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You have now learned a lot about the social institutions of labor, economy, education, and health care, and the social problems related to these


You have now learned a lot about the social institutions of labor, economy, education, and health care, and the social problems related to these

Prompt: You have now learned a lot about the social institutions of labor, economy, education, and health care, and the social problems related to these institutions. Considering what you have learned, in what ways might capitalism be a better economic system than socialism? On the other hand, in what ways might socialism be a better economic system than capitalism? 

Your answer must be written in the form of at least two (2) full paragraphs, and you must respond to the answers of at least two (2) of your classmates. You will be graded on how well you considered and answered the question with reference to what you have learned in the course so far. Your instructor will also consider whether your responses to other students were a substantial contribution to the discussion.

https://youtu.be/PbWpXYOg4OQ

Social Problems: Continuity and Change

Social Problems: Continuity and Change

[ A u t h o r r e m ove d a t r e q u e s t o f o r i g i n a l p u b l i s h e r ]

U N I V E R S I T Y O F M I N N E S OTA L I B R A R I E S P U B L I S H I N G E D I T I O N , 2 0 1 5 . T H I S E D I T I O N A D A P T E D F R O M A W O R K O R I G I N A L LY P R O D U C E D I N 2 0 1 0 B Y A P U B L I S H E R W H O H A S R E Q U E S T E D T H AT I T N OT R E C E I V E AT T R I B U T I O N .

M I N N E A P O L I S , M N

Social Problems: Continuity and Change by University of Minnesota is licensed under a Creative Commons

Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

This book was produced using Pressbooks.com, and PDF rendering was done by PrinceXML.

