# MCAT Social and Behavioral Sciences : Social Class and Inequality

## Example Questions

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### Example Question #1 : Social Class And Inequality

Rates of asthma tend to be highest in the neighborhoods closest to highways. Rents tend to be lowest in areas closest to highways.

Therefore, __________.

asthma rates are highest among people of color

people who live near highways are also more likely to smoke, so it is possible that the smoking, rather than highway pollution, causes increased rates of asthma

we cannot make any predictions based on this information

poor people are more likely to have asthma

a patient who lives near a highway may be more likely to have asthma than a patient who does not live near a highway

a patient who lives near a highway may be more likely to have asthma than a patient who does not live near a highway

Explanation:

The correct answer is that a patient who lives near a highway may be more likely to have asthma than a patient who does not live near a highway. We can draw this conclusion based on the statement that rates of asthma tend to be highest in the neighborhoods closest to highways.

Yes, people who live near highways are more likely to be poor because rents are lower, but there are many pockets of poverty—in rural areas, for example—that are nowhere near highways. The statement does not claim that being poor alone increases the risk for asthma. Similarly, it may be true that more people of color live near highways and live in lower rent housing, but in some cities where there are few ethnic minorities, housing near highways may be occupied by non-minorities. There is no evidence from the text that people who live near highways tend to smoke more.

### Example Question #2 : Social Class And Inequality

Diana takes the subway to and from school every day. Her family’s apartment, situated in a low-income neighborhood of New York City, is a thirty-minute walk from the subway station. During her trips to the subway, Diana loves to watch people work, play, and socialize. She feels very safe in her community because she trusts the people around her.

One day, Diana observes a bulldozer tearing down a run-down shopping center. A sign in front of the property features a picture of a high-rise, luxury apartment complex. Which of the following would best describe the observed situation?

Redlining

Gentrification

Anomie

Justification

Gentrification

Explanation:

“Gentrification” describes the transformation of an area from old and rundown to new and modern. In this case, gentrification is observed because the new apartment is bringing a new, rich class to the rundown neighborhood. The situation could be described as “redlining” only if someone refused to sell a property or house to someone based on racial or other discriminatory means. “Anomie” describes a person that does not conform to social norms, which does not relate a building that does not fit in a neighborhood. Last, “justification” describes when people try to convince themselves to act in a way that is normally considered to be socially unacceptable.

### Example Question #3 : Social Class And Inequality

Excerpt from “Institutional Competition,” Edward A. Ross, American Journal of Sociology 1919 25:2, 171-184

The first impulse of any organization or institution on the appearance of a serious competitor is to destroy competition. The "trust" regularly cuts the prices of its products to a point below cost of production in localities in which an "independent" seeks to sell. A shipping combine will have "fighting ships" which are called into play when a new steamship line enters their trade. As soon as the competitor announces a sailing date the combine advertises a steamer to sail on or near this date and offers a freight rate below the actual cost of carriage. In this way the competitor is prevented from securing a cargo.

The highest social class hobbles by minute sumptuary regulations the classes, which aspire to come up abreast of it. In feudal Japan, for example, one might not use his money as he pleased. The farmer, craftsman, or shopkeeper could not build a house as he liked or procure himself such articles of luxury as his taste might incline him to buy. The richest commoner might not order certain things to be made for him, might not imitate the habits or assume the privileges of his betters. Although urged on economic grounds, sumptuary restrictions are doubtless intended to protect the monopoly of prestige by the higher social orders.

The spread of anti-slavery feeling among the producing people of the North during the generation before the American Civil War was due to their perception that slavery is a menace to the free-labor system. In accounting for the early abolition of slavery in Massachusetts John Adams remarks: "Argument might have had some weight ... but the real cause was the multiplication of laboring white people who would not longer suffer the rich to employ these sable rivals so much to their injury."

