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Chapter 3: A wealthy society, but a welfare state?


  • Translate the words in parentheses into English and insert them into the blanks:

    • a) Nearly half of (arbejdsløse) ____________ Americans are on the verge of completely giving up on looking for a job.
    • b) Shifts in the cost of living, especially higher prices in essentials such as food and fuel, (påvirker) ____________ most people.
    • c) The White House says that although (fremskridt) ____________ has been made in reducing poverty, government can still play an active role in increasing economic opportunity.
    • d) When thinking about (ulighed) ____________, it is important to take account of measures other than income and, in particular, to look at social mobility.
    • e) In reality, the living conditions of poor Americans have shown significant (forbedring) ____________ over time.
    • f) African-Americans and Hispanics are charged with and (dømt) ____________ of violent crimes far more often than whites or Asian-Americans.

  • Find synonyms for the terms wealthy and poor.
  • Walk and talk: Pair up, go for a short walk, and discuss the following claims:

    • - Short-term unemployment benefits (instead of permanent ones) work as incentives for people to join or re-enter the labor market
    • - A user fee for doctors’ visits stops abuse of the system and saves money
    • - Tax cuts for the rich increase economic activity and benefit society as a whole


  • 1. Describe the history of the American welfare model and the different types of welfare programs.
  • 2. Explain how financing, poverty, a racially segregated population, and the obesity epidemic challenge the American welfare system.
  • 3. Summarize Dennis Gilbert’s division into social classes.
  • 4. The United State is an “opportunity society”, but in recent years it has become extremely difficult to move upward in society. What are the reasons for the low social mobility in the U.S.?
  • 5. The American family structure and gender roles are undergoing serious changes. What do these changes consist of?
  • 6. Explain the differences between the American and the Danish views on crime.
  • 7. In recent years there has been much debate about gun control in the United States. Describe some of the episodes that have caused this debate.


  • 1. Explain the figure:

Source: Pew Charitable Trusts Economic Mobility Project, Pursuing the American Dream: Economic Mobility Across Generations, July 2012. 

  • 2. Use the website to make a fake Facebook profile of a person who might belong to the upper class, the middle class, or the lower class.
  • 3. Analyze Barack Obama’s Remarks by the President on Economic Mobility (December 4, 2013) including its structure, forms of appeal, rhetorical devices, theme, message etc.
  • 4. Discussion: Is it possible to achieve the American dream?
  • 5. Read the article “Det er stadig svært at få henrettelser til at fremstå ’hurtigt, humant og smertefrit’” (Information, May 31, 2014) and write an English summary of it.
  • 6. Discussion: Find arguments either for or against the death penalty. Discuss in small groups or in class.
  • 7. Discussion: Find arguments for and against the second amendment of the Bill of Rights. Pair up with someone, assign viewpoints and discuss. Afterwards, switch partners and viewpoints.

    • Amendment II
    • Right to bear arms
    • A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

      • arms våben
      • infringe overtræde, krænke

  • 8. Discussion: Does lethal violence in films and videogames inspire teenagers to commit violent acts?
  • 9. Work in groups with the aspects related to class and social mobility listed below. Find information and pictures/videos about your aspect and prepare a presentation.

    • - Education
    • - Occupation
    • - Race
    • - Religion
    • - Residence
    • - Health
    • - Consumption