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Social Inequality in a Global Age

Social Inequality in a Global Age

Fifth Edition

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408 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc
This updated Fifth Edition of Scott Sernau's acclaimed text provides a sociological framework for analyzing inequality within the United States in the context of global stratification and a rapidly changing world economy. With insightful analysis, this text offers students an accessible introduction to stratification systems and the structural and personal realities of growing class divides. It explores the multiple dimensions and intersections of inequalities of race and ethnicity, gender and sexuality, and power and lifestyle. Using lively writing and examples drawn straight from today's headlines, Sernau explores each issue and dimension of inequality as he analyzes the relationship between changing global power and growing inequalities within countries. Throughout, a focus on social action and community engagement encourages students to become involved, active learners in the classroom and engaged citizens in their communities.
Part I: Roots of Inequality
1. The Gordian Knot of Race, Class, and Gender
Dimensions of an Unequal World

Intersections of Race, Class, and Gender in the United States

The Development of Inequality: Race, Class, and Gender Across Societies

A Social Network Understanding of Inequality

2. The Great Debate
The Historical Debate

The Sociological Debate

Reframing the Debate

3. The Global Divide: Inequality Across Societies
Worlds Coming Apart and Coming Together

The Double Divide

The Global Debate

Globalization: The Ties That Bind

Immigration: Seeking to Cross the Divide

The Market Paradox

4. Class Privilege
Wealth and Property



Class Structure

Growing Inequality

5. Racial and Ethnic Inequality
A Debt Unpaid: Internal Colonialism

Middleman Minorities and Ethnic Solidarity

The Analytic Debate: Cultures and Structures of Poverty

Colorful Language

The Color of Justice

6. Gender and Sexual Inequality
When Men Were Men

From Glass Slippers to Glass Ceilings

Work and Family: The Double Burden and the Second Shift

Gender and Class Around the World

Changing Norms on Gender and Sexuality

7. Status Prestige
The Quest for Honor

Socialization: Acquiring Marks of Distinction

Association: Whom You Know

Lifestyles of the Rich and the Destitute

Tastes in Transition

8. Power and Politics
People Power and Powerful People

Who Rules? The Power Elite Debate

Changing the Rules: Campaign Finance Reform

Global Power: Who Really Rules?

9. Moving Up: Education and Mobility
Getting Ahead

Education: Opening Doors, Opening Minds

No Child Left Behind

Ladders With Broken Rungs

10. Abandoned Spaces, Forgotten Places: Poverty and Place
Urban Poverty: Abandoned Spaces

The Making and Unmaking of the Postindustrial City

Brain-Gain and Brain-Drain Cities

Suburban Poverty: The Urban Fringe

Rural Poverty: Forgotten Places

Poverty in the Global Ghetto

11. Reversing the Race to the Bottom: Poverty and Policy
From Welfare to Work

The Challenge of the Margins: Antipoverty Programs

Extreme Poverty: Homelessness and Hunger

Poverty Programs Among Advanced Industrial Nations

The Private World of Poverty

12. Challenging the System: Social Movements in a Global Age
The Enduring Struggle: The Labor Movement

Gender and Power: The Women’s Movement

Gay Rights: Gender Identity, Sexuality, and Equal Access

Race and Power: The Civil Rights Movement

The Happiest Place on Earth

One World After All

About the Author


Instructor site

Calling all instructors!
It’s easy to log on to SAGE’s password-protected Instructor Teaching Site for complete and protected access to all text-specific Instructor. Simply provide your institutional information for verification and within 72 hours you’ll be able to use your login information for any SAGE title! 

Password-protected Instructor Resources include the following:

  • A Microsoft® Word test bank containing multiple choice, true/false, short answer, and essay questions for each chapter. The test bank provides you with a diverse range of pre-written options as well as the opportunity for editing any question and/or inserting your own personalized questions to effectively assess students’ progress and understanding.
  • Tables and Figures in an easily-downloadable format for use in papers, hand-outs, and presentations.
  • Carefully selected web links for each chapter to enhance classroom-based explorations of key topics

This text offers a concise overview of social inequalities from a global perspective.