The whole history of religious persecution is the history of an organization trying to establish itself as a monopoly by ruthless destruction of the spokesmen of competing doctrines and movements. In Diocletian's time Roman religious beliefs were weak while the Christian beliefs were vigorous and spreading. In desperation the old system made a ferocious attempt to exterminate all Christians. A thousand years later the church stamped certain sects out of existence and strangled heresies in the cradle. Says Coulton:

…What Darwin took at first for a smooth unbroken grassland proved, on nearer examination, to be thick-set with tiny self-sown firs, which the cattle regularly cropped as they grew. Similarly, that which some love to picture as the harmonious growth of one great body through the Middle Ages is really a history of many divergent opinions violently strangled at birth; while hundreds more, too vigorous to be killed by the adverse surroundings, and elastic enough to take something of the outward color of their environment, grew in spite of the hierarchy into organisms which, in their turn, profoundly modified the whole constitution of the Church. If the mediaeval theory and practice of persecution had still been in full force in the eighteenth century in England, nearly all the best Wesleyans would have chosen to remain within the Church rather than to shed blood in revolt; and the rest would have been killed off like wild beasts. The present unity of Romanism so far as it exists, is due less to tact than to naked force.

Competition plays a major role in the economy of the United States today. Sometimes people use institutional barriers to eliminate competition. For example, an apartment manager could limit competition for apartment contracts by refusing to rent to members of a certain social class or ethnic group. This practice would demonstrate which of the following?

I.   Discrimination

II.  Gentrification

III. Redlining

I and III

I only

II and III

I and II

I and III

Explanation:

Gentrification is the redevelopment of a downtrodden area, for example, a run-down housing development being replaced by luxury apartments. From the given information, we cannot be clear if this is the case; we are not told which groups are excluded. Redlining is refusing services to a certain group of people based on racial or economic markers. Discrimination is an institutional prejudice. Both of these conditions are met in this example.

### Example Question #4 : Social Class And Inequality

Excerpt from "The Social Problems of American Farmers" by Kenyon L. Butterfield, 1905

Butterfield, Kenyon L. "The Social Problems of American Farmers." American Journal of Sociology 10.5 (1905): 606-22.

Perhaps the one great underlying social difficulty among American farmers is their comparatively isolated mode of life. The farmer's family is isolated from other families. A small city of perhaps twenty thousand population will contain from four hundred to six hundred families per square mile, whereas a typical agricultural community in a prosperous agricultural state will hardly average more than ten families per square mile. The farming class is isolated from other classes. Farmers, of course, mingle considerably in a business and political way with the men of their trading town and county seat; but, broadly speaking, farmers do not associate freely with people living under urban conditions and possessing other than the rural point of view. It would be venturesome to suggest very definite generalizations with respect to the precise influence of these conditions, because, so far as the writer is aware, the psychology of isolation has not been worked out. But two or three conclusions seem to be admissible, and for that matter rather generally accepted.

The well-known conservatism of the farming class is doubtless largely due to class isolation. Habits, ideas, traditions, and ideals have long life in the rural community. Changes come slowly. There is a tendency to tread the well-worn paths. The farmer does not easily keep in touch with rapid modern development, unless the movements or methods directly affect him. Physical agencies which improve social conditions, such as electric lights, telephones, and pavements, come to the city first. The atmosphere of the country speaks peace and quiet. Nature's routine of sunshine and storm, of summer and winter, encourages routine and repetition in the man who works with her…

There is time to brood over wrongs, real and imaginary. Personal prejudices often grow to be rank and coarse-fibered. Neighborhood feuds are not uncommon and are often virulent. Leadership is made difficult and sometimes impossible. It is easy to fall into personal habits that may mark off the farmer from other classes of similar intelligence, and that bar him from his rightful social place.

It would, however, be distinctly unfair to the farm community if we did not emphasize some of the advantages that grow out of the rural mode of life. Farmers have time to think, and the typical American farmer is a man who has thought much and often deeply. A spirit of sturdy independence is generated, and freedom of will and of action is encouraged. Family life is nowhere so educative as in the country. The whole family cooperates for common ends, and in its individual members are bred the qualities of industry, patience, and perseverance. The manual work of the schools is but a makeshift for the old-fashioned training of the country-grown boy. Country life is an admirable preparation for the modern industrial and professional career.

Which of the following scenarios best parallels the author’s description of class isolation?

A man lives by himself in an extremely remote Alaskan village and frequently engages in video calls with strangers from all around the world.

