We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more

Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University's objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide.

Print Price: $149.99

416 pp.
54 figures, 5 maps, 14 tables, 7" x 9"


Copyright Year:

Imprint: OUP Canada

Understanding Social Inequality

Intersections of Class, Age, Gender, Ethnicity, and Race in Canada, Third Edition

Julie McMullin and Josh Curtis

Now in its third edition, Understanding Social Inequality examines the full scope of inequality in Canada today. The text's two-part structure introduces theories of class, gender, age, ethnicity, and race before examining case studies and examples demonstrating the consequences of inequality. This allows students to form their own conclusions about why social inequality remains prevalent and the potential actions that can be taken to eradicate it.

Readership : Understanding Social Inequality is a core text for second- and third-year level social inequality and social stratification course offered out of sociology and social work departments primarily at universities.


  • "McMullin hit the nail on the head in terms of level of difficulty. . . . Many other texts in this subdiscipline are 'dry,' lack theoretical substance, or simply pack too much quantitative data. Currently, this is the only text I would use for a class on social inequality. It is rigorous enough for university level students, and makes teaching students relatively seamless."
    --Steve Dumas, University of Calgary

  • "The students find this text stimulating. . . . It is indispensable in setting the scene, as it were, for my social policy classes at the third year level and well received."
    --Erling Christensen, Kwantlen Polytechnic University

  • "I continue to use this book because it is (1) theoretically and conceptually informed, (2) well supported by empirical/data, (3) comprehensive in its coverage of the subject, (4) reflects to a great extent the inequality-class, race/ethnicity, gender, age, and (6) is focused on intersectionality and life-course perspectives."
    --B. Singh Bolaria, University of Victoria

  • "The major strength . . . is its ability to contextualize areas where social inequality is experienced (work, families, education, health justice) through a structural analysis of oppression and privilege (race, class, gender, age). The textbook is accessible in its language and explanation, and presents readers with a variety of methodological approaches in sociology."
    --Rachel Alpha Johnston Hurst, St. Francis Xavier University

Note: each chapter includes:
- Introduction
- Questions for critical thought
- Glossary
- Recommended reading
- Relevant websites
Part One
1. Introduction
Defining Social Inequality
Defining Social Structure
Structures of Inequality
Human Agency: Connecting Individuals to Social Structures
Lives in Time and Place
2. Class and Inequality
Marx and Marxism
- Marx: Class as a Productive Social Relation
- New-Marxism: Issues of Exploitation, Authority, and Credentials
Weber and the Neo-Weberians
- Weber: Class, Power, and Distribution
- Neo-Weberian Approaches: Frank Parkin
- Neo-Weberian Approaches: John Goldthorpe
- Neo-Weberian Approaches: Edward Grabb
The Death of Social Class? Economic Prosperity and Globalization
The Global Perspective
3. Gender and Inequality
Explanations of Gender-Based Inequality
Social Relations of Reproduction: Patriarchy as a System of Domination
Sexual Orientation and Heterosexism
Social Relations of Production and Reproduction: Capitalism and Patriarchy as Intersecting Systems of Domination
Combining the Relations of Production and Distribution
"Doing Gender": Issues of Agency and Identity
Bringing It All Together
Conceptualizing Gender in a Theory of Inequality
4. Race, Ethnicity, and Inequality
Abandoning the Concept of Race
Conceptualizing Race/Ethnicity and Racism/Ethnicity
- Ethnicity: Issues of Culture and Identity
- Toward a Structural Account of Race and Racism
- Racial Formation
- Structural Racism
- Racism in Everyday Life
Conceptualizing Race and Ethnicity in a Theory of Inequality
5. Age and Inequality
Explanations of Age-Based Inequality
- Age Stratification Theory
- Age Strata
- Cohorts
- Age Stratification Theory and Inequality
Disability and Inequality
The Political Economy of Aging
The Social Construction of Old Age and Youth
Conceptualizing Age in a Theory of Inequality
6. Actors and Agency
Actors and Human Action
Intersections of Agency and Structure
- Integrated Approaches
- Analytic Dualism
- A View in the Middle
7. Actors and CAGE(s)
Social Time
- The Life-Course Perspective
Social Processes
Social Structure
Agency and Structure: Actors and CAGE(s)
Structure, Agency, and Anna's Life
Social Inequality
Part Two
8. CAGE(s), Families, and Domestic Laout, and the Processes of Reproduction
Defining Families
Domestic Labour
Violence in Families
Explaining Inequality in Families
Beyond Statistics: Agency and Experience within Families
9. CAGE(s) and Paid Work
Canada's Class and Occupational Structure
Income and Poverty
Alienation and Skill
Explaining Inequality in Paid Work
Beyond Statistics: Agency and Experience in Paid Work
10. CAGE(s) and Education
Focusing on Class: Historical Notes and Existing Patterns
- Educational Attainment
- Educational Returns in the Labour Market
Focusing on Race/Ethnicity: Historical Notes and Existing Patterns
- Educational Attainment
- Educational Returns in the Labour Market
Focusing on Gender: Historical Notes and Existing Patterns
- Educational Attainment
- Educational Returns in the Labour Market
Focusing on Age and Life Course
- Historical Trends in Canadian Educational Attainment
- Adult Education and the Changing Face of Education
- Educational Returns in the Labour Market
Beyond the Statistics: Agency and Experience in Education
11. CAGE(s) and Health
Inequality in Health: Some Current Perspectives and Critiques
Mortality, Morbidity, and Mental Health
- Social Class and SES
- Race and Ethnicity
- Gender
- Age and Social Time
Understanding Inequality in Health
- Agency and Lifestyle Behaviour
- Health Care Access and Utilization
CAGE(s) and the Processes of Production, Reproduction, and Distribution
12. CAGE(s) and the State
Focusing on Class: Making Citizens, Making "Class"
- Poverty
- Re-manufacturing Class: Workfare
- Agents in Action: Dissent and Co-optation
Focusing on Race: Making Citizens, Making "Race"
- Re-manufacturing "Race"/Ethnicity: Immigration
- Social Regulation: "Race"/Ethnicity and the Law
- Agents in Action: Citizenship Claims
Focusing on Gender: Engendering Citizens
- Social Regulation: Reproductive Rights
- Agents in Action: Violence against Women
Focusing on Age: Citizenship over the Life Course
- Social Regulation: Child Welfare Legislation
- Agents in Action: Mandatory Retirement
13. Conclusion: Equality, Politics, Platforms, and Policy Issues

