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Social Stratification Resources

RESOURCE: Social Stratification Resources

What is Social Stratification

  • For tens of thousands of years, humans lived in small hunting and gathering societies.
    • Stratification based on Gender & Age
  • As societies became more complex, major changes came about.
  • Changes elevated certain categories of the population by giving them more power, money, and prestige
  • Structured inequality of access to rewards, resources, and privileges that are scarce and desirable within a society.
  • Inequality of an entire category of people, who have different access to social rewards as a result of their status in a social hierarchy.
  • Social stratification is a trait of society, not simply a reflection of individual differences.
    • Children born into wealthy families are more likely than children born in poverty to experience good health, achieve academically, succeed in life’s work and live a long life.
    • Titanic lower strata did not die because of personal failing


Social stratification persists over generations.

    • In all societies, parents pass their social position on to their children.

Social stratification is universal but variable.

    • In some societies, inequality is mostly a matter of prestige; in others, wealth or power is the key dimension of difference. More importantly some societies display more inequality than others.

Social stratification involves not just inequality but beliefs.

    • Any system of inequality gives some people more than others and the society also defines the arrangements as fair.


  • Social Inequality à condition in which members of a society have different amounts of wealth, prestige, and power
    • Wealth: All of a persons material assets (land, auto, home, jewelry)

 psychology  Social Stratification Resources psychology

Forms of Stratification:

  • Slavery
  • Caste
  • Estate
  • Social Class



Caste System in India

  • Impossible to maintain the caste system unaltered in contemporary India.
    • Introduction of new professions
    • Wageworkers are hired on the basis of qualifications (achieved status) rather then caste
    • Authorities actively try to level out differences between castes through quotas for various castes in the public sector.
      • Urbanization makes it difficult to classify the people one meets.
      • Moving to city where no one knows you, one can escape stigma of caste


Max Weber

  • Believed that social class is more than just differences in material wealth.
  • Other defining characteristics:
  • Power – ability to achieve one’s goals and control others, even against the will of others
  • Political Status
  • Prestige– degree of respect, favorable regard, or importance according to an individual by members of a society
  • Social Status
  • Wealth (Property) – accumulated economic resources
  • Economic Status



  • Society’s positions must be filled.
  • Some positions are more important than others.
  • The more important positions are filled by qualified people.



  • No society can exist unless it is organized.
  • Leadership means inequalities of power.
  • Human nature is self-centered so there are injustices in how the power is divided and used.


Dimensions of Social Inequality

  • Income- wages or salary from work and earnings from investments.
  • Wealth- the total value of money and other assets, minus outstanding debts.
    • Wealth includes stocks, bonds, and real estate— is distributed even less equally than income.
  • Occupational Prestige
  • In addition to being a source of income, work also provides social prestige. We commonly evaluate each other according to the kind of work we do, respecting some and looking down on others
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