic children, 11 percent of White (not Hispanic) children, and 9.8 percent of Asian American children
(Denavas-Walt and Proctor 2014).
●● The rate of poverty among people in the United States has been increasing since 2000 (Denavas-Walt and Proctor 2014).
●● Among women heading their own households, one-third live below the poverty line (Denavas-Walt and Proctor 2014).
●● one percent of the U.S. population controls 38 percent of the total wealth in the nation; the bottom half hold none or are
in debt (Mishel et al. 2012).
●● Most American families have seen their net worth decline, largely because of declines in the value of housing. Households
at the bottom of the wealth distribution lost the largest share of their wealth; those at the top, the least (Pfeffer et al. 2014).
●● The average CEo of a major company has a salary of $13millionperyear; workers earning the minimum wage make
$15,080peryear if they work 40 hours a week for 52 weeks and hold only one job (www.aflcio.org).
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1 72   CHA PT ER 8
Estate, Caste, and Class
Stratification systems can be broadly categorized into
three types: estate systems, caste systems, and class
systems. In an estate system of stratification, the
ownership of property and the exercise of power are
monopolized by an elite class who have total control
over societal resources. Historically, such societies were
feudal systems where classes were differentiated into
three basic groups—the nobles, the priesthood, and
the commoners. Commoners included peasants (usu-
ally the largest class group), small merchants, artisans,
domestic workers, and traders. The nobles controlled
the land and the resources used to cultivate the land,
as well as all the resources resulting from peasant labor.
Estate systems of stratification are most common in
agricultural societies. Although such societies have been
largely supplanted by industrialization, some societies
still have a small but powerful landholding class rul-
ing over a population that works mainly in agricultural
production. Unlike the feudal societies of the European
Middle Ages, however, contemporary estate systems
of stratification display the influence of international
capitalism. The “noble class” comprises not knights who
conquered lands in war, but international capitalists or
local elites who control the labor of a vast and impover-
ished group of people, such as in some South American
societies where landholding elites maintain a dictator-
ship over peasants who labor in agricultural fields.
In a caste system, one’s place in the stratification
system is an ascribed status (see Chapter 5), meaning it
is a quality given to an individual by circumstances of
birth. The hierarchy of classes is rigid in caste systems
and is often preserved through formal law and cultural
practices that prevent free association and movement
between classes. The system of apartheid in South Africa
was a stark example of a caste system. Under apartheid,
the travel, employment, associations, and place of resi-
dence of Black South Africans were severely restricted.
Segregation was enforced using a pass system in which
Black South Africans could not be in White areas unless
for purposes of employment. Those found without passes
were arrested, often sent to prison without ever see-
ing their families again. Interracial marriage was illegal.
Black South Africans were prohibited from voting; the
system was one of total social control where anyone who
protested was imprisoned. The apartheid system was
overthrown in 1994 when Nelson Mandela, held prisoner
for twenty-seven years of his life, was elected president of
the new nation of South Africa. A new national constitu-
tion guaranteeing equal rights to all was ratified in 1996.
In class systems, stratification exists, but a per-
son’s placement in the class system can change accord-
ing to personal achievements. That is, class depends to
some degree on achieved status, defined as status that
is earned by the acquisition of resources and power,
regardless of one’s origins. Class systems are more open
than caste systems because position does not depend
strictly on birth. Classes are less rigidly defined than
castes because class divisions are blurred when there is
movement from one class to another.
Despite the potential for movement from one class
to another, in the class system found in the United States,
class placement still depends heavily on one’s social back-
ground. Although ascription (the designation of ascribed
status according to birth) is not the basis for social stratifi-
cation in the United States, the class a person is born into
has major consequences for that person’s life. Patterns of
inheritance; access to exclusive educational resources;
the financial, political, and social influence of one’s
family; and similar factors all shape one’s likelihood of
achievement. Although there are not formal obstacles to
movement through the class system, individual achieve-
ment is very much shaped by one’s class of origin.
In common terms, class refers to style or sophisti-
cation. In sociological use, social class (or class) is the
social structural position that groups hold relative to
the economic, social, political, and cultural resources
of society. Class determines the access different peo-
ple have to these resources and puts groups in different
positions of privilege and disadvantage. Each class has
members with similar opportunities who tend to share
a common way of life. Class also includes a cultural
component in that class shapes language, dress, man-
nerisms, taste, and other preferences. Class is not just
an attribute of individuals; it is a feature of society.
The social theorist Max Weber described the conse-
quences of stratification in terms of life chances, mean-
ing the opportunities that people have in common by
virtue of belonging to a particular class. Life chances
include the opportunity for possessing goods, having
an income, and having access to particular jobs. Life
chances are also reflected in the quality of everyday life.
Whether you dress in the latest style or wear another
person’s discarded clothes, have a vacation in an exclu-
sive resort, take your family to the beach for a week, or
have no vacation at all, these life chances are the result
of being in a particular class.
