MCAT Social and Behavioral Sciences : Other Social Inequalities

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Example Question #1 : Other Social Inequalities

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.

People living in isolated farming communities and those living in dense urban developments often share the common problem of limited access to a wide range of fruits, vegetables and other foods. Which term best describes this social phenomenon?

Possible Answers:

Food scarcity

Food removal

Food isolation

Food desert

Correct answer:

Food desert


Although different in many ways, life in an isolated farming community can be very similar to life in an urban development. In both situations, access to food can be limited. Due to excessive distance from a store, lack of appropriate transportation or lack of sufficient funds due to raised prices, people in a food desert are not able to obtain foods that would be obtainable in another setting. The other terms describe parts of the problem, but food desert is most accurate in describing the entire scenario.

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