Outline and explain two social changes which may explain the decline of marriage in recent decades (10)

A model answer for a 10 mark ‘outline and explain’ question on the AQA’s A level sociology paper 2 (families and households)

A model answer to a possible 10 mark ‘outline and explain’ question, written for the A-level sociology AQA A-level paper 7192/2: topics within sociology: families and households section).

Question

Outline and explain two social changes which may explain the decline of marriage in recent decades (10) 

outline explain decline marriage.png

Model Answer

The first social factor is in more depth than the second. 

Economic changes such as the increasing cost of housing and the increasing cost of weddings may explain the decline of marriage:

Young adults stay living with their parents longer to save up for a mortgage, often into their 30s. Men especially might feel embarrassed to marry if they still live with their parents, because it’s not very ‘masculine’. This also reflects the importance changing gender roles: now women are taking on the ‘breadwinner role’, there’s no obvious need to marry a man. This applies especially to low income earning, working class men.

Furthermore, it’s often a choice between ‘marriage’ or ‘house deposit’: most people just co-habit because they can’t afford to get married. People would rather by a house because ‘material security’ is more important than the ‘security of marriage’. People also fail to save for weddings because of the pressure to consume in postmodern society. However, this only applies to those who want a big ‘traditional’ wedding, which costs £15K.

The significance of economic factors criticise the postmodernist view that marriage declining is simply a matter of ‘free-choice’.

A Second reason for the decline of marriage is secularisation, or the decline of religion in society.

Christianity, for example emphasises that marriage is a sacred union for life before God, and that sex should only take place within marriage. With the decline of religion, social values have shifted so that it is now acceptable to have sex before marriage, and with more than one partner, meaning that dating, serial monogamy and cohabitation have all replaced marriage to a large extent.

The decline of religion also reflects the fact that marriage today is not about ‘pleasing society’, it is simply about pleasing the two individuals within the relationship, the ‘pure relationship’ is now the norm, and people no longer feel like they need God’s approval of their relationshp, so there is less social pressure to get married.

However, this trend does vary by ethnicity, and Muslims, Hindus and Jews within Britain are all much more likely to get married in a religious ceremony.

Visual Version for social change one:

AQA Sociology exam practice questions 10 marks

Other posts you may find useful:

Globalisation – Key Concepts and Definitions

Selected definitions of key terms for A-level sociology students studying globalisation and global development.

Americanisation

Where American culture and values erodes traditional local cultures gradually replacing them. A term associated with global pessimism, it isn’t usually regarded as something positive!

Communism

An economic system in which the means of production are owned in common and wealth distributed according to need.

Cosmopolitanism

where people or societies are tolerant of other people’s or societies’ ways of life and values; this is one of the positive consequences of globalisation as people increasingly come into contact with other ways of life and make an effort to enter into dialogue with diverse cultures and find ways to ‘live together’. Related concepts include reflexivity and detraditionalisation. The opposite of cosmopolitanism is fundamentalism.

Cultural Globalisation

The movement of ideas, attitudes, meanings, values and cultural products across national borders.

Cultural Hybridity

The emergence of a new cultural form out of two or more existing ones, leaving both forms changed without erasing the old.

Deregulation

Removing restrictions on businesses, for example reducing health and safety regulations.

De-traditionalisation

Where people have increasing choice about whether to stick to traditional ways of life; traditions become less stable as people increasingly question their traditional beliefs about religion, marriage, and gender roles and so on.

Economic Globalisation

The global expansion of international capitalism, free markets and the increase in international trade.

Fatalism

(Fatalistic Response to Globalisation) – the view that the world is powerless to resist globalisation.

Global Commodity Chains

Where networks of production, distribution and consumption of goods and services becomes increasingly stretched across the globe. The making of the physical products tends to be done in poorer countries, whereas the branding and marketing, tend to be done in the richer countries.

Global Risk Consciousness

where people in different countries are increasingly aware of and affected by international threats such as terrorism, nuclear war and global warming. There are two elements to risk consciousness (it pulls in two directions) – one is that we are more fearful and wish to ‘retreat’ from such problems and the other is that we are increasingly brought together in our attempts to overcome such threats.

Globalisation

The increasing interconnectedness and inter-dependency of the world’s nations and their people into a single global, economic, political and global system.

Glocalisation

Where people in developing countries select aspects of western culture and adapt them to their particular needs – associated with Transformationalism and critical of the pessimist theory that globalisation results in Americanisation.

Golden Straightjacket

Thomas Friedman’s term for the neoliberal policies countries must adopt if they are to experience economic growth and prosperity.