Class is a structural phenomenon; it cannot be
directly observed. Nonetheless, you can “see” class
through various displays that people project, often unin-
tentionally, about their class status. Do some objects
worn project higher-class status than others? How about
cars? What class status is displayed through the car you
drive or, for that matter, whether you even have a car or
use a bus to get to work? In myriad ways, class is projected
to others as a symbol of presumed worth in society.
Social class can be observed in the everyday hab-
its and presentations of self that people project. Com-
mon objects, such as clothing and cars, can be ranked
not only in terms of their economic value but also in
terms of the status that various brands and labels carry.
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SoCIAl ClASSAnD SoCIAl STRATIf I CATIo n   1 73
The interesting thing about social class is that a particu-
lar object may be quite ordinary, but with the right
“label,” it becomes a status symbol and thus becomes
valuable. Take the example of Vera Bradley bags. These
paisley bags are made of ordinary cotton with batting.
Not long ago, such cloth was cheap and commonplace,
associated with rural, working-class women. If such a
bag were sewn and carried by a poor person living on a
farm, the bag (and perhaps the person!) would be seen
as ordinary, almost worthless. Transformed by the right
label (and some good marketing), Vera Bradley bags have
become status symbols, selling for a high price (often a
few hundred dollars—a price one would never pay for
a simple cotton purse). Presumably, having such a bag
denotes the status of the person carrying it. (See also the
box “See for Yourself: Status Symbols in Everyday Life.”)
The early sociologist Thorstein Veblen described the
class habits of Americans as conspicuous consumption,
meaning the ostentatious display of goods to define
one’s social status. Writing in 1899, Veblen said, “con-
spicuous consumption of valuable goods is a means
of respectability to the gentleman of leisure” (Veblen
1953/1899: 42). Although Veblen identified this behav-
ior as characteristic of the well-to-do (the “leisure class,”
he called them), conspicuous consumption today marks
the lifestyle of many. Indeed, mass consumerism is a
hallmark of both the rich and the middle class, and even
of many working-class people’s lifestyles. What exam-
ples of this do you see among your associates?
→ See for YourSelf ←
Status Symbols in Everyday Life
You can observe the everyday reality of social class by
noting the status that different ordinary objects have
within the context of a class system. Make a list of every
car brand you can think of—or, if you prefer, every cloth-
ing label. Then rank your list with the highest status brand
(or label) at the top of the list, going down to the lowest
status. Then answer the following questions:
1. Where does the presumed value of this object come
from? Does the value come from the actual cost of
producing the object or something more subjective?
2. Do people make judgments about people wearing or
driving the different brands you have noted? What
judgments do they make? Why?
3. What consequences do you see (positive and
negative) of the ranking you have observed? Who
benefits from the ranking and who does not?
What does this exercise reveal about the influence of
status symbols in society?
Because sociologists cannot isolate and measure
social class directly, they use other indicators to serve
as measures of class. A prominent indicator of class is
income. Other common indicators are education, occu-
pation, and place of residence. These indicators alone do
not define class, but they are often accurate measures of
the class standing of a person or group. We will see that
these indicators tend to be linked. A good income, for
example, makes it possible to afford a house in a prestig-
ious neighborhood and an exclusive education for one’s
children. In the sociological study of class, indicators such
as income and education have had enormous value in
revealing the outlines and influences of the class system.
The Class Structure
of the United States:
Growing Inequality
People think of the United States as a land of oppor-
tunity where one’s class position matters less than
individual effort. According to a recent survey, almost
three-quarters of Americans think that hard work is the
key to getting ahead in life. Compared to those in other
countries, Americans are far more likely to believe in
the importance of individual effort, a reflection of the
cultural belief in individualism (Pew Research Global
Attitudes Project 2014).
Despite these beliefs, class divisions in the United
States are real, and inequality is growing. Perhaps this
has become more apparent to people in recent years
as the nation experienced a recession and a very frag-
ile economic situation. Millions lost their homes and
retirement savings and other investments. Many in
the middle and working class feel that their way of life
is slipping away. For the first time in our nation’s his-
tory, only 17 percent of the public thinks that children
College graduates who are facing an uncertain job market
are experiencing some of the consequences of growing
inequality in the United States.
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1 74   CH APTER8
today will be better off than their parents; two-thirds no
longer believe this (Pew Research Global Attitudes Pro-
ject 2014; Rasmussen Reports 2009).
Even aside from the economic recession, the gap
between the rich and the poor in the United States is
greater than in other industrialized nations, and it is
larger than at any time in the nation’s history. Many
analysts argue that this gap is the central problem of
the age—contributing to crime and violence, political
division, threats to democracy, and increased anxiety
and frustration felt by large segments of the population
(Piketty 2014; Noah 2012; Reich 2010).
Many factors have contributed to growing inequal-
ity in the United States, including the profound effects
of national and global economic changes. Many think
of the economic problems of the nation as stemming
from individual greed on Wall Street, and this likely
plays a role, but social inequality stems from systemic—
that is, social structural—conditions, particularly what
is called economic restructuring.
