Review Questions: Chapter 03

Click on each question to check your answer.

1. Why are unemployment rates in Canada generally higher than unemployment rates in the United States?

The explanation that Brooks and Ménard say is usually offered by Canadians is that the lower rate has been “bought” with lower wages and greater income inequality. The authors have doubts about the lower wages argument. (pp. 67–70)

2. What is the new “underclass”?

Underclass is a term that came into use in the United States in the 1960s to describe the stratum of American society that was at the very bottom of the socio-economic ladder, without many prospects for a better life. It was predominantly black and usually estimated to be not more than 1–2 per cent of the total population, emerged largely because of economic restructuring (p. 71)

3. What has the distribution of income in Canada looked like since the late 1950s?

It has not changed much. In 2011, the richest 20 per cent of the population accounted for about 47 per cent of all income while the poorest fifth accounted for about 5 per cent. The changes only look dramatic if one focusses on the wealthiest Canadians (pp. 72–73)

4. What are the barriers to socio-economic mobility in Canada?

It appears that gender, ethnicity, race, and family background continue to exert a significant downward pull on mobility. Of these, family background—i.e., the education, occupation, and income of one’s parents—appears to be the most important. (pp. 77–79)

5. How is Canada’s corporate elite unrepresentative of Canada’s general population?

Sociologists John Porter and Wallace Clement have done the most thorough studies of the Canadian corporate elite. For example, the corporate elite continue to be dominated by men; most of the elite are males; and many have attended exclusive private schools. People from non-Anglo-Saxon backgrounds are grossly under-represented. And well over half of the economic elite belong to one or more of the most prominent private clubs in Canada. (pp. 79–81)

6. What role does the structure of the state play in addressing social inequalities?

It affects what sorts of inequalities governments deal with and it influences the opportunities and resources available to different interests. For example, Canadian governments have long targeted more money at regional economic inequalities than have US governments because of the particular division of powers under the Canadian constitution and the relatively greater leverage of the provincial governments than the state governments. The Charter, too, has had a substantial impact on the prominence of equality rights issues, the strategies that groups use to achieve their goals, and the treatment of certain groups. (p. 83)

7. How are happiness and level of satisfaction with life among Canadians related to material well-being?

Brooks and Ménard say that there is a correlation between material well-being and the level of satisfaction with life expressed by a nation’s population. Canadians are far more likely to express a high degree of satisfaction with their lives than to say that they are very happy. Why this distinction exists is not clear. (pp. 83–84)

8. How does regionalism factor into inequality in Canada?

Income levels and employment rates vary dramatically between provinces. Personal income in poorer provinces (NL, NB, PEI) is about 85–90 per cent of the Canadian average. These citizens have been more dependent on transfer payments from the federal government. Even though it is still wide, the inter-regional variation in average personal income has narrowed over the last few decades. See Table 3.2. (pp. 75–76)

9. In what way(s) does Canada demonstrate economic dependence?

Canada is heavily dependent on foreign capital, imports, and export markets. What is unique about Canada is that we have really only one trading partner: the US. It accounts for the vast majority of our exports and imports. Culturally, we depend heavily on the US and this is reflected in our economic relations. What we watch, what we read, how we read, who we read, what and who we listen to, etc. are mostly all foreign. (pp. 87–89)

10. How is Canada influenced by American culture?

Canada is influenced in many ways by American culture. For instance, American magazines account for close to two-thirds of magazine sales in English Canada and about two-thirds of television viewing time in English Canada is spent watching American programs. (pp. 89–90)

11. How significant or serious are the problems of crime, suicide, and drug abuse in Canada?

In terms of violent crime, Canada is unexceptional. The homicide rate has actually declined since the mid-1970s. Statistics on the other type of violent crimes such as rape and domestic violence are more difficult to interpret. It is even more difficult to estimate the abuse of alcohol and other substances. (pp. 84–86)

12. Provide examples on how someone’s individual choice can contribute to inequality?

A status Indian who decides to stay on the reserve reduces his or her opportunity of finding employment. Since reservations are far from centers of population and economic activity, an economic cost accompanies the choice of life on the reserve. Another example is if a person chooses to move to an area such as Northern Ontario, they will find themselves more likely to be unemployed than if they choose to move to Toronto. (pp. 82–83)

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