Ha-Joon Chang

Global pessimist who believes neoliberal policies primarily benefits wealthy countries and harm developing countries; referred to the WTO, World Bank and IMF as the ‘unholy trinity’.

Homogenisation

Things becoming increasingly the same; in global terms, the erosion of local cultures and the emergence of one global mono-culture.

Hybridised Global Identities

Where identities are increasingly a result of picking and mixing from different cultural traditions around the globe; implies more individual freedom to choose identity and greater diversity; associated with transformationalist theories of globalisation.

Hyper-Globalism

The belief that globalisation is happening and that local cultures are being eroded primarily because of the expansion of international capitalism and the emergence of a homogenous global culture; believe that globalisation is a positive process characterised by economic growth, increasing prosperity and the spread of democracy.

Imperialism

Where one dominant country takes over and controls another country or countries.

Jeremy Seabrook

A pessimist globalist who believes that globalisation is a ‘declaration of war’ upon local cultures as the expansion of western culture around the world destroys local cultures and reduces cultural diversity.

Mcdonalidisation

A form of rationalisation through which the principles of efficiency and predictability come to dominate more and more spheres of social life.

McWorld

Refers specifically to the spread of McDonalds’ restaurants throughout the world; and more generally to the process of Mcdonaldisation which underpins this – i.e. the increasing standardisation of corporate products and the emergence of a global, Americanised monoculture.

Neoliberalism

A set of right wing economic policies which reduce the power of governments and give more freedom to private enterprise – the three main neoliberal policies are deregulation, privatisation and lowering taxation.

Political Globalisation

The process where the sovereignty of nation states is reduced due to the increasing power of International Institutions, such as the United Nations.

Post Industrial Economy

An economy in which the service sector generates more wealth than the manufacturing of physical products. In such an economy more people will be employed in sectors such as leisure, education, business/ finance, and creative industries rather than in manufacturing.

Postmodernity

A globalised society with the following characteristics: a technologically advanced, mainly post-industrial service sector economy, high levels of consumption, lots of individual freedom to shape identities through consumption, and correspondingly high levels of cultural diversity; media-saturation and hyperreality; high levels of insecurity and uncertainty.

Privatisation

The transfer of publicly (state) owned enterprises to private sector companies.

Social Movements

Groups of people and/ or organisations who aim to help oppressed groups overcome oppression or change society in some way, believed to be beneficial. Global social movements involve co-operation of people across national borders, and their aims may sometimes clash with those of some national governments.

Thomas Freidman

An optimist globalist who believes that the world wide adoption of neoliberal policies by governments have resulted in economic globalisation, more trade between nations and increasing prosperity for all.

Time-Space Compression

Where the world ‘feels smaller’ as we are able to communicate with people in faraway places more instantaneously.

Transformationalism

A theory which holds that globalisation is a complex process involving a number of different two-way exchanges between global institutions and local cultures; it can be reversed and controlled.

United Nations

An international organization formed in 1945 to increase political and economic cooperation among member countries. The organization works on economic and social development programs, improving human rights and reducing global conflicts (source: Investovepida).

Weightless Economy

Refers to information based/ electronic products such as computer software, films and music, and information and financial services rather than actual tangible, physical goods such as food, clothing or cars. Such products can be produced, bought and sold much more rapidly than traditional, physical products, and thus trade in them is much more rapid, hence the term ‘weightless economy’.

Test yourself

You might like to test yourself on the above key terms using this Quizlet!

Related Posts 

Factors Contributing to Globalisation (Giddens)

What is Cultural Globalisation?

What is Economic Globalisation?

What is Political Globalisation?

The Human Development Index

The United Nations uses The Human Development Index (HDI) as a summary measure for assessing long-term progress in three basic dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, access to knowledge and a decent standard of living. It provides a useful ‘snap-shot’ of a country’s economic and social development.

HDI Scores in 2020

Dark Green is high ranging through to dark red which is low….

Source

The Human Development Index

The Human Development Index measures Human Development using four indicators

  • To measure health – Life expectancy at birth
  • To measure education – the average (mean) number years of adult education adults over 25 have received and the number of expected years of education children attending school can expect
  • To measure standard of living – Gross National Income per capita (PPP)

Each country is then given a rank from between 0 and 1 based on how well it scores in relation to ‘constructed minimum’ and ‘observed maximum scores for each of these criteria. The minimum and maximum scores for each criteria are as below

 Minimum scores*Perceived maximums
Life expectancy at birth2083.2
Mean years of adult education adults over 25 have received013.2
number of years of education children attending school can expect020.6
Gross National Income per capita (PPP)163108, 211

(*This is the level below which the UN believes there is no prospect for human development!)