Economic restructuring refers to the decline of
manufacturing jobs in the United States, the transfor-
mation of the economy by technological change, and
the process of globalization. We examine economic
restructuring more in Chapter 15 on the economy, but
the point here is that these structural changes are hav-
ing a profound effect on the life chances of people in
different social classes. Many in the working class, for
example, once largely employed in relatively stable
manufacturing jobs with decent wages and good ben-
efits, now likely work, if they work at all, in lower-wage
jobs with fewer benefits, such as health care and pen-
sions. Middle-class families have amassed large sums
of debt, sometimes to support a middle-class lifestyle,
but also perhaps to pay for their children’s education.
The economic problems that produce inequality are
not, however, purely economic: They are social, both in
their origins and their consequences. Home ownership
provides an example. For most Americans, owning one’s
own home is the primary means of attaining economic
security—a central part of the American dream. Owning
a home is also the key to other resources—good schools,
cleaner neighborhoods, and an investment in the future.
Similarly, losing your home is more than just a financial
crisis—it reverberates through various aspects of your
life. The odds of having a home—indeed, the odds of
losing your home—are profoundly connected to social
factors, such as your race and your gender.
Housing foreclosure is a trauma for anyone who
experiences it, but foreclosure has hit some groups
especially hard. The racial segregation of Hispanic and,
especially, African American neighborhoods is a major
contributing cause to the high rate of mortgage foreclo-
sures (Rugh and Massey 2010). African Americans are
almost twice as likely to experience foreclosure as White
Americans (Bocian et al. 2010). Moreover, women are
32 percent more likely than men to have subprime mort-
gages (that is, mortgages with an interest rate higher than
the prime lending rate). Black women earning double
the region’s median income were nearly five times more
likely to receive subprime mortgages than White men
with similar incomes (Fishbein and Woodall 2006).
Some might argue that foreclosures occur because
individual people have made bad decisions—buying
homes beyond their means. But, institutional lending
practices also target particular groups, making them more
vulnerable to the economic forces that can shatter individ-
ual lives. Lenders may see African Americans as a greater
credit risk, but they also know that the value of real estate
is less in racially segregated neighborhoods. Discrimina-
tory practices in the housing market have also been well
documented (Squires 2007; Oliver and Shapiro 2006).
The sociological point is that economic problems
have a sociological dimension and cannot be explained
by individual decisions alone. Economic policies also
have different effects for different groups—sometimes
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The class structure in the United States means very
different living conditions for those of vast wealth and
everyone else.
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SoCIAl ClASS AnD SoCIAl STRATI f I CATIo n   1 75
intended, sometimes not. Wealthy people, as an exam-
ple, typically pay a far lower tax rate than the middle
class, because much of their money comes from invest-
ments, not income, and income is taxed at a much
higher rate than investment income. Various tax loop-
holes (such as home mortgage deductions, tax shelters
on real estate investments, or even offshore banking
deposits) also significantly reduce the tax burden by
those with the most resources.
Corporations benefit the most from the tax struc-
ture. The corporate tax rate in the United States is the
highest in the world (35 percent), but many corporations
pay much less than that, given the various loopholes,
offshore investments, and tax subsidies that lessen one’s
tax obligation. A study of the Fortune 500 companies
(those companies with the highest gross revenue in a
given year) has found that most paid only about 20 per-
cent in taxes. Many of these big companies paid no tax at
all in some years (McIntyre et al. 2014).
The Distribution of Income
and Wealth
Understanding inequality requires knowing some basic
economic and sociological terms. Inequality is often
presented as a matter of differences in income, one
important measure of class standing. In addition to
income inequality, there are vast inequalities in who
owns what—that is, the wealth of different groups.
Income is the amount of money brought into a
household from various sources (wages, investment
income, dividends, and so on) during a given period. In
recent years, income growth has been greatest for those
at the top of the population; for everyone else, income
(controlling for the value of the dollar) has either been
relatively flat or grown at a far lesser rate. Inequality
becomes even more apparent, however, when you con-
sider both wealth and income.
Wealth is the monetary value of everything one
actually owns. Wealth is calculated by adding all finan-
cial assets (stocks, bonds, property, insurance, savings,
value of investments, and so on) and subtracting debts,
resulting in one’s net worth. Wealth allows you to accu-
mulate assets over generations, giving advantages to
subsequent generations that they might not have had
on their own. Unlike income, wealth is cumulative—
that is, its value tends to increase through investment.
Wealth can also be passed on to the next generation,
giving those who inherit wealth a considerable advan-
tage in accumulating more resources.
To understand the significance of wealth com-
pared to income in determining class location, imagine
two college students graduating in the same year, from
the same college, with the same major and same grade
point average. Imagine further that both get jobs with
the same salary in the same organization. In one case,
parents paid all the student’s college expenses and gave
her a car upon graduation. The other student worked
while in school and graduated with substantial debt
from student loans. This student’s family has no money
with which to help support the new worker. Who is bet-
ter off? Same salary, same credentials, but wealth (even
if modest) matters, giving one person an advantage that
will be played out many times over as the young worker
buys a home, finances her own children’s education,
and possibly inherits additional assets.
