Interview on Position in Society

Interview two different individuals regarding their positions in society. Analyze their responses regarding:

  1. Identify each person’s class, race, and gender, supporting your work with the text and/or outside resources.
  2. What role has class, race, and gender played in their lives? How do you see these stratifiers as playing a role, even if the interviewee is unaware of it?
  3. Apply one of the sociological perspectives to the individuals’ lives. Why did you choose this particular perspective? How does it explain each person’s life and life choices?
  4. What are some of the benefits and limitations to using interview as a research methodology?
  5. Analyze each person’s specific components of culture and relate them to his/her stratified position in society. 

Sample Interview

The first interviewee is a middle aged, low income African-American woman. She is not married, and she is a single mother to three children. The respondent works at a fast food chain where she earns an average of $18000 annually, a figure that represents the average salary in this low wage industry (NBC, 2019). The job seems like a good fit for the interviewee because it requires minimal education. The respondent is a high school dropout, who then got her GED but she did not pursue an education in college. She first started working in the fast food industry in order to save money for her education but her dreams were cut short when she became pregnant and had to take care of her child. Dropping out of high school is quite a consistent occurrence among African American youth in comparison to white students (JBHE, 2018). She lives in low cost housing units in New York, the same city where she was born and raised.

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            The second interviewee is a middle aged, high income white man. He works as a corporate lawyer in Washington and receives an average annual salary of $120000. He has a bachelor’s degree in corporate law from one of the best schools in the country. The interviewee comes from an upper middle class and is thus predisposed to certain limited opportunities. He grew up in the suburbs of Southern California, a residency characterized by well off Americans. The respondent is married with two children, and his wife is an accounting manager at a corporate firm.

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            Factors such as class, race and gender play crucial roles in the lives of people from different backgrounds. From the two interviews., it is evident that the first interviewee leads a lower quality of life due to the factors of race, class and gender. In the United States, there are major racial disparities in relation to educational and economic opportunities (Brookings, 2015). In fact, the educational system in the United States is considered to be the one of the most unequal systems in the industrialized world (Brookings, 2015). As a result, students receive different learning opportunities on the basis of their social status (Brookings, 2015).

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There also exist stark differences in funding, quality of teachers, curriculum and class sizes between the poor and wealthy schooling districts. The issue of inequality in education started in the 1960s when most minority students were taught in segregated schools that were of significantly lower quality than those serving the white students (Brookings, 2015). The educational experiences of minorities continue to be separate and unequal when compared to those of white children. It does not come as a surprise that the first interviewee had less opportunities than the second interviewee. Many of the minorities who are economically disadvantaged students live on poor urban districts which are renowned for having the worst educational expenditures (Brookings, 2015).

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            In the case of the second respondent, the interview only proves that white men are more likely to have access to higher paying jobs in most states. On top of that, research has established that black men need more education than white men to get jobs (Barthel, 2014). According to the report, African American men require two or more levels of academic qualifications to have the same employment prospects as their white counterparts (Barthel, 2014). While white male college graduates, have a 97% employment rate, black male graduates have a 92% rate of getting employment (Barthel, 2014). In general, white workers have benefited from historical and systematic economic and educational advantages, an element that has allowed them to carve out opportunities in the workplace that last decades. Therefore, it is safe to conclude that the second respondent has benefited from a system that favors and awards the white race. While personal decision should still be used as a means of accountability, the first interviewee had fewer chances at employment and educational opportunities due to her racial background and gender.

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            The functionalist sociological perspective is best suited to explain the lives of the interviewees as well as the choices they have made in their lives. The functionalist perspective is based on the ideology that society is an interconnected system that has parts that work together to maintain a state of social balance and equilibrium (Mooney, Knox & Schacht, 2007). According to this sociological perspective, social institutions such as family and schools have important functions in society such as nurturing children and passing down skills and culture to its young people (Mooney, Knox & Schacht, 2007). Functionalists use the terms functional and dysfunctional to explain the effects of elements of society (Mooney, Knox & Schacht, 2007). In the case of the first interviewee who is a black low income woman, the dysfunctional elements of society come into play, whereby unequal opportunities in the education system are associated with school drop outs and lack of employment opportunities. In short, the many interconnected parts of society such as racial discrimination and poor funding for schools that are in poorer school districts lead to poor quality of education among racial minorities. On top of that, functionalists view some aspects of dysfunctional elements of society as causing heightened awareness on shared moral bonds and social cohesion (Mooney, Knox & Schacht, 2007). In the highlighted situation, the lack of educational opportunities for racial minorities might point to the issues of discrimination on the basis of class and race in society. As a result, this realization might increase awareness on the dangers of such societal vices. On the other hand, the functional elements of society such as effective educational systems and proper family nurturing can be attributed for the life that the white respondent lives.

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            One of the advantages of using interview as a research methodology is that personal interviews as opposed to questionnaires yield a high percentage of returns. In addition to that, the interviewer usually has a better response rate in comparison to mailed questions. The method also caters to the respondents who have difficulty in reading and writing. Interviews allow the interviewer to judge the non-verbal cues of the respondent and to determine if the answers are sincere or not. The information that is secured from interviews is more likely to be correct because the interviewer can clear up any answers that seem inaccurate or irrelevant by clarifying the questions to the interviewee (Desai, 2016). Interviews offer the interviewer the opportunity to collect supplementary information about the characteristics and the environment of the informant. This information can be useful in interpreting results later on. Interviews are a flexible approach of collecting information whereby the interviewer can new questions as the interview takes its course (Desai, 2016). In summary, interviews offer flexibility in the exploration of areas where there is little basis for knowing the right questions to ask and how to formulate them (Desai, 2016). The use of interviews allows a greater number of user returns when compared to other methods. Mistakes can be corrected and return visits can be made without annoying the informant.

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            While interviews facilitate flexibility, there are certain limitations that pertain to this method of data collection. This method poses a heavy demand on the interviewer in terms of cost, time and energy (Desai, 2016). The cost required in covering a large area makes the interview method often uneconomical. The efficacy of interviews is dependent on the training and skills of the interviewer. Collected data may be inaccurate and incomplete in the event that the interviewer is not skilled enough. Subjectivity on the interviewer’s part might result in bias whereby they might ask certain questions to affirm their views in the subject in question (Desai, 2016). In some situations, the presence of the interviewer might overstimulate the informant to the extent of providing imaginary information due to pressure of keeping the interview interesting.            

For African Americans, cultural psychology accounts in some way for the interaction between psychological processes and cultural dynamics. The cultural symbols and tendencies of African Americans interact with their experiences of oppression (Jones, 2011). While the African American culture is rich in history, symbols and heritage, the element of oppression almost always seems to be lingering due to a long history of racial segregation. The first respondent belongs to the low income group of people who belong in the lowest strata of all the social classes. The respondent being an African American woman, seems to be defined by the oppressive component of her culture. She does not get to enjoy the benefits of quality education possibly due to the marginalization of black people specifically in the education system. In the case of the second respondent, he is a classic example of the definition of white culture. The white culture is defined by rugged individualism, competition, family structure and the strive for the American dream. Factors such as competition and family structure appear to have affected the life of the respondent through proper family nurturing as well as the instillation of work ethics that have allowed him to be successful in the corporate world.

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