How does the HDI work out a country’s score? – it’s quite easy – if a country has a life expectancy of 83.2, and all the other maximums, it would score one, if it had a life expectancy of 20, and all the other minimums it would score zero. If it was half way between the minimum and maximum – it would score 0.5 – NB by the UK’s standards, this would be a pretty low level of human development!

The Human Development Index – Best and Worst Performers

Top

1 Norway0.954
2  Switzerland0.946
3 Ireland0.942
4 Germany0.939
4 Hong Kong0.939
6 Australia0.938
6 Iceland0.938
8 Sweden0.937
9 Singapore0.935
10 Netherlands0.933

Towards the Bottom 

179 Congo, Democratic Republic e0.459
180 Mozambique0.446
181 Sierra Leone0.438
182 Burkina Faso0.434
182 Eritrea0.434
184 Mali0.427
185 Burundi0.423
186 South Sudan0.413
187 Chad0.401
188 Central African Republic0.381
189 Niger0.377

What do the scores above mean?

  • If a country scores 1-0.788 it is classified as a ‘developed country’ with ‘high human development’ – as are 42 countries – most European countries come into this category. These are typically the countries with GNIs of $40K per capita or more, 13 full years of education and 80+ life expectancies.
  • If a country scores 0.48 or lower it is classified as having Low human development – e.g. Sierra Leonne – here you will see a GNI per capita of below $1000, 10 years or less of school and life expectancies in the 60s.

Advantages of the Human Development Index

  • It provides us with a much fuller picture of how well developed a country is, allowing for fuller comparisons to be made.
  • It shows us that while there is a general correlation between economic and social development, two countries with the same level of economic development may have different levels of social development. See below for examples.
  • Some argue that this is a more human centred approach, concerned more with actual human welfare than just mere economics. It gets more to ‘the point’ of economic development.

Two Limitations of the Human Development Index

  • Relying on the HDI score alone may disguise a lack of social development in a country – for example a very high GNI can compensate for poor life-expectancy, as is the case in the United States.
  • It is still only provides a fairly limited indication of social development – only health and education are covered – there are many other ways of measuring health and education.

Economic Indicators of Development

International organisations such as the World Bank prefer to measure development using economic indicators. There are three main economic indicators which are used to give an indication of the overall economic health of a country.

This post has primarily been written for students studying the Global Development option for A-level Sociology.

Three Economic Indicators of Development

  • Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is the total economic value of goods and services (expressed in US dollars) produced within the borders of a country in the course of a year and available for consumption in the market place.
  • Gross National Product (GNP) is the same but includes the value of all services produced at home and abroad. A country such as Ghana will have a relatively similar GDP to GNP because it doesn’t have many companies which produce things abroad: most production takes place within Ghana. America, on the other hand, which is where many Transnational Corporations are based, has a much higher GNP than GDP – Think about MacDonald’s for example –all of those Big Macs sold outside of the USA won’t appear in the GDP of the USA but will appear in the GNP.
  • Gross National Income (GNI) a hideous oversimplification of this is that it’s ‘Gross Domestic Product + the additional income that self-employed people pay themselves +income received from abroad’. This matters to a lot of developing countries who don’t produce much but have large diasporas, or populations living permanently abroad. Take Gambia for example (the country Paul Mendy takes your old toys to at Christmas) – 1/6th of its GNI is from money sent by relatives who abroad, this would not be included in either GDP or GNP.

You get slightly different country rankings if you use GNP or GDP rather than GNI. Don’t worry too much about the differences between the above – with a few exceptions* most developing countries tend to have similar GDPs, GNPs and GNI*s.

GDP and GNI per capita in India
*If you look at India’s Gross Domestic Product, it is the 6th richest country in the world, but if you look at its Gross National Income per Capita, it falls to the mid 100s, due to its enormous population, abut also due to the fact that it consumes a lot of the goods it produces itself, so it doesn’t export much, so there’s not a lot of income coming into the country.

‘Per Capita’ and ‘Purchasing Power Parity’

  • Gross National Product Per Capita – GDP/ GNP are often divided by the total population of a country in order to provide a figure per head of population, known as GDP/ GNP per capita.
  • The cost of living varies in different countries – so one dollar will buy you a lot more rice in India than it would in America. Purchasing Power Parity figures for GNI per capita factor in the cost of living which is useful as it gives you more of an idea of the actual standard of living in that country for the average person.