Where is all the wealth? The wealthiest 1 percent
own 35 percent of all net worth; the bottom half hold only
1.1percent of all wealth (see ▲ Figure 8.1; Levine 2012).
Each horizontal
band represents an
equal fifth of the
nation’s people
Richest
Poorest
9.4% of income
2.8% of income
.2% of income
21.2% of income
88.9% of income
▲ figure 8.1 Distribution of Wealth
in the United States
Source: Mishel, Lawrence, Josh Bivens, Elise Gould,
and Heidi Shierholz. 2012. The State of Working
America, 12th Edition. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University
Press/Economic Policy Institute.
03083_ch08_ptg01.indd 175 18/08/15 10:22 AM
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1 76   CHAPTER 8
Moreover, there has been an increase in the concen-
tration of wealth since the 1980s, making the United
States one of the most unequal nations in the world. The
growth of wealth by a select few, though long a feature
of the U.S. class system, has also reached historic levels.
As just one example, John D. Rockefeller is typically
heralded as one of the wealthiest men in U.S. history.
Comparing Rockefeller with Bill Gates, controlling for
the value of today’s dollars, Gates has far surpassed
Rockefeller’s riches.
In contrast to the vast amount of wealth and
income controlled by elites, a very large proportion of
Americans have hardly any financial assets once debt
is subtracted. Figure 8.4 shows the net worth of differ-
ent parts of the population, and you can see that most
of the population has very low net worth. One-fifth of
the population has zero or negative net worth, usually
because their debt exceeds their assets. The American
dream of owning a home, a new car, taking annual vaca-
tions, and sending one’s children to good schools—not
to mention saving for a comfortable retirement—is
increasingly unattainable for many. When you see the
amount of income and wealth a small segment of the
population controls, a sobering picture of class inequal-
ity emerges. Students themselves may be experiencing
this burden, as levels of debt from student loans have
escalated in recent years.
Despite the prominence of rags-to-riches stories
in American legend, much of the wealth in this society
“It’s a dog’s life,” or so the saying goes, but even dogs have their experiences shaped by the realities of social class.
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Editorial review has deemed that any suppressed content does not materially affect the overall learning experience. Cengage Learning reserves the right to remove additional content at any time if subsequent rights restrictions require it.
SoCIAl ClASS AnD SoCIAl STRATIf I CATIo n   1 7 7
Numerous recent reports show that
students are struggling over rising levels
of debt from student loans. A record one
in five households in the United States
now has outstanding student debt. Not
only is the number of those with student
debt increasing, but so is the size of the
indebtedness (see ▲ Figures 8.2 and
8.3 below; Lee 2013; Fry 2012). Leaving
college or graduate school with large
amounts of debt impedes one’s ability to
get financially established.
All students are at risk of accruing
debt, given the rising cost of educa-
tion and the higher interest rates now
The Student Debt Crisis
associated with student loans. Some
groups though are more vulnerable
than others, adding to the inequalities
that accrue across different groups.
Among those in the bottom fifth of
income earners, student debt, on
average, takes up 24 percent of all
income; for the top fifth of earners,
only 9 percent of income. For those in
the middle, student debt consumes
12 percent of income (Fry 2012).
The highest amount of student
debt is also among those under 35,
those who are just beginning careers
and, possibly, families. Race also
matters. Black students are more likely
to borrow money for college than
other groups—and to borrow more;
80 percent of Black students have
outstanding student loans, compared
to 65 percent of Whites, 67percent
of Hispanics, and 54 percent of Asian
students. Moreover, levels of debt are
highest among Blacks—an average of
$28,692, compared to $24,772 for
Whites, $22,886 for Hispanics, and
$21,090 for Asians (Demos 2014).
How does this reality of student debt
influence the experience of those you
see in your own environment? What are
the sociological causes of this significant
social problem?
understanding diversity
0
4
8
12
16
20
1989 1992 1995 1998
Percent with debt
2001 2004 2007 2010
9%
11% 11%
12% 12%
13% 13%
19%
▲ figure 8.2 Households with outstanding
Student Debt
Source: Pew Research Center, Social and Demographic Trends Project.
www.pewsocialtrends.org/2012/09/26/. Released September 26,
2012. A Record One-in-Five Households Now Owe Student Loan Debt
Burden Greatest on Young, Poor by Richard Fry.
0
5,000
10,000
15,000
20,000
25,000
30,000
19921989 1995 1998 2001 2004 2007 2010
$9,634
$11,086
$11,714
$17,942
Average amount of debt
$17,562
$20,022 $23,349
$26,682
▲ figure 8.3 Average Amount of Household
Student Debt
Source: Pew Research Center, Social and Demographic Trends Project.
www.pewsocialtrends.org/2012/09/26/. Released September 26,
2012. A Record One-in-Five Households Now Owe Student Loan Debt
Burden Greatest on Young, Poor by Richard Fry.
is inherited. In recent years, more of those who are very
rich are “self-made”—that is, starting from modest ori-
gins: Bill Gates, a Harvard dropout; Mark Zuckerberg,
founder of Facebook; and Oprah Winfrey come to mind.