A bus driver in a big city interacts with many different people every day including blue-collar workers and company executives.

A suburban family has lived in the same neighborhood for many years. They rarely associate with those outside their tight-knit, upscale community.

None of these

A suburban family has lived in the same neighborhood for many years. They rarely associate with those outside their tight-knit, upscale community.

Explanation:

The farmers in the excerpt are isolated from those who think differently and have different life experience from their own. This leads to a lack of diversity of ideas. The example of the suburban family that lacks interaction with people of other classes most parallels this example. The man in Alaska would be similar, but he is connected to people from around the world, which would introduce him to people that believe different things. The bus driver experiences the opposite of class isolation. He is exposed to wide ranges of experience every day.

### Example Question #5 : Social Class And Inequality

Excerpt from "The Social Problems of American Farmers" by Kenyon L. Butterfield, 1905

Butterfield, Kenyon L. "The Social Problems of American Farmers." American Journal of Sociology 10.5 (1905): 606-22.

Perhaps the one great underlying social difficulty among American farmers is their comparatively isolated mode of life. The farmer's family is isolated from other families. A small city of perhaps twenty thousand population will contain from four hundred to six hundred families per square mile, whereas a typical agricultural community in a prosperous agricultural state will hardly average more than ten families per square mile. The farming class is isolated from other classes. Farmers, of course, mingle considerably in a business and political way with the men of their trading town and county seat; but, broadly speaking, farmers do not associate freely with people living under urban conditions and possessing other than the rural point of view. It would be venturesome to suggest very definite generalizations with respect to the precise influence of these conditions, because, so far as the writer is aware, the psychology of isolation has not been worked out. But two or three conclusions seem to be admissible, and for that matter rather generally accepted.

The well-known conservatism of the farming class is doubtless largely due to class isolation. Habits, ideas, traditions, and ideals have long life in the rural community. Changes come slowly. There is a tendency to tread the well-worn paths. The farmer does not easily keep in touch with rapid modern development, unless the movements or methods directly affect him. Physical agencies which improve social conditions, such as electric lights, telephones, and pavements, come to the city first. The atmosphere of the country speaks peace and quiet. Nature's routine of sunshine and storm, of summer and winter, encourages routine and repetition in the man who works with her…

There is time to brood over wrongs, real and imaginary. Personal prejudices often grow to be rank and coarse-fibered. Neighborhood feuds are not uncommon and are often virulent. Leadership is made difficult and sometimes impossible. It is easy to fall into personal habits that may mark off the farmer from other classes of similar intelligence, and that bar him from his rightful social place.

It would, however, be distinctly unfair to the farm community if we did not emphasize some of the advantages that grow out of the rural mode of life. Farmers have time to think, and the typical American farmer is a man who has thought much and often deeply. A spirit of sturdy independence is generated, and freedom of will and of action is encouraged. Family life is nowhere so educative as in the country. The whole family cooperates for common ends, and in its individual members are bred the qualities of industry, patience, and perseverance. The manual work of the schools is but a makeshift for the old-fashioned training of the country-grown boy. Country life is an admirable preparation for the modern industrial and professional career.

Two farmers have a dispute about a section of land that they both claim. Previous to the dispute, they had frequently connected one another with mechanics and crop purchasers when problems arose. After the dispute, they no longer shared contacts. The dispute brought about a loss of what type of capital?

Economic capital

Social capital

Manufactured capital

Human capital

Social capital

Explanation:

Social capital describes one’s social network. By connecting with more people, a social network grows. By limiting conversation, these farmers cut off their social network of mechanics and purchasers known by the other farmer. Human capital describes man power, or employees, more than the power of a social network. Economic capital primarily refers to money. Manufactured capital refers to machines and tools; this would have been a correct answer if the farmers shared equipment before the dispute.