Contents

Publisher Information ix

About the Author x

Acknowledgments xi

Preface xiii

Chapter 1: Understanding Social Problems

1.1 What Is a Social Problem? 2

1.2 Sociological Perspectives on Social Problems 9

1.3 Continuity and Change in Social Problems 21

1.4 Doing Research on Social Problems 25

1.5 End-of-Chapter Material 30

Chapter 2: Poverty

2.1 The Measurement and Extent of Poverty 33

2.2 Who the Poor Are: Social Patterns of Poverty 37

2.3 Explaining Poverty 46

2.4 The Consequences of Poverty 57

2.5 Global Poverty 64

2.6 Reducing Poverty 78

2.7 End-of-Chapter Material 83

Chapter 3: Racial and Ethnic Inequality

3.3 Prejudice 87

3.4 Discrimination 98

3.5 Dimensions of Racial and Ethnic Inequality 109

3.6 Explaining Racial and Ethnic Inequality 115

3.7 Reducing Racial and Ethnic Inequality 120

3.8 End-of-Chapter Material 126

3.1 Racial and Ethnic Inequality: A Historical Prelude 128

3.2 The Meaning of Race and Ethnicity 131

Chapter 4: Gender Inequality

4.1 Understanding Sex and Gender 138

4.2 Feminism and Sexism 152

4.3 Dimensions of Gender Inequality 156

4.4 Violence against Women: Rape and Sexual Assault 171

4.5 The Benefits and Costs of Being Male 177

4.6 Reducing Gender Inequality 180

4.7 End-of-Chapter Material 183

Chapter 5: Sexual Orientation and Inequality

5.1 Understanding Sexual Orientation 187

5.2 Public Attitudes about Sexual Orientation 198

5.3 Inequality Based on Sexual Orientation 208

5.4 Improving the Lives of the LGBT Community 222

5.5 End-of-Chapter Material 224

Chapter 6: Aging and Ageism

6.5 Problems Facing Older Americans 227

6.6 Reducing Ageism and Helping Older Americans 242

6.7 End-of-Chapter Material 245

6.1 The Concept and Experience of Aging 247

6.2 Perspectives on Aging 250

6.3 Life Expectancy and the Graying of Society 253

6.4 Biological and Psychological Aspects of Aging 259

Chapter 7: Alcohol and Other Drugs

7.1 Drug Use in History 266

7.2 Drugs and Drug Use Today 272

7.3 Social Patterning of Drug Use 293

7.4 Explaining Drug Use 300

7.5 Drug Policy and the War on Illegal Drugs 307

7.6 Addressing the Drug Problem and Reducing Drug Use 316

7.7 End-of-Chapter Material 320

Chapter 8: Crime and Criminal Justice

8.1 The Problem of Crime 322

8.2 Types of Crime 328

8.3 Who Commits Crime? 337

8.4 Explaining Crime 343

8.5 The Criminal Justice System 354

8.6 Reducing Crime 363

8.7 End-of-Chapter Material 368

Chapter 9: Sexual Behavior

9.6 End-of-Chapter Material 371

9.1 An Overview of Heterosexuality 373

9.2 Teenage Sex and Pregnancy 382

9.3 Abortion 393

9.4 Prostitution 406

9.5 Pornography 417

Chapter 10: The Changing Family

10.1 Overview of the Family 426

10.2 Sociological Perspectives on the Family 434

10.3 Changes and Problems in American Families 439

10.4 Families in the Future 459

10.5 End-of-Chapter Material 462

Chapter 11: Schools and Education

11.1 An Overview of Education in the United States 466

11.2 Sociological Perspectives on Education 477

11.3 Issues and Problems in Elementary and Secondary Education 484

11.4 Issues and Problems in Higher Education 498

11.5 Improving Schools and Education 506

11.6 End-of-Chapter Material 511

Chapter 12: Work and the Economy

12.1 Overview of the Economy 514

12.2 Sociological Perspectives on Work and the Economy 523

12.3 Problems in Work and the Economy 529

12.4 Improving Work and the Economy 551

12.5 End-of-Chapter Material 555

Chapter 13: Health and Health Care

13.5 Improving Health and Health Care 558

13.6 End-of-Chapter Material 563

13.1 Sociological Perspectives on Health and Health Care 565

13.2 Global Aspects of Health and Health Care 572

13.3 Problems of Health in the United States 578

13.4 Problems of Health Care in the United States 594

Chapter 14: Urban and Rural Problems

14.1 A Brief History of Urbanization 606

14.2 Sociological Perspectives on Urbanization 614

14.3 Problems of Urban Life 621

14.4 Problems of Rural Life 636

14.5 Improving Urban and Rural Life 641

14.6 End-of-Chapter Material 643

Chapter 15: Population and the Environment

15.1 Sociological Perspectives on Population and the Environment 645

15.2 Population 649

15.3 The Environment 670

15.4 Addressing Population Problems and Improving the Environment 690

15.5 End-of-Chapter Material 694

Chapter 16: War and Terrorism

16.1 Sociological Perspectives on War and Terrorism 699

16.2 War 705

16.3 Terrorism 728

16.4 Preventing War and Stopping Terrorism 736

16.5 End-of-Chapter Material 740

Please share your supplementary material! 742

Publisher Information

Social Problems: Continuity and

Change is adapted from a work

produced and distributed under a

Creative Commons license (CC BY-

NC-SA) in 2010 by a publisher who

has requested that they and the original

author not receive attribution. This

adapted edition is produced by the University of Minnesota Libraries Publishing through the eLearning Support

Initiative.

This adaptation has reformatted the original text, and replaced some images and figures to make the resulting

whole more shareable. This adaptation has not significantly altered or updated the original 2010 text. This work

is made available under the terms of a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.

About the Author

Social Problems: Continuity and Change is adapted from a work produced by a publisher who has requested

that they and the original author not receive attribution. This adapted edition is produced by the University of

Minnesota Libraries Publishing through the eLearning Support Initiative. Though the publisher has requested that

they and the original author not receive attribution, this adapted edition reproduces all original text and sections

of the book, except for publisher and author name attribution.

Unnamed Author

Unnamed Author is a former president of the Society for the Study of Social Problems and professor of sociology

at the University of Maine. He is the author of another Sociology: Understanding and Changing the Social

World, which won a Textbook Excellence Award from the Text and Academic Authors Association. He is also the

author of several other textbooks: (1) Criminology: A Sociological Understanding, fifth edition (Prentice Hall);

(2) Fundamentals of Criminal Justice, second edition (with George Bryjak; Jones and Bartlett); (3) Collective

Violence, second edition (with Lynne Snowden; Sloan Publishing); (4) Discovering Sociology: An Introduction

Using MicroCase ExplorIt, third edition (Wadsworth); and (5) Law and Society: An Introduction (Prentice

Hall). He has also authored more than thirty journal articles and book chapters in venues such as the American

Sociological Review; Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion; Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency;

Justice Quarterly; Mobilization; Review of Religious Research; Social Forces; Social Problems; Social Science

Quarterly; and Sociological Forum.

Unnamed Author also serves as a regional representative on the council of Alpha Kappa Delta, the international

sociology honor society, and spent seventeen years (fortunately, not all consecutive) as chair of his department.

