Social structure and "Lebenschancen" : an assessment of class & racial and ethnic stratification approaches



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This study attempts to evaluate and examine the two major theoretical orientations in the study of racial and ethnic stratification-the Marxist or class perspective, and the caste and status orientation. After discussing the theoretical heritage (i.e., Marx and Weber) on which contemporary stratification builds, some of the leading works on racial and ethnic stratification are extensively reviewed. Given this established theoretical background, attention is turned to the primary empirical concern of this study- namely, what are the effects of race and class on the determination of "Lebenschancen" (life chances)? One's quality of life will be employed as an Indirect measure of "Lebens- chancen"-that is, high quality of life will indicate favorable "Lebenschancen", and low quality of life will indicate unfavorable "Lebenschancen." Using analysis of variance and descriptive comparisons such as those provided by the SPSS programs Breakdown and Crosstabs, the two independent variables-race (racial status being the factor most emphasized in the caste and status approaches) and class (the primary variable in the Marxist orientation) are tested for their relative effects and strengths on the determination of the various quality of life measures. The findings indicate that class is a more powerful determinant of life quality (and hence "Lebenschancen") than is race; the effects of race are such, however, that the traditional notions of "double jeopardy" are readily supported.