Comprehension Questions 04

Passage 1:

In 1896 a Georgia couple suing for damages in the accidental death of their two year old was told that since the child had made no real economic contribution to the family, there was no liability for damages. In contrast, less than a century later, in 1979, the parents of a three year old sued in New York for accidental-death damages and won an award of $750,000.

The transformation in social values implicit in juxtaposing these two incidents is the subject of Viviana Zelizer’s excellent book, Pricing the Priceless Child. During the nineteenth century, she argues, the concept of the “useful” child who contributed to the family economy gave way gradually to the present-day notion of the “useless” child who, though producing no income for, and indeed extremely costly to, its parents, is yet considered emotionally “priceless.” Well established among segments of the middle and upper classes by the mid-1800’s, this new view of childhood spread throughout society in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries as reformers introduced child-labor regulations and compulsory education laws predicated in part on the assumption that a child’s emotional value made child labor taboo. For Zelizer, the origins of this transformation were many and complex. The gradual erosion of children’s productive value in a maturing industrial economy, the decline in birth and death rates, especially in child mortality, and the development of the companionate family (a family in which members were united by explicit bonds of love rather than duty) were all factors critical in changing the assessment of children’s worth.

Yet “expulsion of children from the ‘cash nexus,’…although clearly shaped by profound changes in the economic, occupational, and family structures,” Zelizer maintains. “was also part of a cultural process ‘of sacralization’ of children’s lives. ” Protecting children from the crass business world became enormously important for late-nineteenth-century middle-class Americans, she suggests; this sacralization was a way of resisting what they perceived as the relentless corruption of human values by the marketplace.

In stressing the cultural determinants of a child’s worth, Zelizer takes issue with practitioners of the new “sociological economics,” who have analyzed such traditionally sociological topics as crime, marriage, education, and health solely in terms of their economic determinants. Allowing only a small role for cultural forces in the form of individual “preferences,” these sociologists tend to view all human behavior as directed primarily by the principle of maximizing economic gain. Zelizer is highly critical of this approach, and emphasizes instead the opposite phenomenon: the power of social values to transform price. As children became more valuable in emotional terms, she argues, their “exchange” or “surrender” value on the market, that is, the conversion of their intangible worth into cash terms, became much greater.

 

Based on the Passage, answer the following questions:

1. It can be inferred from the passage that accidental-death damage awards in America during the nineteenth century tended to be based principally on the

(A) earnings of the person at time of death

(B) wealth of the party causing the death

(C) degree of culpability of the party causing the death

(D) amount of money that had been spent on the person killed

(E) amount of suffering endured by the family of the person killed

 

2. It can be inferred from the passage that in the early 1800’s children were generally regarded by their families as individuals who

(A) needed enormous amounts of security and affection

(B) required constant supervision while working

(C) were important to the economic well-being of a family

(D) were unsuited to spending long hours in school

(E) were financial burdens assumed for the good of society

 

3. Which of the following alternative explanations of the change in the cash value of children would be most likely to be put forward by sociological economists as they are described in the passage?

(A) The cash value of children rose during the nineteenth century because parents began to increase their emotional investment in the upbringing of their children.

(B) The cash value of children rose during the nineteenth century because their expected earnings over the course of a lifetime increased greatly.

(C) The cash value of children rose during the nineteenth century because the spread of humanitarian ideals resulted in a wholesale reappraisal of the worth of an individual

(D) The cash value of children rose during the nineteenth century because compulsory education laws reduced the supply, and thus raised the costs, of available child labor.

(E)The cash value of children rose during the nineteenth century because of changes in the way negligence law assessed damages in accidental-death cases.

 

4. The primary purpose of the passage is to

(A) review the literature in a new academic subfield

(B) present the central thesis of a recent book

(C) contrast two approaches to analyzing historical change

(D) refute a traditional explanation of a social phenomenon

(E) encourage further work on a neglected historical topic

 

5. It can be inferred from the passage that which of the following statements was true of American families over the course of the nineteenth century?

(A) The average size of families grew considerably

(B) The percentage of families involved in industrial work declined dramatically.

(C) Family members became more emotionally bonded to one another.

(D) Family members spent an increasing amount of time working with each other.

(E) Family members became more economically dependent on each other.

