[MUSIC] Hi, in this module we're going to talk about inequality. Inequality is universal. In this map, we've indicated countries by color according to their level of inequality, with redder, darker colors indicating more inequality and lighter, more yellow colors indicating less inequality. As we can see, China and the United States have relatively high levels of inequality. Of course there are many examples of countries that have even more extreme levels of inequality, as well as countries that have less inequality. Social scientist are interested in understanding why these differences occur between countries. And their of course interested in understanding why, within in specific countries United States, China, or other countries, the levels of inequality are shaped by processes within those countries? When we study inequality, there are a few topics that we're specifically interested in. One of the most basic is understanding why some individuals are more successful than others? Another is understanding why it is that some families are persistently successful over many generations. Throughout history, there have been examples of families that retained political power and remained wealthy over decades, generations, or even centuries. We're also interested in understanding why patterns of inequality differ, both across time and across place. On that map that I just showed, we saw the variation across place and we know that in patterns of inequality vary across time as well. We're also interested in understanding the consequences of inequality. How do patterns of inequality shape things like political stability, economic development or even the health of individuals? And finally, a key question in the study of social inequality is understanding how much of it is natural and unavoidable, and how much of it is produced by social and political institutions that reproduce inequality by constraining opportunities for individuals or favoring particular types of individuals. Returning to the question of why some individuals are more successful than others, I'll give an example of the sorts of processes that we like to think about when we're trying to address that specific question. When we study the question why some individuals are more successful than others, we focus on the role of family origin. Family origin shapes us in a number of different ways. And one important way, it shapes what sociologist called ascribed characteristics. These are characteristic like our skin color, our ethnicity, our race, our religion. These are things that we usually don't think should affect our outcomes in life but they affect the way that we may be perceived by other people and they may shape the kinds of opportunities that are available to us. They may constrain opportunities or give us extra opportunities. Family background also has influences on things that we do think should be important. Family background may influence education. Wealthier parents may be able to afford a better education for their children. A family background may also be able to influence ability. Parents may teach their children certain things when they're young. And there is a certain amount of ability that may even be inherited. We generally think that ability, shaped by education, but other factors as well, as well as ascribed characteristics, shape the kinds of opportunities that are available to us as we go through life. Some people, both because of their ascribed characteristics, as well as their education and their ability, have more opportunities. Some people have less. And these opportunities shape our income, our occupations and our wealth. And much of what we do as social scientists is try to untangle all of these different processes that shape opportunities and eventually things like income and wealth and occupation. And societies differ in terms of the relative importance of all of these processes. In some societies, ascribe characteristics are very important, your skin color, your ethnicity, other characteristics may have important influence on where you end up in life. Other societies, education and ability are more important. Again, all of these things interact to shape our economic opportunities in life. They vary across societies, and a lot of what social scientists do, is try to understand these differences and understand how these processes work.