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Inequality

Multiple Bases Of Inequality: Conceptual Issues, Status And Power, Housing, Health, Conclusion

Social inequality encompasses relatively long-lasting differences between groups of people and has considerable implications for individuals, especially "for the rights or opportunities they exercise and the rewards or privileges they enjoy" (Grabb, 1997, pp. 1–2). Most studies of social inequality consider gaps in income and assets between advantaged and disadvantaged groups of people. However, important considerations in the study of social inequality also include issues of status, power, housing, and health, as well as the relationship between these factors and economic well-being.

Economic well-being, status, power, housing, and health are influenced by many factors, including age. In most research on inequality in later life researchers organize age-based systems of inequality on the basis of whether one is old, middle aged, or young. Comparisons are made between these age groups, or strata, to determine whether one group is disadvantaged relative to another.

Other factors that influence social inequality include gender, class, ethnicity, and race. Increasingly, researchers are recognizing that to fully explore the complexities of inequality, all of these factors must be considered. Yet, there remains disagreement among scholars about how class, age, gender, ethnicity, and race influence one another, and about which among these is most important to inequality. In the literature on aging, researchers have approached this issue in various ways. Central to these approaches are debates between multiple-jeopardy and leveling hypotheses, studies of heterogeneity and cumulative advantage/disadvantage, and discussions of diversity.

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