SOC 2010 Lecture Notes - Social Class In The United States, Social Stratification, Ascribed Status
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Social Stratification refers to the unequal manner in which scarce resources and social rewards are
distributed among different social categories and groups.
• Life Chances refer to the likelihood of realizing a certain standard of living or quality of life, including
health and well-being.
• The unequal distribution of income and wealth has been remarkably stable. Large differences of
income and wealth have existed as long as these data have been collected.
• Also, there have been persistent differences in income and wealth between men and women, the
young and old, and white and non-white Americans.
Social Stratification is a Social Process
• Social stratification is a characteristic of society, not simply a function of individual differences
• Social stratification is universal, but variable
• Social stratification persists over generations
• Social stratification involves not just inequality but beliefs about inequality
Major Stratification Systems
1) Caste System – a closed system based on ascribed status (birth)
- Nothing can be done to affect mobility and there are no chances of changing one’s social position
- Such societies also recognize “ritual pollution” (i.e., certain types of interaction between people of
different castes are prohibited because they tend to contaminate members of the higher caste)
- Such a system promotes endogamy (i.e., marriage within one’s own caste)
• There are five castes in India:
1) priests, scholars, and their descendents
2) nobility, warriors, and their descendents
3) merchants and skilled artisans (or their descendents)
4) unskilled laborers
5) outcasts or “untouchables”
2) Slavery System – the ownership of some people by others
- Contrary to popular assumption, slavery was not usually based on racism, but on one of three other