He has received an Outstanding Faculty Award from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University

of Maine. A native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Unnamed Author has lived in Maine for the past thirty-three

years. He received his PhD in sociology from the State University of New York at Stony Brook and his BA in

sociology from Trinity College (Hartford, Connecticut), where he began to learn how to think like a sociologist

and also to appreciate the value of a sociological perspective for understanding and changing society. He sincerely

hopes that instructors and students enjoy reading this book in the format of their choice.

Acknowledgments

As always in my books, I express my personal and professional debt to two sociologists, Norman Miller and

Forrest Dill. Norman Miller was my first sociology professor in college and led me in his special way into a

discipline and profession that became my life’s calling. Forrest Dill was my adviser in graduate school and helped

me in ways too numerous to mention. His untimely death shortly after I began my career robbed the discipline of

a fine sociologist and took away a good friend.

My professional life since graduate school has been at the University of Maine, where my colleagues over the

years have nurtured my career and provided a wonderful working environment. I trust they will see their concern

for social problems reflected in the pages that follow. Thanks to them all for being who they are.

I also thank everyone at for helping bring this text to fruition and for helping today’s students afford high-quality,

peer-reviewed textbooks at a time when college costs keep rising while the economy keeps faltering. Special

thanks go to Michael Boezi, Vanessa Gennarelli, and Denise Powell, who all worked tirelessly to make this book

the best it could be. My efforts also benefited greatly from the many sociologists who reviewed some or all of the

text. These reviewers were tough but fair, and I hope they are pleased with the result. As every author should say,

any faults that remain are not the reviewers’ responsibility. I am grateful to include their names here:

• Celesta Albonetti, University of Iowa

• Anne Barrett, Florida State University

• Sarah Becker, Louisiana State University

• Laurian Bowles, Western Illinois University

• Joyce Clapp, Guilford College

• Mary Fischer, University of Connecticut

• Otis Grant, Indiana University–South Bend

• Art Houser, Fort Scott Community College

• Michael Kimmel, SUNY at Stony Brook

• Matthew Lee, University of Akron

• William Lockhart, McLennan Community College

• Brea Perry, University of Kentucky

• Nancy Reeves, Rowan University

• Daniel Roddick, Rio Hondo College

• Debra Welkley, California State University–Sacramento

In addition to these reviewers, I would also like to thank Joel Barkan for his valuable comments that improved

Chapter 15 “Population and the Environment”’s discussion of environmental problems involving oceans and

ocean life.

Authors usually save the best for last in their acknowledgments, and that is the family members to whom they owe

so much. Barbara Tennent and our grown sons David and Joel have once again shared with me the joy and effort

of writing a textbook. I know they will share my gratitude when students read this text for free or at relatively low

cost. Our dog, Sadie, kept me company while I was writing the book but passed away suddenly during its final

stages. Her unique spirit and joy of life brought us much laughter and excitement (both the good kind and the bad

kind), and I hope that doggie heaven has survived her entry. The squirrels, rabbits, and birds there should watch

out!

I have saved two family members for the very last, and they are my late parents, Morry and Sylvia Barkan. They

have been gone many years, but whatever I have achieved in my personal and professional life, I owe to them.

xii Social Problems: Continuity and Change

Preface

The founders of American sociology a century or more ago in cities like Atlanta and Chicago wanted to reduce

social inequality, to improve the lives of people of color, and more generally to find solutions to the most vexing

social problems of their times. A former president of the Society for the Study of Social Problems, A. Javier

Treviño, has used the term service sociology to characterize their vision of their new discipline. This book is

grounded in this vision by offering a sociological understanding of today’s social problems and of possible

solutions to these problems.

As this book’s subtitle, Continuity and Change, implies, social problems are persistent, but they have also

improved in the past and can be improved in the present and future, provided that our nation has the wisdom

and will to address them. It is easy to read a social problems textbook and come away feeling frustrated by the

enormity of the many social problems facing us today. This book certainly does not minimize the persistence of

social problems, but neither does it overlook the possibilities for change offered by social research and by the

activities of everyday citizens working to make a difference. Readers of this book will find many examples of

how social problems have been improved and of strategies that hold great potential for solving them today and in

the future.

Several pedagogical features help to convey the “continuity and change” theme of this text and the service

sociology vision in which it is grounded:

• Each chapter begins with a “Social Problems in the News” story related to the social problem

discussed in that chapter. These stories provide an interesting starting point for the chapter’s discussion

and show its relevance for real-life issues.