Professor Teresa Downing
Social Sciences Dept, Ca Polytechnic State Univ
January 23, 2017

Scott Sernau's book Social Inequality is a Global Age, 5th Edition is an outstanding book that thoroughly reviews the institutional, spatial, and political-economic aspects of social stratification. In my view, some of the major strengths of the book are its lively and contemporary coverage of inequality issues, both in the United States and globally, and its last chapter which links social inequality to social change by providing an excellent overview of social movements and their role in transforming social inequalities. An affordable book highly recommended for courses focusing on social stratification and inequality.

Armando Mejia
Sociology Dept, California St Univ-Long Beach
January 14, 2017
Key features


  • Includes recent analysis of the economic recovery, growing economic divides, and stagnant wages for many workers.
  • Tables and charts include the latest data on racial and gender wage gaps, trends in poverty and real wages, and the real value of the minimum wage.
  • Includes a new section on “The Color of Justice” that discusses treatment of African American men in the criminal justice system.
  • Examines increasing rates of bias and discrimination against Arab Americans and the Muslim population, the racial climate on college campuses, and racial activism at those institutions.
  • Offers a fuller examination of struggles over same-sex marriage, new directions in the LGBT movement, and new coverage of gender identity issues and transsexual individuals.
  • New material explores the post-“Citizens United” state of campaign finance and the rapid growth of super-PACs, along with expanded discussions about housing costs and the suburbanization of poverty.
  • Includes updated coverage of the continuing debates over the Affordable Care Act, federal tax policy, minimum wage rates, and regulation/deregulation of the financial and investment sector.
  • Examines critiques of No Child Left Behind and the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act. Describes the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement.  


  • Social inequalities in the United States, and how they are affected by global inequalities, are covered in vivid detail.
  • The intersection of race, class, and gender, addressed throughout the book as a pervasive institutionalized system of privilege and oppression, demonstrates to students the importance of social actors and social change. 
  • Visual Essays demonstrate global (Honduras), rural (Navajoland), and urban (deindustrialized) contexts, providing powerful photographic depictions of inequality in global contexts.
  • Frequent graphs and tables, many of which are discussed in the text, summarize key data about inequality.

The text has been updated to describe the growing economic divides and stagnant wages for many workers that are occurring despite the overall economic recovery.

 Tables and charts reflect the latest data on racial and gender gaps in wages, trends in poverty, trends in real wages, and real value of the minimum wage.

 The chapter on Racial and Ethnic Inequality (Ch. 5) includes a new section on “The Color of Justice” that looks at continuing inequalities in incarceration rates as well as new attention to arrests and shootings of black men.  

 Ch. 5 also includes new coverage of growing worries of bias and discrimination against Arab Americans and the overall Muslim population, and to racial incidents and protests on college campuses.  

 The chapter on Gender and Sexual Inequality (Ch. 6) contains a fuller examination of struggles over gay marriage; new directions in the LGBT movement, particularly among young adults; and greater attention to gender identity issues and transsexual individuals. 

 The chapter on Power and Politics (Ch. 8) includes new material on the post “Citizens United” state of campaign finance and the rapid growth of super-PACS.

 The chapter on Poverty and Place (Ch. 10) includes expanded attention to housing costs and the suburbanization of poverty.

 The chapter on Poverty and Policy (Ch. 11) includes debates about the Affordable Care Act (especially in regard to expansion of Medicaid eligibility), tax policy, minimum wage raises, and regulation/deregulation of the financial and investment sector.

 The emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement is included in the chapter on Social Movements (Ch. 12).

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Scott R. Sernau

Scott Sernau is professor of sociology and director of International Programs at Indiana University, South Bend, where he regularly teaches social inequality, international inequalities, sustainability and urban society. He has received multiple campus and university awards for distinguished teaching and distinguished service to teaching and learning. He is editor of Contemporary Readings in Globalization (SAGE) and his previous books include: Economies of Exclusion (Praeger), Critical Choices (Oxford), Bound: Living in the Globalized World (Stylus), and Global Problems: The Search for Equity, Peace and Sustainability (Pearson). More About Author

Also available as a South Asia Edition.