### Example Question #6 : Social Class And Inequality

Excerpt from “Two Kinds of Vocational Education” by Julius T. House, 1921

American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 27, No. 2 (Sep., 1921), pp. 222-225

There are two schools of thinkers interested in vocational education. One of these is individualistic, thinks in teams of fitting the child to the job, accepts the present economic system with little, if any, criticism. It would isolate consideration of the vocation, so far as possible, from consideration of its social purposes. Psychologically its plan is based upon habit, with no thought of developing in the child a sense of the relation of his work to the whole social process. To secure the result sought there must be early separation of technical schools from the rest of the school system. It is proposed to begin with the seventh grade, the so-called junior high school.

The purpose of the technical school is and will be to get the answer, already known to the teacher, by the shortest route. Emphasis will be laid on rapid calculation; swift, effective movement; automatic response. The typewriter, the shorthand notebook, the hammer and nail, the stove, the furnace, the retort, are the instruments of education. A technique of salesmanship and advertising, without the regard to the ethics of these operations and with no comprehension of the principles of psychology, is developed. Rough-and-ready adaptation to a rough-and-ready business world is the goal.

Certain results follow: (1) Even more rigid division of industrial life between two groups: those who manage, in whom power of initiative is vested; those who are skilled in narrow processes with no outlook upon the meaning of the work. (2) The exploitation of this isolated class. (3) The establishment of an institution to perpetuate this condition. Custom is already being instituted of sending the children of poor families to this manual-skill-producing school. (4) Public taxation to support institutions to assist business based on the supposition that when business prospers moral values take care of themselves.

The second group of thinkers, seemingly few but with men like John Dewey leading, are interested in vocational education as a means of introducing the child more intimately into the life of society. It is believed that such study should be directed to the perception of the relation of vocations to all the social process. Therefore all the students are to study all the vocations. The choice of a life-work will be, then, only a by-product of the training—important indeed, but still a by-product. Already such work is done in the grades. It remains only to enlarge it and relate it to the proper sciences as the later years of school life are reached.

Based on the author’s argument, which of the following would be the effect of an individualistic vocational system on social stratification?

Encourage interclass cooperation

Enable upward social mobility by teaching job skills more efficiently

None of these

Limit cross-over between classes

Limit cross-over between classes

Explanation:

One of the claims of the author is that “even more rigid division of industrial life between [the] two groups” would arise from an individualistic system of vocational training. This divide would not limit social mobility by perpetuating a condition of exploitation among the working class, making it impossible for the poor to rise and difficult for the rich to fall. Instead of cooperating, they would become increasingly isolated.

### Example Question #7 : Social Class And Inequality

Any of the following may be used as tactics to get a same-day appointment with a famous oncologist who is booked out for the next six-months. Which one is an example of power, privilege, and prestige?

Begging and crying

Yelling and screaming, cursing, and causing a scene

Having an influential relative call the doctor, with whom he attended college many years ago

Sneaking in through the service elevator

Calling incessantly on the phone all day long

Having an influential relative call the doctor, with whom he attended college many years ago

Explanation:

The correct answer is using social connections. Many cancer patients have not had the privilege of going to college. People who do go to college, especially exclusive and exspensive colleges, have more connections among powerful people and can more easily call in favors.

### Example Question #8 : Social Class And Inequality

Diana takes the subway to and from school every day. Her family’s apartment, situated in a low-income neighborhood of New York City, is a thirty-minute walk from the subway station. During her trips to the subway, Diana loves to watch people work, play, and socialize. She feels very safe in her community because she trusts the people around her.

Diana graduates from college and becomes a successful lawyer. She moves out of her neighborhood and into a wealthy community in another state. Which of the following best describes Diana’s social change?

Social mobility

Social inequality

Social capital

None of these

Social mobility

Explanation:

“Social mobility” describes the process by which an individual moves from one social class to another. Diana moved from a low-class environment to a high-class setting. “Social capital” refers to the social network to which one has access. Those in high-class societies usually have better connections to people with jobs and money than low-class societies. While she probably did experience an increase in social capital, that answer is not explicitly stated. Last, “social inequality” might describe a discrepancy between healthcare access for the rich and poor, but is not outlined in this example.

### Example Question #9 : Social Class And Inequality

While many believe that education is a tool that any individual can obtain upward social mobility, it has been shown to be a social institution that actually reinforces and perpetuates social inequalities. Which of the following concepts does not help to explain why this is true?

