Inequality is a central concept in sociology. Every society has a stratification system—an arrangement of society into groups that are unequal with regard to things valued in that society. In the United States, for example, we stratify people based on social class (or how much income and wealth they have). Our location within the stratification system impacts much of our lives. How would your life be different if you came from a family with billions of dollars? Would you have gone to the same school? Played with the same toys? Gone on the same vacations?

While inequality exists in every society, it tends to be different as to how it is structured according to time period or location. In earlier times, inequality was based on who owned the land. Today, it is shaped by a variety of factors including income, wealth, gender, race/ethnicity, age, and ability status. For example, women and some racial/ethnic groups make less for the same work as males. Despite this, we have a tendency in the United States to believe that neither social class nor class conflict exist. Unfortunately, research and data suggest otherwise. We still have a division of people based on their income and wealth, with some at the top and others at the bottom. While we belong to a wealthy, industrially developed country, poverty still exists.

Sociologists examine these issues of poverty and inequality in a society and try to better understand why structures of inequality exist in society. Do you think inequality is always going to exist? Focus on this as you delve into the resources and prepare for the assessment.

Demonstration of Proficiency

By successfully completing this assessment, you will demonstrate your proficiency in the following course competencies and assessment criteria:

  • Competency 3: Explain the significance of social inequality for the individual and society.
    • Explain whether or not economic inequality is inevitable.
    • Propose strategies to reduce inequality.
  • Competency 5: Analyze the impact of social change on society and social institutions.
    • Examine potential changes to increase equality of opportunity.
    • Analyze factors that contribute to the growth of economic inequality.
  • Competency 6: Compose text that articulates meaning relevant to its purpose and audience.
    • Develop text using organization, structure, and transitions that demonstrate understanding of cohesion between main and subtopics.

American culture emphasizes self-sufficiency and working hard to get where you want. It is assumed that everyone has the ability to succeed if they work hard enough. For this assessment, write a paper applying key concepts regarding social stratification to argue for or against the inevitability of economic inequality. While there are many forms of inequality in the United States, for this assessment we will be focusing solely on economic inequality.


Write an essay in which you complete all of the following:

  • Part 1: Explain whether or not you think economic inequality is inevitable.
    • Respond to the question: Is economic inequality inevitable? Why or why not?
  • Part 2: Analyze factors that contribute to growing economic inequality.
    • Analyze what factors have contributed to the growth of economic inequality in the past few decades. What factors cause economic inequality?
    • Propose strategies to reduce economic inequality.
  • Part 3: Examine ways to increase equality of opportunity.
    • Reflect on ideas of equal opportunity and analyze why or why not you think American society provides everyone with an equal opportunity for success.
    • Examine what kinds of changes would help establish greater equality of opportunity for everyone in American society.​​​​

Additional Requirements

  • Written communication: Develop text using organization, structure, and transitions that demonstrate understanding of cohesion between main and subtopics. Written communication is free of errors that detract from the overall message.
  • Sources: Cite at least three scholarly sources.
  • Length: 3–4 pages, not including title and reference pages.
  • Format: Include a title page and reference page. Use in-text citations to cite your sources. [Example: Writing becomes better as the child matures (Britton, Thomas, & Miller, 1996).]
  • Font and size: Times New Roman, 12-point.

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