Test Bank:
For each chapter
- 30 multiple choice questions
- 20 true-or-false questions
- 10-15 short answer questions
- 10-15 discussion questions
Image Bank:
- Includes all tables and figures from the text
E-Book (ISBN 9780199010936)

Julie McMullin is a professor in the Department of Sociology at Western University. She is also Western's first Vice-Provost and Vice-President (International), presently serving a five-year term beginning June 1, 2012. Prior to her appointment, she served an 18-month secondment as Special Advisor to the Provost on Internationalization, and had previously served as Acting Dean of Western's Faculty of Social Science. Professor McMullin's research examines how class, age, gender, ethnicity, and race structure inequality in paid work and families. She is a Premiere's Research Excellence Award (PREA) winner and an internationally recognized scholar in the area of aging and the life course. She has published two previous editions of Understanding Social Inequality with OUP.

Josh Curtis is a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Sociology at Western University. Dr. Curtis has published many Canadian-specific and cross-national studies on social and economic inequality in the modern world. Specifically, his research explores how income inequality affects the relationship between social class and political and economic attitudes and behaviours.

Social Inequality in Canada - Edward Grabb, Jeffrey G. Reitz and Monica Hwang
Inequality in Canada - Edited by Valerie Zawilski
The Stacked Deck - Jennifer Ball and Lorne Tepperman
Inequality Matters - Augie Fleras
Making Sense in the Social Sciences - Margot Northey, Lorne Tepperman and Patrizia Albanese

Special Features

  • Focus on Canadian issues and examples helps students appreciate the ways in which inequality is structured along the lines of class, age, gender, ethnicity, and race in this country.
  • Combines theoretical and practical coverage to give students a well-rounded view of the topics being addressed.
  • Engaging box program demonstrates real-life examples of social inequality with material pulled from newspapers, journals, and other media.
New to this Edition
  • New Global Perspective boxes discuss inequality issues and cases from across the globe - including poverty and inequality in Sweden (Ch. 4), ageism in hiring practices in China (Ch. 5), and low social mobility in Britain (Ch. 9) - to help students understand the Canadian experience of inequality relative to other countries.
  • New coverage of key topics - including neo-Weberian approaches to class (Ch. 2), sexual orientation (Ch. 3), and disability (Ch. 5) - gives students insight into pressing areas of inequality in society.
  • Additional Highlight boxes continue to enhance student learning by exploring interesting topics, issues, and cases - including homelessness (Ch. 1), the shrinking middle class (Ch. 2), and attitudes at work (Ch. 7) - often with a Canadian focus.
  • Recent data and research has been integrated throughout, giving students an up-to-date view of the most prominent issues related to social inequality in the field.