Assess the View That Ethnicity Is the Most Important Factor in Determining an Individual's Life Chances.

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Using material from Item E and elsewhere, assess the view that ethnicity is the most important factor in determining an individual's life chances. (21 marks)

8% of the current UK population belong to an ethnic minority. When studying Ethnic minorities, sociologists prefer to use the term 'ethnicity' rather than 'race' as race only refers to biological differences, unlike ethnicity which places emphasis on culture and nationality. However researching an issue such as life chances can cause difficulty as many ethnic groups can be subdivided. In many areas of life it can be observed that ethnic minorities can be seen to be at a disadvantage in comparison to the white majority. In terms of education, Modood et al states that Black Caribbean boys are most likely to be excluded from school than any other ethnic groups. Item E also refers to ethnic minorities in education by stating that 'Official statistics show that educational achievement and patterns of employment vary greatly between different ethnic groups'. Official statistics show that Chinese and Idians are generally the highest achievers. Not only is educational achievement affected by ethnicity, health and crime also show patterns between ethnic groups. For example, Pakistani and Bangladeshi's have the highest levels of ill health and the British Crime Survey found that ethnic minorities are most likely to be victims of crime.

Sociologist have varied opinions on the topic of ethnicity affecting life chances. Weberians such as Rex belief that the term 'underclass' describes Britain's ethnic minorities. New Right sociologists agree and believe that they are in the underclass because they are unwilling to work and depend on state benefits. This view is often critiscised on the basis that by blaming the victims, New Right sociologists ignore influences of racism within society. Giddens argues that ethnic minorities can be found in the underclass as a result of poor access to education. Marxist on the other hand,...