Residential segregation

Environmental injustice

Social capital

Social loafing

Social reproduction

Social loafing

Explanation:

“Social loafing” is when individuals, who are part of a group, demonstrate decreased effort toward a common goal. It occurs often in nearly all school settings (i.e. it gives rise to a common disdain toward group projects in classes) regardless of the socioeconomic status (SES) of the individuals involved; it would not have a specific effect on social mobility.

The other answers are incorrect. “Residential segregation” refers to the separation of groups of people into different neighborhoods based on race, ethnic, and/or SES differences based on social patterns that persist through decades, despite supposed social progress. Because schools are generally organized by geographic location, neighborhoods with a low SES will have schools with fewer resources. “Environmental injustice refers” to the fact that individuals living in poorer neighborhoods have a greater risk of coming into contact with environmental hazards- often those that may affect cognitive and psychological growth and development. Therefore, even if they are able to attend a school with greater resources (e.g. a charter school or a private school on a scholarship), they face greater obstacles to be able to utilize those resources than students from non-compromised neighborhoods. Last, “social reproduction” refers to the structures (e.g. schools) and activities that propagate inequalities. "Social capital," meaning the potential for social networks that may aid in social mobility, is an example of a structure that may contribute to social reproduction.

### Example Question #10 : Social Class And Inequality

Excerpt from “Institutional Competition,” Edward A. Ross, American Journal of Sociology 1919 25:2, 171-184

The first impulse of any organization or institution on the appearance of a serious competitor is to destroy competition. The "trust" regularly cuts the prices of its products to a point below cost of production in localities in which an "independent" seeks to sell. A shipping combine will have "fighting ships" which are called into play when a new steamship line enters their trade. As soon as the competitor announces a sailing date the combine advertises a steamer to sail on or near this date and offers a freight rate below the actual cost of carriage. In this way the competitor is prevented from securing a cargo.

The highest social class hobbles by minute sumptuary regulations the classes, which aspire to come up abreast of it. In feudal Japan, for example, one might not use his money as he pleased. The farmer, craftsman, or shopkeeper could not build a house as he liked or procure himself such articles of luxury as his taste might incline him to buy. The richest commoner might not order certain things to be made for him, might not imitate the habits or assume the privileges of his betters. Although urged on economic grounds, sumptuary restrictions are doubtless intended to protect the monopoly of prestige by the higher social orders.

The spread of anti-slavery feeling among the producing people of the North during the generation before the American Civil War was due to their perception that slavery is a menace to the free-labor system. In accounting for the early abolition of slavery in Massachusetts John Adams remarks: "Argument might have had some weight ... but the real cause was the multiplication of laboring white people who would not longer suffer the rich to employ these sable rivals so much to their injury."

The whole history of religious persecution is the history of an organization trying to establish itself as a monopoly by ruthless destruction of the spokesmen of competing doctrines and movements. In Diocletian's time Roman religious beliefs were weak while the Christian beliefs were vigorous and spreading. In desperation the old system made a ferocious attempt to exterminate all Christians. A thousand years later the church stamped certain sects out of existence and strangled heresies in the cradle. Says Coulton:

…What Darwin took at first for a smooth unbroken grassland proved, on nearer examination, to be thick-set with tiny self-sown firs, which the cattle regularly cropped as they grew. Similarly, that which some love to picture as the harmonious growth of one great body through the Middle Ages is really a history of many divergent opinions violently strangled at birth; while hundreds more, too vigorous to be killed by the adverse surroundings, and elastic enough to take something of the outward color of their environment, grew in spite of the hierarchy into organisms which, in their turn, profoundly modified the whole constitution of the Church. If the mediaeval theory and practice of persecution had still been in full force in the eighteenth century in England, nearly all the best Wesleyans would have chosen to remain within the Church rather than to shed blood in revolt; and the rest would have been killed off like wild beasts. The present unity of Romanism so far as it exists, is due less to tact than to naked force.

The explanation of feudal Japan demonstrates a lack of opportunity for commoners to buy or build what they desired. This came as a result of the high class limiting competition for prestige. The commoners do not have access to which of the following?

Social protections

Downwards social mobility

Upwards social mobility