Such examples exist, although for many, if you scratch
the surface of the rags-to-riches theme, you will find that
they had a significant leg up. Among the now very rich, it
has become more common for some to become amaz-
ingly rich, even though coming from modest origins. The
technology boom has certainly helped, showing again
how the historical context of one’s life course can matter.
For most people, however, dramatically moving up
in the class system remains highly likely. Children from
low-income families have less than a 1 percent chance
of reaching the top 5 percent of earners (T. Hertz 2006).
Recently, even the modest wealth of those in the middle
class has been significantly eroded by the impact of the
recent economic recession; young and minority house-
holds have been especially hard hit by these changes, in
large part because of being highly “leveraged”—that is,
holding too much debt on their homes (Wolff 2014;
Kochhar et al. 2011).
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1 78   CHA PTER 8
The hallmark of the middle class in the
United States is its presumed stability.
Home ownership, a college education
for children, and other accoutrements
of middle-class status (nice cars, annual
vacations, an array of consumer goods)
are the symbols of middle-class prosper-
ity. The American middle class is not as
secure as it has been presumed to be.
Personal bankruptcy has risen
dramatically with more than a million
nonbusiness filings for bankruptcy per
year recently. How can this be happening
in such a prosperous society? Sociolo-
gists Teresa Sullivan, Elizabeth Warren,
and Jay Lawrence Westbrook have
studied bankruptcy, and their research
shows the fragility of the middle class in
recent times.
Research Question: What is causing the
rise of bankruptcy?
Research Method: This study is
based on an analysis of official records
of bankruptcy in five states, as well as
on detailed questionnaires given to
individuals who filed for bankruptcy.
Research Results: The research find-
ings of Sullivan and her colleagues
debunk the idea that bankruptcy is most
common among poor people. Instead,
they found bankruptcy is mostly a
The Fragile Middle Class
middle-class phenomenon represent-
ing a cross-section of those in this class
(meaning that those who are bankrupt
are matched on the demographic
characteristics of race, age, and gender
with others in the middle class). They
also debunk the notion that bankruptcy
is rising because it is so easy to file.
Rather, they found many people in the
middle class so overwhelmed with debt
that they cannot possibly pay it off.
Most people often file for bankruptcy
as a result of job loss and lost wages.
But divorce, medical problems, housing
expenses, and credit card debt also drive
many to bankruptcy court.
Conclusions and Implications: Sullivan
and her colleagues explain the rise of
bankruptcy as stemming from structural
factors in society that fracture the stabil-
ity of the middle class. The volatility of
jobs under modern capitalism is one of
the biggest factors, but add to this the
“thin safety net”—no health insurance
for many, but rising medical costs. Also,
the American dream of owning one’s
own home means many are “mortgage
poor”—extended beyond their ability to
keep up.
The United States is also a credit-
driven society. Credit cards are rou-
tinely mailed to people in the middle
class, encouraging them to buy beyond
their means. You can now buy virtually
anything on credit: cars, clothes, doc-
tor’s bills, entertainment, groceries.
You can even use one credit card to
pay off other credit cards. Indeed, it is
difficult to live in this society without
credit cards. Increased debt is the
result. Many are simply unable to keep
up with compounding interest and
penalty payments, and debt takes on
a life of its own as consumers cannot
keep up with even the interest pay-
ments on debt.
Sullivan, Warren, and Westbrook
conclude that increases in debt and
uncertainty of income combine to
produce the fragility of the middle class.
Their research shows that “even the
most secure family may be only a job
loss, a medical problem, or an out-of-
control credit card away from financial
catastrophe” (2000: 6).
Questions to Consider
1. Have you ever had a credit card? If
so, how easy was it to get? Is it pos-
sible to get by without a credit card?
2. What evidence do you see in your
community of the fragility or stability
of different social class groups?
Source: T. A. Sullivan, E. Warren, and
J.L.Westbrook, The Fragile Middle Class:
Americans in Debt. Copyright © 2000 by
Yale University Press.
doing sociological research
Race also influences the pattern of wealth distri-
bution in the United States. For every dollar of wealth
White Americans hold, Black Americans have only
26 cents. At all levels of income, occupation, and edu-
cation, Black families have lower levels of wealth than
similarly situated White families (see ▲ Figure 8.4).
Being able to draw on assets during times of eco-
nomic stress means that families with some resources
can better withstand difficult times than those with-
out assets. Even small assets, such as home ownership
or a savings account, provide protection from crises
such as increased rent, a health emergency, or unem-
ployment. Because the effects of wealth are intergen-
erational—that is, they accumulate over time—just
providing equality of opportunity in the present
does not address the differences in class status that
Black and White Americans experience (Oliver and
Shapiro 2006).
What explains the disparities in wealth by race?
Wealth accumulates over time. Thus government poli-
cies in the past have prevented Black Americans from
being able to accumulate wealth. Discriminatory
housing policies, bank lending policies, tax codes, and
so forth have disadvantaged Black Americans, result-
ing in the differing assets Whites and Blacks in general
hold now. Even though some of these discriminatory
policies have ended, many continue. Either way, their
effects persist, resulting in what sociologists Melvin
Oliver and Thomas Shapiro call the sedimentation of
racial inequality.