• Three types of boxes in each chapter provide examples of how social problems have been changed and

can be changed. In no particular order, a first box, “Applying Social Research,” discusses how the

findings from sociological and other social science research either have contributed to public policy

related to the chapter’s social problem or have the potential of doing so. A second box, “Lessons from

Other Societies,” discusses how another nation or nations have successfully addressed the social

problem of that chapter. A third box, “People Making a Difference,” discusses efforts by individuals,

nonprofit organizations or social change groups, or social movements relating to the chapter’s social

problem. Students will see many examples in this box of how ordinary people can indeed make a

difference.

• A fourth box in each chapter, “Children and Our Future,” examines how the social problem discussed

in that chapter particularly affects children, and it outlines the problem’s repercussions for their later

lives as adolescents and adults. This box reinforces for students the impact of social problems on

children and the importance of addressing these problems for their well-being as well as for the

nation’s well-being.

• Each chapter ends with a “Using What You Know” feature that presents students with a scenario

involving the social problem from the chapter and that puts them in a decision-making role. This

feature helps connect the chapter’s theoretical discussion with potential real-life situations.

• Each chapter also ends with a “What You Can Do” feature that suggests several activities, strategies,

or other efforts that students might undertake to learn more about and/or to address the social problem

examined in the chapter. Like other aspects of the book, this feature helps counter “doom and gloom”

feelings that little can be done about social problems.

• Other pedagogical features in each chapter include Learning Objectives at the beginning of a major

section that highlight key topics to be learned; Key Takeaways at the end of a major section that

highlight important points that were discussed in the section; For Your Review questions, also at the

end of a major section, that have students think critically about that section’s discussion; and a

Summary that reviews the major points made in the chapter.

This is my second text with, I’m thrilled to be adding to their growing roster of high-quality, peer-reviewed

textbooks that are affordable in a variety of formats. If one important problem facing higher education today is

the expense of attending a college or university, it is gratifying to know that Flat World’s low-cost open model is

successfully addressing a significant component of this problem.

xiv Social Problems: Continuity and Change

Chapter 1: Understanding Social Problems

1.1 What Is a Social Problem?

1.2 Sociological Perspectives on Social Problems

1.3 Continuity and Change in Social Problems

1.4 Doing Research on Social Problems

1.5 End-of-Chapter Material

1.1 What Is a Social Problem?

Learning Objectives

1. Define “social problem.”

2. Explain the objective and subjective components of the definition of a social problem.

3. Understand the social constructionist view of social problems.

4. List the stages of the natural history of social problems.

A social problem is any condition or behavior that has negative consequences for large numbers of people and that

is generally recognized as a condition or behavior that needs to be addressed. This definition has both an objective

component and a subjective component.

The objective component is this: For any condition or behavior to be considered a social problem, it must have

negative consequences for large numbers of people, as each chapter of this book discusses. How do we know if a

social problem has negative consequences? Reasonable people can and do disagree on whether such consequences

exist and, if so, on their extent and seriousness, but ordinarily a body of data accumulates—from work by

academic researchers, government agencies, and other sources—that strongly points to extensive and serious

consequences. The reasons for these consequences are often hotly debated, and sometimes, as we shall see in

certain chapters in this book, sometimes the very existence of these consequences is disputed. A current example

is climate change: Although the overwhelming majority of climate scientists say that climate change (changes in

the earth’s climate due to the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere) is real and serious, fewer than two-

thirds of Americans (64 percent) in a 2011 poll said they “think that global warming is happening”(Leiserowitz,

et. al., 2011).

This type of dispute points to the subjective component of the definition of social problems: There must be a

perception that a condition or behavior needs to be addressed for it to be considered a social problem. This

component lies at the heart of the social constructionist view of social problems (Rubington & Weinberg, 2010).

In this view, many types of negative conditions and behaviors exist. Many of these are considered sufficiently

negative to acquire the status of a social problem; some do not receive this consideration and thus do not become

a social problem; and some become considered a social problem only if citizens, policymakers, or other parties

call attention to the condition or behavior.

Sometimes disputes occur over whether a particular condition or behavior has negative consequences and is thus a social problem. A

current example is climate change: although almost all climate scientists think climate change is real and serious, more than one-third

of the American public thinks that climate change is not happening.

Wikimedia Commons – public domain.