Gross National Income Per Capita

This section provides a closer look different levels of ‘development’ according to this particular economic indicator. Remember, global rankings will vary depending on whether you use GNI, GNP, or GDP. 

One measurement of development The World Bank uses is Gross National Income (GNI), which can be crudely defined as the total value of goods and services produced in a country in a year plus any income from abroad. If you divide GNI by the number of people in the country, you get the average amount of income per person, or GNI per capita.

GNI per capita is widely regarded as a good indicator of the general standard of living in a country, and it is a good starting point for giving us an idea of the extent of global inequalities between countries. For example, the United Kingdom has a GNI per capita of about $43 000, while India has a GNI per capita of about $1600, which is more than 20 times greater.

The World Bank’s map of countries by Gross National Income per capita map is a useful, interactive resources to easily find out how most countries fair by this indicator of development. 

The World Bank’s Four Income Categories

The World Bank categorises countries into one of four categories based Gross National Income per capita (per head): high, upper middle, lower middle and low income countries.

  • High income = $12, 536 or more – about 60 countries, including most of Europe
  • Upper middle income = $4,046 – $12,535 – about 60 countries, includes South Africa and China
  • Lower middle income = $1,036 – $4, 045 – about 50 countries, mostly in Africa, includes India
  • Low income = $1,035 or less – about 30 countries, mostly in Sub-Saharan

Comparing countries by GNI per Capita and total GDP

Top ten countries – GNI per capita (source)

Monaco.jpg
Monaco -full of wealth people but for some reason no longer at the top of the GNI per capita rankings!

1 Liechtenstein116,4302009
 Bermuda (UK)106,1402013
2  Switzerland85,5002019
3 Norway82,5002019
 Macau (China)78,6402018
 Isle of Man (UK)75,3402017
4 Luxembourg73,9102019
5 Iceland72,8502019
 Channel Islands (UK)66,2302007
6 United States65,7602019
7 Qatar63,4102019
8 Denmark63,2402019
9 Ireland62,2102019
10 Singapore59,5902019

Top ten countries Total by Gross Domestic Product (source)

United States.jpg
The United States – ranked number 1 in the world for total GDP
1 United States20,807,269
2 China[n 2][n 3]14,860,775
3 Japan4,910,580
4 Germany3,780,553
5 United Kingdom2,638,296
6 India2,592,583
7 France2,551,451
8 Italy1,848,222
9 Canada1,600,264
10 South Korea1,586,786

Question to consider: Why do you think the top ten countries are so different when judged by total GDP compared to GNI per capita?

Evaluating the Usefulness of Economic Indicators of Development

Three Advantages of using GDP/ GNP/ GNI as an indicator of development

  1. GNI figures provide a snap-shot indication of the huge difference between the more developed and less developed countries. In 2016, the GNP per capita in the UK was $43000 while in India it was only $1600. This means that there is 20 times as much money per person in the UK compared to in India
  2. Gross National Income figures are also closely correlated with social development – generally speaking the higher the GNI per capita, the better the education and health indicators are in a country.
  3. Total GDP figures give us an indication of who the most powerful nations are on earth in terms of military power. It’s not a perfect correlation, but the USA, China, Russia and the UK are all in the top ten for GDP and they are the biggest arms producers and consumers in the world too.

Four limitations of using GDP/ GNP/ GNI as an indicators of development

  1. Quality of life (Social Development) may be higher or lower than suggested by GNP per capita.
  2. They don’t tell us about inequalities within countries. The USA has one of the highest GNPs in the world but some extreme poverty.
  3. A lot of production in developing countries may not be included. For example, subsistence based production is consumed locally in the community, and not sold in the market place. Similarly goods obtained illegally on the black market are not included in GNP measurement
  4. They are very western concepts, equating production and economic growth with development. Some countries may not want economic growth and have different goals (Bhutan)

The United States – economically developed but socially retarded? 

The USA is a good example of a country that demonstrates why we can’t rely on economic indicators alone to give us a valid indication of how developed a country is. Despite ranking number 1 for total GDP, the USA does a lot worse on many social indicators of development – See this post – ‘The USA – an undeveloped country?’ for more details.

Review Questions 

  • Define Gross National Income Per Capita and be able to identify some high income and lower income countries.
  • Explain the difference between GNI, GDP, GNP, and understand the significance of Purchasing Power Parity.
  • Outline three strengths of using economic indicators of development
  • Outline at least three reasons why GNP may not be valid measurements of ‘development’