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Social Stratification

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Western University
Sociology 3321F/G

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 la
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