The history of attention given to rape and sexual assault in the United States before and after the 1970s provides

an example of this latter situation. These acts of sexual violence against women have probably occurred from the

beginning of humanity and certainly were very common in the United States before the 1970s. Although men were

sometimes arrested and prosecuted for rape and sexual assault, sexual violence was otherwise ignored by legal

policymakers and received little attention in college textbooks and the news media, and many people thought that

rape and sexual assault were just something that happened (Allison & Wrightsman, 1993). Thus although sexual

violence existed, it was not considered a social problem. When the contemporary women’s movement began in

the late 1970s, it soon focused on rape and sexual assault as serious crimes and as manifestations of women’s

inequality. Thanks to this focus, rape and sexual assault eventually entered the public consciousness, views of

these crimes began to change, and legal policymakers began to give them more attention. In short, sexual violence

against women became a social problem.

1.1 What Is a Social Problem? 3

Before the 1970s, rape and sexual assault certainly existed and were very common, but they were generally ignored and not

considered a social problem. When the contemporary women’s movement arose during the 1970s, it focused on sexual violence

against women and turned this behavior into a social problem.

Women’s e News – Placards at the Rally To Take Rape Seriously – CC BY 2.0.

The social constructionist view raises an interesting question: When is a social problem a social problem?

According to some sociologists who adopt this view, negative conditions and behaviors are not a social problem

unless they are recognized as such by policymakers, large numbers of lay citizens, or other segments of our

society; these sociologists would thus say that rape and sexual assault before the 1970s were not a social problem

because our society as a whole paid them little attention. Other sociologists say that negative conditions and

behaviors should be considered a social problem even if they receive little or no attention; these sociologists would

thus say that rape and sexual assault before the 1970s were a social problem.

This type of debate is probably akin to the age-old question: If a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear

it, is a sound made? As such, it is not easy to answer, but it does reinforce one of the key beliefs of the social

constructionist view: Perception matters at least as much as reality, and sometimes more so. In line with this belief,

social constructionism emphasizes that citizens, interest groups, policymakers, and other parties often compete

to influence popular perceptions of many types of conditions and behaviors. They try to influence news media

coverage and popular views of the nature and extent of any negative consequences that may be occurring, the

reasons underlying the condition or behavior in question, and possible solutions to the problem.

4 Social Problems: Continuity and Change

Sometimes a condition or behavior becomes a social problem even if there is little or no basis

for this perception. A historical example involves women in college. During the late 1800s,

medical authorities and other experts warned women not to go to college for two reasons: they

feared that the stress of college would disrupt women’s menstrual cycles, and they thought

that women would not do well on exams while they were menstruating.

CollegeDegrees360 – College Girls – CC BY-SA 2.0.

Social constructionism’s emphasis on perception has a provocative implication: Just as a condition or behavior

may not be considered a social problem even if there is strong basis for this perception, so may a condition or

behavior be considered a social problem even if there is little or no basis for this perception. The “issue” of women

in college provides a historical example of this latter possibility. In the late 1800s, leading physicians and medical

researchers in the United States wrote journal articles, textbooks, and newspaper columns in which they warned

women not to go to college. The reason? They feared that the stress of college would disrupt women’s menstrual

cycles, and they also feared that women would not do well in exams during “that time of the month” (Ehrenreich

& English, 2005)! We now know better, of course, but the sexist beliefs of these writers turned the idea of women

going to college into a social problem and helped to reinforce restrictions by colleges and universities on the

admission of women.

1.1 What Is a Social Problem? 5

In a related dynamic, various parties can distort certain aspects of a social problem that does exist: politicians

can give speeches, the news media can use scary headlines and heavy coverage to capture readers’ or viewers’

interest, businesses can use advertising and influence news coverage. News media coverage of violent crime

provides many examples of this dynamic (Robinson, 2011; Surette, 2011). The news media overdramatize violent

crime, which is far less common than property crime like burglary and larceny, by featuring so many stories about

it, and this coverage contributes to public fear of crime. Media stories about violent crime also tend to be more

common when the accused offender is black and the victim is white and when the offender is a juvenile. This type

of coverage is thought to heighten the public’s prejudice toward African Americans and to contribute to negative

views about teenagers.

The Natural History of a Social Problem

We have just discussed some of the difficulties in defining a social problem and the fact that various parties often

try to influence public perceptions of social problems. These issues aside, most social problems go through a

natural history consisting of several stages of their development (Spector & Kitsuse, 2001).

Stage 1: Emergence and Claims Making

A social problem emerges when a social entity (such as a social change group, the news media, or influential

politicians) begins to call attention to a condition or behavior that it perceives to be undesirable and in need o

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