 

6. Zelizer refers to all of the following as important influences in changing the assessment of children’s worth EXCEPT changes in

(A) the mortality rate

(B) the nature of industry

(C) the nature of the family

(D) attitudes toward reform movements

(E) attitudes toward the marketplace

 

Passage 2:

Prior to 1975, union efforts to organize public-sector clerical workers, most of whom are women, were somewhat limited. The factors favoring unionization drives seem to have been either the presence of large numbers of workers, as in New York City, to make it worth the effort, or the concentration of small numbers in one or two locations, such as a hospital, to make it relatively easy, Receptivity to unionization on the workers, part was also a consideration, but when there were large numbers involved or the clerical workers were the only unorganized group in a jurisdiction,

the multioccupational unions would often try to organize them regardless of the workers’ initial receptivity. The strategic reasoning was based, first, on the concern that politicians and administrators might play off unionized against nonunionized workers, and, second, on the conviction that a fully unionized public work force meant power, both at the bargaining table and in the legislature. In localities where clerical workers were few in number, were scattered in several workplaces, and expressed no interest in being organized, unions more often than not ignored them in the pre-1975 period.

But since the mid-1970’s, a different strategy has emerged. In 1977, 34 percent of government clerical workers were represented by a labor organization, compared with 46 percent of government professionals, 44 percent of government blue-collar workers, and 41 percent of government service workers, Since then, however, the biggest increases in public-sector unionization have been among clerical workers. Between 1977 and 1980, the number of unionized government workers in blue-collar and service occupations increased only about 1.5 percent, while in the white-collar occupations the increase was 20 percent and among clerical workers in particular, the increase was 22 percent.

What accounts for this upsurge in unionization among clerical workers? First, more women have entered the work force in the past few years, and more of them plan to remain working until retirement age. Consequently, they are probably more concerned than their predecessors were about job security and economic benefits. Also, the women’s movement has succeeded in legitimizing the economic and political activism of women on their own behalf, thereby producing a more positive attitude toward unions. The absence of any comparable increase in unionization among private-sector clerical workers, however, identifies the primary catalyst-the structural change in the multioccupational public-sector unions themselves. Over the past twenty years, the occupational distribution in these unions has been steadily shifting from predominantly blue-collar to predominantly white-collar. Because there are far more women in white-collar jobs, an increase in the proportion of female members has accompanied the occupational shift and has altered union policy-making in favor of organizing women and addressing women’s issues.

 

Based on the Passage, answer the following questions:

7) According to the passage, the public-sector workers who were most likely to belong to unions in 1977 were

(A) professionals

(B) managers

(C) clerical workers

(D) service workers

(E) blue-collar workers

 

8) The author cites union efforts to achieve a fully unionized work force in order to account for why

(A) politicians might try to oppose public-sector union organizing

(B) public-sector unions have recently focused on organizing women

(C) early organizing efforts often focused on areas where there were large numbers of workers

(D) union efforts with regard to public-sector clerical workers increased dramatically after 1975

(E) unions sometimes tried to organize workers regardless of the workers’ initial interest in unionization

 

9) The author’s claim that, since the mid-1970’s, a new strategy has emerged in the unionization of public-sector clerical workers would be strengthened if the author

(A) described more fully the attitudes of clerical workers toward labor unions

(B) compared the organizing strategies employed by private-sector unions with those of public-sector unions

(C) explained why politicians and administrators sometimes oppose unionization of clerical workers

(D) indicated that the number of unionized public-sector clerical workers was increasing even before the mid-1970’s

(E) showed that the factors that favored unionization drives among these workers prior to 1975 have decreased in importance

 

10) According to the passage, in the period prior to 1975, each of the following considerations helped determine whether a union would attempt to organize a certain group of clerical workers EXCEPT

(A) the number of clerical workers in that group

(B) the number of women among the clerical workers in that group

(C) whether the clerical workers in that area were concentrated in one workplace or scattered over several workplaces

(D) the degree to which the clerical workers in that group were interested in unionization

(E) whether all the other workers in the same jurisdiction as that group of clerical workers were unionized

 

11) The author states that which of the following is a consequence of the women’s movement of recent years?

(A) An increase in the number of women entering the work force

(B) A structural change in multioccupational public-sector unions

(C) A more positive attitude on the part of women toward unions

(D) An increase in the proportion of clerical workers that are women

(E) An increase in the number of women in administrative positions

 

12) The main concern of the passage is to

(A) advocate particular strategies for future efforts to organize certain workers into labor unions

(B) explain differences in the unionized proportions of various groups of public-sector workers

(C) evaluate the effectiveness of certain kinds of labor unions that represent public-sector workers

(D) analyzed and explain an increase in unionization among a certain category of workers

(E) describe and distinguish strategies appropriate to organizing different categories of workers