What is Social Stratification? • Social stratification – a system by which a society ranks categories of people in a hierarchy. • Stratification is a trait of society. • It persists over generations. • It is universal, but variable. • It involves not just inequality, but beliefs.
A caste system – social stratification based on ascription or birth. Birth alone determines one’s destiny. There is little opportunity for social mobility. India and South Africa A class system – social stratification based on both birth and individual achievement. Even blood relatives may have different social standings. Meritocracy – based on personal merit. United States Caste and Class Systems
Social inequality plays a vital role. The Davis-Moore Thesis – stratification has beneficial consequences for the operation of a society. Certain jobs can be performed by almost anyone. Other jobs demand the scarce talents of people with extensive training. The greater the importance of a position, the more rewards attached to it. The Functions of Social Stratification
Stratification and Conflict • Stratification provides some people with advantages over others. • Karl Marx explained you can either own property, or work for others. • Capitalism makes class conflict inevitable. • In time, oppression and misery should drive the working majority to overthrow capitalism.
Stratification and Conflict • Max Weber agreed that stratification causes social conflict. • He argued that it involves three dimensions of inequality: (1) Class position. (2) Status. (3) Power. • Socioeconomic status (SES) – a composite ranking based on various dimensions of inequality (EWOP).
Stratification and Technology • With simple technology, survival depends on sharing what group members have. • As technological advances create surplus, inequality increases. • Industrialization turns the tide, lessening inequality. • The Kuznets Curve – high-income nations that have passed through the industrial era have less economic inequality.
Figure 8-2 (p. 199)Social Stratification and Technological Development: The Kuznets Curve
Inequality in the United States • Society is highly stratified. • The rich have more money, more education, better health, and consume more goods and services than the poor. • Income – wages or salary from work and earnings from investments.
Wealth – the total value of money and other assets, minus outstanding debts. Wealth is distributed less equally than income. Work provides income and prestige. We evaluate each other according to the kind of work we do. Occupational rankings are much the same in all industrial societies. Wealth, Power, and Prestige
Families in the upper class earn at least $160,000 annually and may earn ten times that much. Less than one percent of the population are in the upper-upper class. The majority of the population are in the middle class. One-third of the population reside in the working class. The remaining twenty percent of the population are in the lower class. Social Class in the United States
The Difference Class Makes • Health is closely related to social standing. • Children born into poor families are three times more likely to die from disease, neglect, accidents, or violence during their first year of life. • Affluent people have a strong sense of family history, and are more tolerant of controversial behavior.
The Difference Class Makes • More privileged people support the Republican party, and people with fewer advantages favor the Democrats. • Most lower-class families are somewhat larger than middle-class families. • Class also shapes our world of relationships.
Intragenerational social mobility – a change in social position occurring during a person’s lifetime. Intergenerational social mobility – upward or downward social mobility of children in relation to their parents. Social Mobility
Poverty in the United States • Relative poverty – the deprivation of some people in relation to those who have more. • Absolute poverty – a deprivation of resources that is life threatening. • In 2003, the government tallied 35.9 million people as poor in this country.
One View: Blame the Poor The poor are mostly responsible for their own poverty. Anyone who is poor either cannot or will not work. Counterpoint: Blame Society Society is primarily responsible for poverty. The loss of jobs in the inner cities is the primary cause. Explaining Poverty
Homelessness • There is no precise count of homeless people. • Most homeless people report they do not work. • One-third of the homeless are substance abusers. • One-fourth are mentally ill. • Most live in urban areas.