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The study of inequality lies at the heart of the sociology of social problems.No matter what the social problem might be, different forms of inequality influence the generation of the problem, the consequences of the problem for diverse groups, the societal reaction to the problem, and the solutions and social policies intended to address the problem.Added to this is the gender inequality that continues to characterize education.
In each of these dimensions, social problems correlate with inequality.
Analyzing the relationship between various forms of inequality and social problems is central to sociological theory and empirical research.
One way to think about how inequality relates to social problems is to ask how social problems are generated.
Social stratification based on race, class, and gender forms the structural context from which social problems are created.
Research shows, for example, a strong correlation between unemployment and multiple social problems, including crime, violence, divorce, and substance abuse, to name a few.
As one example, an extraordinarily large difference exists in the homicide rate of black Americans, Latinos, and whites—explained as the result of social structural conditions of both the class and race status of poor, minority men.
Rates of educational attainment are higher among white Americans than among either African Americans or Latinos/as.
School dropout rates, too, significantly relate to both race and income status.
No understanding of social problems makes sense without attention to race, class, and gender.
But race, class, and gender are not the only correlates of social inequality.