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SoCIAl ClASS AnD SoCIAl STRATI f I CATIo n   1 79
Understanding the significance of wealth in shap-
ing life chances for different groups also shows how
important it is to understand diversity within the differ-
ent labels used to define groups. Among Hispanics, for
example, Cuban Americans and Spaniards are similar
to Whites in their wealth holdings, whereas Mexicans,
Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, and other Hispanic groups
more closely resemble African Americans in measures
of wealth and class standing. Without significant wealth
holdings, families of any race are less able to transmit
assets from previous generations to the next generation,
one main support of social mobility (discussed later in
the chapter).
Analyzing Social Class
The class structure of the United States is elaborate, aris-
ing from the interactions of race and gender inequality
with class, the presence of old mixed with new wealth,
the income and wealth gap between the haves and
have-nots, a culture of entrepreneurship and individu-
alism, and in recent times, accelerated globalization
and high rates of immigration. Given this complexity,
how do sociologists conceptualize social class?
Class as a Ladder
One way to think about the class system is as a ladder,
with different class groups arrayed up and down the
rungs, each rung corresponding to a different level in
the class system. Conceptualized this way, social class
is the common position groups hold in a status hier-
archy (Lucal 1994; Wright 1979); class is indicated by
factors such as levels of income, occupational stand-
ing, and educational attainment. People are relatively
high or low on the ladder depending on the resources
they have and whether those resources are education,
income, occupation, or any of the other factors known
to influence people’s placement (or ranking) in the
stratification system. Indeed, an abundance of socio-
logical research has stemmed from the concept of status
attainment, the process by which people end up in a
given position in the stratification system. Status attain-
ment research describes how factors such as class ori-
gins, educational level, and occupation produce class
location.
The laddered model of class suggests that stratifica-
tion in the United States is hierarchical but somewhat
fluid. That is, the assumption is that people can move up
and down different “rungs” of the ladder—or class sys-
tem. In a relatively open class system such as the United
States, people’s achievements do matter, although the
extent to which people rise rapidly and dramatically
through the stratification system is less than the popu-
lar imagination envisions. Some people move down in
the class system, but as we will see, most people remain
relatively close to their class of origin. When people rise
or fall in the class system, the distance they travel is usu-
ally relatively short, as we will see in a later section on
social mobility.
The image of stratification as a laddered system,
with different gradients of social standing, emphasizes
that one’s socioeconomic status (SES) is derived from
certain factors. Income, occupational prestige, and
education are the three measures of socioeconomic sta-
tus that have been found to be most significant in deter-
mining people’s placement in the stratification system.
The median income for a society is the midpoint
of all household incomes. Half of all households earn
more than the median income; half earn less. In 2013,
median household income in the United States was
$51,939 (DeNavas-Walt and Proctor 2014). To many,
this may seem like a lot of money, but consider these
facts: American consumers spend about one-third of
their household budgets on housing; almost another
18 percent on transportation; 13 percent on food; and
$120,000
$60,000
$80,000
$100,000
$40,000
$20,000
$0
White, not
Hispanic
Black Hispanic Asian
Median income Net worth
$58,270
$110,500
$34,598
$40,963
$89,329
$67,065
$7,683$6,314
▲ figure 8.4 Median Income
and net Worth by Race
Note: Income data for 2013; net worth from
2011.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau. 2011. Net Worth
and Asset Ownership of Households: 2011,
Table 1. Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau;
DeNavas-Walt, Carmen, and Bernadette Proctor.
2014. Income and Poverty in the United States:
2013. Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau.
www.census.gov
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1 80   CH APT ER8
11 percent on insurance and pensions (Bureau of Labor
Statistics 2014a). If you do the calculations based on the
median income level, you will see there is very little left
for other living expenses (clothing, education, taxes,
communication, entertainment, and so forth)—less
than $1000 per month for all other expenses—hardly a
lavish income, especially when you consider that half
of Americans have less than this, given the definition of
a median. (See also the “See for Yourself ” exercise on
household budgets later in this chapter.) Those bunched
around the median income level are considered middle
class, although sociologists debate which income
brackets constitute middle-class standing because the
range of what people think of as “middle class” is quite
large. Nonetheless, income is a significant indicator of
social class standing, although not the only one.
→ See for YourSelf←
Income Distribution: Should Grades
Be the Same?
▲ figure 8.5 shows the income distribution within the
United States. Imagine that grades in your class were
distributed based on the same curve. let’s suppose that
after students arrived in class and sat down, different
groups received their grades based on where they were
sitting in the room and in the same proportion as the U.S.
income distribution. only students in the front receive A’s;
the back, D’s and f’s. The middle of the room gets the B’s
and C’s. Write a short essay answering the following ques-
tions based on this hypothetical scenario:
1. How many students would receive A’s, B’s, C’s, D’s,
and f’s?
2. Would it be fair to distribute grades this way? Why or
why not?
