Session 3B: Perspectives on Stratification

Session 3B

Perspectives on Stratification
4.21.2017 | 3:45p-5:00p | Women’s Center | Student Union, 4th Floor

Looking at three different phenomena, the works represented in this session demonstrate how stratification appears in varied and nuanced forms: from immigration trends and discourse, to neoliberal finance and trade agreements, and even at the intersections of education, culture, and social structure.

Moderator: Stuart Riepl (Sociology; UCONN)

Participant Abstracts

Felipe Juan (International Political Economy, University of Texas-Dallas)
An inquiry of Immigration: Examining the disconnect between Academia and the Individual

As the global political order reacts to the shift in government powers, one of the main discussions of debate is immigration. Despite the self-proclaimed “melting pot” that the United States declares itself, an anti-immigrant sentiment has been underlying throughout the past decades. Until the most recent election of the United States, the fallacy of the post immigrant/post discriminatory presents itself more visibly than ever. As a result, there is a more active disconnect in regards to the perception of the cause and effect of influx of immigrants and the perception of Americans who are against the pro-immigrant policies. However, much of the literature in academia discusses the effects of increased immigration being positive.  The focus of this study will examine the shortcomings of the mainstream academic sphere in regards to discussing the importance of the benefits of immigration, not just in the U.S. but in the general context of economic growth in the Global South. Included in the query, the examination of the role of media and technology will also be pivotal in understanding the repressive nature of against immigrants and the discrimination of other marginalized groups of people. In particular, the possible inhibitions that can occur against the livelihood of these groups economically. The study will use a mixed methods approach while investigating the roots of this disconnect in both qualitative and quantitative approaches with a particular analysis of economic and social trends. Additionally, the analysis will offer recommendations to consolidate the disconnect between academics in the mainstream and those opposing pro-immigration policies.

Sylvia Pu (Sociology; UCONN)
Education and Social Stratification in Contemporary China

The role of education in the broader stratification system has been one of the central debates of sociological inquiries. Specifically, there are two schools of scholars holding different arguments on the degree to which education operates independently from and hence counteracts the impact of social reproduction within the family. On the one hand, the North American literature has a long tradition in suggesting that education has independent effects on individual life chances (Blau and Duncan 1967). After Bourdieu, status-attainment theorists adopt the concept of cultural capital, and scholars have shown that education indeed acts independently for upward mobility (DiMaggio 1982a, DiMaggio and Mohr 1985). On the other hand, supporters of the reproduction thesis have shown that education is the embodiment of the dominant class culture. Studies have shown a strong correlation between the skills middle-class and upper-class family cultivates and the skills valued by the educational system (Lareau 2011, McDonough 1997, Stevens 2007). This study participates in this debate with a case of Chinese college graduates’ professional development. I conducted longitudinal annual interviews with 42 Chinese college graduates over three years to explore the role of education in the ongoing stratifying process in contemporary Chinese society. My study looks at the ways education has structured Chinese students’ self-understandings, which in turn shapes how they navigate through the occupational structure in the making.

Zachary D. Kline (Sociology; UCONN)
Reclaiming Competitiveness: Conflict in Economic Development

General Electric’s threat to leave Connecticut after the state congress’ decision to raise taxes in Spring 2015 prompted an emergency summer session where legislators rolled back proposed tax increases and created a Commission on Economic Competitiveness. Designed to create a public-private partnership, the “broad-based” permanent state body composed of legislators, business representatives, unions, and NGOs informs and develops policy that promotes economic growth. This commission is part of a larger trend where state entities from the local to national level actively involve private interest in the policy formation of their own regulation. The emergence of competitiveness as a national paradigm raises questions about whose interests are represented when the state promotes economic growth. Neo-liberal ratings agency American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) annual Rich States, Poor States consistently, and perhaps ironically, designates states with poor social outcomes and wages like Tennessee and North Carolina as “rich”. Connecticut and California, on the other hand, are among the five “poorest” states despite strong(er) social safety nets and high(er) wages. While some economists argue that competitiveness should be abandoned as a concept, my field site hosts a political contestation where progressive forces try to redefine competitiveness to encompass empowered labor, strong families, and equality. After the 2016 election, Connecticut is one of six states where Democrats have full party control. The commission may contribute as a regional site of state-level resistance to national and global neo-liberal domination of economic development policy. The commission’s meetings are videotaped and publicly available for analysis. I have additionally analyzed news media that follows the commission’s development and the methods of various competitiveness ratings agencies.