Social Space, Social Class, and Bourdieu: Health Inequalities in British Columbia, Canada

Department of Anthropology and Sociology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada.
Health & Place (Impact Factor: 2.81). 04/2007; 13(1):14-31. DOI: 10.1016/j.healthplace.2005.09.011
Source: PubMed


This article adopts Pierre Bourdieu's cultural-structuralist approach to conceptualizing and identifying social classes in social space and seeks to identify health effects of class in one Canadian province. Utilizing data from an original questionnaire survey of randomly selected adults from 25 communities in British Columbia, social (class) groupings defined by cultural tastes and dispositions, lifestyle practices, social background, educational capital, economic capital, social capital and occupational categories are presented in visual mappings of social space constructed by use of exploratory multiple correspondence analysis techniques. Indicators of physical and mental health are then situated within this social space, enabling speculations pertaining to health effects of social class in British Columbia.


Available from: Gerry Veenstra
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    • "Some such studies have brought a better understanding of the cultural underpinnings of choicerelated behaviours, and the manner in which social inequalities in health are perpetuated (e.g. Abel and Frohlich, 2012; Cockerham, 2005; Veenstra, 2007). This is because Bourdieu's approach interrogates the intersection of both material and symbolic factors which condition and structure the social context within which choices are made. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The promotion of choice is a common theme in both policy discourses and commercial marketing claims about healthcare. However, within the multiple potential pathways of the healthcare ‘maze’, how do healthcare ‘consumers’ or patients understand and experience choice? What is meant by ‘choice’ in the policy context, and, importantly from a sociological perspective, how are such choices socially produced and structured? In this theoretical article, the authors consider the interplay of Bourdieu’s three key, interlinked concepts – capital, habitus and field – in the structuring of healthcare choice. These are offered as an alternative to rational choice theory, where ‘choice’ is regarded uncritically as a fundamental ‘good’ and able to provide a solution to the problems of the healthcare system. The authors argue that sociological analyses of healthcare choice must take greater account of the ‘field’ in which choices are made in order to better explain the structuring of choice.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2015 · Current Sociology
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    • "The Neo-Marxist approach, elaborated below, can be summarized by a focus on relations of economic production, through processes of ownership and labour, domination and exploitation. Other theories of class have also gained interest in population health research; for example, Bourdieu's framework, in which groupings of individuals in a multidimensional social space, with various forms of capital – social, economic, cultural, and symbolic – share circumstances and interests and can manifest classes (Bourdieu, 1987; Veenstra, 2007). Although these three approaches have been subject to several empirical comparisons in sociology (Marshall et al, 2005) and population health (Wolfarth, 1997; Muntaner et al, 2003), the theoretical and empirical status of the Neo-Marxist approach has yet to be examined. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Most population health researchers conceptualize social class as a set of attributes and material conditions of life of individuals. The empiricist tradition of 'class as an individual attribute' equates class to an 'observation', precluding the investigation of unobservable social mechanisms. Another consequence of this view of social class is that it cannot be conceptualized, measured, or intervened upon at the meso- or macro levels, being reduced to a personal attribute. Thus, population health disciplines marginalize rich traditions in Marxist theory whereby 'class' is understood as a 'hidden' social mechanism such as exploitation. Yet Neo-Marxist social class has been used over the last two decades in population health research as a way of understanding how health inequalities are produced. The Neo-Marxist approach views social class in terms of class relations that give persons control over productive assets and the labour power of others (property and managerial relations). We critically appraise the contribution of the Neo-Marxist approach during the last two decades and suggest realist amendments to understand class effects on the social determinants of health and health outcomes. We argue that when social class is viewed as a social causal mechanism it can inform social change to reduce health inequalities.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2015 · Social Theory & Health
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    • "For example, the health effects of institutionalized cultural capital and economic capital have been extensively investigated under the rubric of socioeconomic status and health5678. Embodied cultural capital has also received some attention in recent years910111213 and research on social capital and health is now voluminous141516 . For the most part, these studies have documented distinct health effects of the various forms of capital, typically finding that, all else being equal, more capital tends to correspond with better health. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Introduction We apply capital interplay theory to health inequalities in Switzerland by investigating the interconnected effects of parental cultural, economic and social capitals and personal educational stream on the self-rated health of young Swiss men who live with their parents. Methods We apply logistic regression modelling to self-rated health in original cross-sectional survey data collected during mandatory conscription of Swiss male citizens in 2010 and 2011 (n = 23,975). Results In comparison with sons whose parents completed mandatory schooling only, sons with parents who completed technical college or university were significantly more likely to report very good or excellent self-rated health. Parental economic capital was an important mediating factor in this regard. Number of books in the home (parental cultural capital), family economic circumstances (parental economic capital) and parental ties to influential people (parental social capital) were also independently associated with the self-rated health of the sons. Although sons in the highest educational stream tended to report better health than those in the lowest, we found little evidence for a health-producing intergenerational transmission of capitals via the education stream of the sons. Finally, the positive association between personal education and self-rated health was stronger among sons with relatively poorly educated parents and stronger among sons with parents who were relatively low in social capital. Conclusions Our study provides empirical support for the role of capital interplays, social processes in which capitals interpenetrate or co-constitute one another, in the intergenerational production of the health of young men in Switzerland.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2015 · International Journal for Equity in Health
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