3. Which groups in the class might be more likely to sup-
port such a distribution? Who would think the system
of grade distribution should be changed?
4. What might different groups do to preserve or
change the system of grade distribution? What if
you really needed an A, but got one of the f’s? What
might you do?
5. Are there circumstances in actual life that are beyond
the control of people and that shape the distribution
of income?
6. How is social stratification maintained by the beliefs
that people have about merit and fairness?
Adapted from: Brislen, William, and Clayton D. Peoples. 2005. “Using
a Hypothetical Distribution of Grades to Introduce Social Stratification.”
Teaching Sociology 33 (January): 74–80.
Occupational prestige is a second important indica-
tor of socioeconomic status. Prestige is the value others
assign to people and groups. Occupational prestige is
the subjective evaluation people give to jobs. To deter-
mine occupational prestige, sociological researchers typi-
cally ask nationwide samples of adults to rank the general
standing of a series of jobs. These subjective ratings pro-
vide information about how people perceive the worth of
different occupations. People tend to rank professionals,
such as physicians, professors, judges, and lawyers highly,
with occupations such as electrician, insurance agent,
and police officer falling in the middle. Occupations with
low occupational prestige are maids, garbage collectors,
and shoe shiners. These rankings do not reflect the worth
of people within these positions but are indicative of the
judgments people make about the worth of these jobs.
The final major indicator of socioeconomic sta-
tus is educational attainment, typically measured as
the total years of formal education. The more years of
30%
25%
F D
C
B
A
20%
15%
10%
5%
0%
24.0%
29.5%
4.8%
17.7%
24.0%
Un
de
r $
25
,0
00
$2
5,
00
0–
$4
9,
99
9
$5
0,
00
0–
$9
9,
99
9
$1
00
,0
00
–$
19
9,
99
9
$2
00
,0
00
a
nd
m
or
e
▲ figure 8.5 Income Distribution in the
United States This graph shows the per-
centage of the total population that falls into
each of five income groups. Would it be fair if
course grades were distributed by the same
percentages?
Source: DeNavas-Walt, Carmen and Bernadette Proctor.
2014. Income and Poverty in the United States: 2013.
Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau. www.census.gov
03083_ch08_ptg01.indd 180 18/08/15 10:23 AM
Copyright 2017 Cengage Learning. All Rights Reserved. May not be copied, scanned, or duplicated, in whole or in part. Due to electronic rights, some third party content may be suppressed from the eBook and/or eChapter(s).
Editorial review has deemed that any suppressed content does not materially affect the overall learning experience. Cengage Learning reserves the right to remove additional content at any time if subsequent rights restrictions require it.
SoCIAl ClASSAnD SoCIAl STRATI f I CATIo n   1 81
education attained, the more likely a person’s class sta-
tus. The prestige attached to occupations is strongly tied
to the amount of education the job requires (Ollivier
2000; Blau and Duncan 1967).
Taken together, income, occupation, and education
are good indicators of people’s class standing. Using the
laddered model of class, you can describe the class sys-
tem in the United States as being divided into several
classes: upper, upper middle, middle, lower middle,
and lower class. The different classes are arrayed up and
down, like a ladder, with those with the most money,
education, and prestige on the top rungs and those with
the least at the bottom.
In the United States, the upper class owns the major
share of corporate and personal wealth (see ▲ Figure8.6).
The upper class includes those who have held wealth for
generations as well as those who have recently become
rich. Only a very small proportion of people actually
constitute the upper class, but they control vast amounts
of wealth and power in the United States. Those in this
class are elites who exercise enormous control through-
out society. Some wealthy individuals can wield as much
power as entire nations (Friedman 1999).
Even the term upper class, however, can mask the
degree of inequality in the United States. You might con-
sider those in the top 10 percent as upper class, but within
this class are the superrich, or those popularly known
as the “one percent,” so labeled by the Occupy America
movement, in contrast to the remaining 99 percent. Since
about 1980, the share of income (not to mention wealth)
going to the top one percent has increased to levels not
seen in the United States since 1920, a time labeled as the
“Gilded Age” because of the concentration of wealth and
income in the hands of a few. Income distribution now
matches that of the Gilded Age and, given the trends, may
well come to exceed it. Sociological research finds that
this new concentration of income among the superrich is
the result of several trends, including the lowest tax rates
for high incomes, a more conservative shift in Congress,
diminishing union membership, and asset bubbles in
the stock and housing markets (Saez and Zucman 2014;
Volscho and Kelly 2012).
How rich is rich? Each year, the business magazine
Forbes publishes a list of the 400 wealthiest families and
individuals in the country. By 2014, you had to have at
least $1.5 billion to be on the list! Bill Gates and War-
ren Buffet are the two wealthiest people on the list—
Gates with an estimated worth of $79.4 billion; Buffet,
$67 billion. Even in the face of the massive economic
downturn for so many in the United States, only two
people in the top twenty of the group had less money
than the year before. A substantial portion of those on
the list describe themselves as “self-made,” that is, living
the American dream, but most of these were still able
to borrow from parents, in-laws, or spouses. Although
they may have built their fortunes, they did so with a
head start on accumulation (Kroll and Dolan 2012). The
best predictor of future wealth still remains the family
into which you are born (McNamee and Miller 2009).
