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Reading for this Assignment: Social Inequality Textbook (Chapter 8)
Instructions: Choose someone to interview about class, status, and power in society. This person should not be in our Soc 401 class, and should not be someone you are very close with (ex. significant other, best friend, immediate family member). Ask the person who you are interviewing the following questions: 1. What does the “American Dream” mean to you?
2. What does it take to succeed in America today? 3. Do some people have a better chance of getting ahead than others, and if so, why? 4. How do you think the social class a person is born into affects their ability to make it in America? 5. How much of a person’s success or failure in life is due to things that they can individually control? How much is due to things that are out of their control (the economy, job opportunities, access to education, etc.)?
6. Do you think that income and wealth in the United States is distributed fairly? (ex. how much average workers make versus how much CEO’s make, the way that middle class people are taxed versus the way that wealthy people are taxed).
7. Compared to forty years ago, do you think it is easier or harder for people to achieve the American Dream? Why do you think it is (easier/harder)? Notes on Qualitative Interviewing:
• Arrange to interview your respondent in a place with few interruptions. Due to COVID-19 you can conduct the interview via Zoom, FaceTime, Skype, etc.
• Be a good listener and show interest in what the person is saying.
• Do not put forth your personal opinions or ideas about the topics covered during the interview.
• Open ended questions are meant to elicit extensive responses where respondents explain their thoughts and ideas. If needed you can ask follow-up questions (prompts) if you are finding that a respondent is not opening up. o Examples of prompts include: pausing to give the respondent more time to think about their answer, asking follow-up questions such as – “could you give me an example,” “what do you mean by that,” “why do you think that is the case,” etc. • Take notes during the interview using a pen and notepad; laptop; or recording devise. o Note: While recording an interview may be easier for you, it oftentimes makes people feel uncomfortable and less likely to give extensive answers and share their true feelings. Only record the interview if you have the person’s permission. If you do get permission to record, let the interviewee know that you will not share the recording with anyone and will delete the interview after writing up the assignment.
• Write up a draft of your assignment as soon as possible after doing the interview. The longer you wait (even though you have taken notes) the less able you will be to recollect what the person said.
Assignment Write-up: Analyze the responses of the person you interviewed. In what ways do the person’s responses coalesce around or contradict ideas of: individual achievement, self-reliance, equality of opportunity, meritocracy, work ethic, class consciousness, individual responsibility vs. collective responsibility that were discussed in Chapter 8? In what ways do the person’s responses support and/or contradict the dominant American ideology? In what ways do the person’s responses legitimate inequality and/or question inequality in American society? Make sure to use examples from your interview data to support your write up and analysis. Assignment Format:
• Word document
• 2.0 (double-spaced)
• 1 inch margins
• 12pt Times New Roman font
• 4 ½ – 5 pages long (approximately 1,500 – 2,000 words)
• You do not need to turn in your interview notes.
• You can create a pseudonym for the person you are interviewing if you would like or simply use their first name to keep them anonymous.