In a democratic society, the people control the government. Economics divides these people into two categories?the rich and the poor. The poor are not protected from the unbalance of power held by people who have more money and social status. Having a high social status almost guarantees access to society's resources. Social mobility is the degree to which, in a democratic society, an individual?s social status can change during his or her life. All too often though, societal norms?whether implicit or explicit, challenge the principle of social mobility. Employment, affordable housing, health care, and quality education are not equally distributed in our society because the government addresses the needs of the poor with a market basket approach, which is a fixed standard of living that is set without an explicit reference to societal norms. This approach implies that the poor are entitled to a ?basket of goods,? but not a share of economic wealth (Shillington, 1999).
Social work seeks to change this pattern of unequal treatment by addressing the social problems caused by inequality. The purpose of social and economic justice, one of the core professional values, is to change negative attitudes about the poor while working to create access to better services and goods for them. This advocacy is only effective when social workers have an unambiguous understanding of social institutions, know who the disadvantaged are, and know how to campaign for social change on their behalf.
Institutions are the social practices of groups. Family, religion, education, healthcare, the work place, and government all represent social institutions that govern the way humans interact with each other in society. Social institutions seek to maintain order, have purpose and define individual and collective roles. For instance, the role of the family is to reproduce, care for the young, socialize new members,