The upper class is overwhelmingly White, con-
servative, and Protestant. Members of this class exer-
cise tremendous political power by funding lobbyists,
exerting their social and personal influence on other
elites, and contributing heavily to political campaigns
(Domhoff 2013). They travel in exclusive social net-
works that tend to be open only to those in the upper
class. They tend to intermarry, their children are likely
to go to expensive schools, and they spend their leisure
time in exclusive resorts.
Those in the upper class with newly acquired wealth
are known as the nouveau riche. Luxury vehicles, high-
priced real estate, and exclusive vacations may mark the
lifestyle of the newly rich. Larry Ellison, who made his
fortune as the founder of the software company Oracle,
is the third wealthiest person in the United States. Ellis
has a megayacht that is 482 feet long, five stories high,
with 82 rooms inside. The megayacht also includes an
indoor swimming pool, a cinema, a space for a private
submarine, and a basketball court that doubles as a
helicopter launch pad.
Top fifth
Second to top fifth
Middle fifth
Second to bottom fifth
Bottom fifth
$200,000
$300,000
$400,000
$500,000
$600,000
$700,000
$100,000
$0
2$100,000
$205,985
$68,839
2$6,029
$7,263
1
$630,754
▲ figure 8.6 Median net Worth by
Income Quintile Recall that one’s net
worth is the value of everything owned
minus one’s debt. A quintile is one-fifth of
a population, shown here for five different
income brackets. You can see here the
vast differences in wealth holdings by
those in these different income brackets.
How would one’s wealth holdings affect
your ability to withstand some sort of
emergency—an illness, unemployment,
a recession, and so forth?
Source: U.S. Census Bureau. 2012. Wealth and
Asset Ownership, 2011: Table A1. Washington,
DC: U.S. Census Bureau. www.census.gov
03083_ch08_ptg01.indd 181 18/08/15 10:23 AM
Copyright 2017 Cengage Learning. All Rights Reserved. May not be copied, scanned, or duplicated, in whole or in part. Due to electronic rights, some third party content may be suppressed from the eBook and/or eChapter(s).
Editorial review has deemed that any suppressed content does not materially affect the overall learning experience. Cengage Learning reserves the right to remove additional content at any time if subsequent rights restrictions require it.
1 82   CH APTER8
The upper-middle class includes those with high
incomes and high social prestige. They tend to be well-
educated professionals or business executives. Their
earnings can be quite high indeed, even millions of
dollars a year. It is difficult to estimate exactly how many
people fall into this group because of the difficulty of
drawing lines between the upper, upper-middle, and
middle classes. Indeed, the upper-middle class is often
thought of as “middle class” because their lifestyle sets
the standard to which many aspire, but this lifestyle is
actually unattainable by most. A large home full of top-
quality furniture and modern appliances, two or three
relatively new cars, vacations every year (perhaps a
vacation home), high-quality college education for one’s
children, and a fashionable wardrobe are simply beyond
the means of a majority of people in the United States.
The middle class is hard to define in part because
being “middle class” is more than just economic posi-
tion. Half of all Americans identify themselves as mid-
dle class (Morin and Motel 2012), even though they vary
widely in lifestyle and in resources at their disposal. The
idea that the United States is an open class system leads
many to think that the most have a middle-class life-
style. The “middle class” is the ubiquitous norm, even
though many who consider themselves middle class
have a tenuous hold on this class position.
The lower-middle class includes workers in the
skilled trades and low-income bureaucratic workers,
some who may actually think of themselves as mid-
dle class. Also known as the working class, this class
includes blue-collar workers (those in skilled trades
who do manual labor) and many service workers, such
as secretaries, hairstylists, food servers, police, and fire-
fighters. A medium to low income, education, and occu-
pational prestige define the lower-middle class relative
to the class groups above it. The term lower in this class
designation refers to the relative position of the group in
the stratification system, but it has a pejorative sound to
many people, especially to people who are members of
this class, many who think of themselves as middle class.
The lower class is composed primarily of displaced
and poor. People in this class tend to have little formal
education and are often unemployed or working in min-
imum-wage jobs. People of color and women make up a
disproportionate part of this class. The poor include the
working poor—those who work at least twenty-seven
hours a week but whose wages fall below the federal pov-
erty level. Four percent of all people working full-time
and 16 percent of those working part-time live below the
poverty line, a proportion that has increased over time.
Although this may seem a small number, it includes
9.1million adults. Black and Hispanic workers are twice
as likely to be among the working poor as White or Asian
workers, and women are more likely than men to be so
(U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2014 d).
The concept of the urban underclass has been
added to the lower class (W. Wilson 1987). The under-
class includes those who are likely to be permanently
unemployed and without much means of economic
support. The underclass has little or no opportunity for
movement out of the worst poverty. Rejected from the
economic system, those in the underclass may become
dependent