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Chapter 7: Social Stratification and Social Class What to Expect in This Chapter... What is Social Stratification? Social Mobility Stratification Systems Dimensions of Stratification Theories of Stratification Social Class in the United States Poverty in the United States

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chapter 7

Chapter 7:

Social Stratification and Social Class

what to expect in this chapter
What to Expect in This Chapter...
  • What is Social Stratification?
  • Social Mobility
  • Stratification Systems
  • Dimensions of Stratification
  • Theories of Stratification
  • Social Class in the United States
  • Poverty in the United States
  • Consequences of Social Stratification
what is social stratification
What is Social Stratification?
  • Social stratification is “...the division of society into levels, steps or positions”
  • Stratification is, in essence, the structured inequality of entire categories of people
  • Stratification is different than mere inequality, which refers to the uneven distribution of opportunities and rewards to individuals and groups.
  • When these inequalities becomes structured into society and passed on from generation to generation, we have social stratification
social mobility
Social mobility refers to the movement of persons or groups from one social stratum to another

Social mobility is more possible in open societies which provide greater opportunities for mobility, than in closed societies which fixes one’s position at birth

Sociologists distinguish between several types of mobility

Social Mobility
factors affecting social mobility
Sociologists have identified several structural-level factors which impact the likelihood of social mobility

Economic Conditions

Number of people in the workforce

Values and educational level

Factors Affecting Social Mobility
types of stratification systems
Caste systems are very rigid, closed systems of stratification based on ascribed characteristics such as skin color or family identity

Estate systemsare also closed systems based largely on inheritance

Class systemsare open systems that permit meaningful social mobility

Types of Stratification Systems
dimensions of social stratification
Dimensions of Social Stratification
  • Wealth—the economic assets of an individual, including income, monetary assets and other holdings
  • Power—the ability to attain goals and maintain influence over others, even in the absence of their consent
  • Prestige—the approval and respect received from other members of society
prestige rankings of various occupations
Prestige Rankings of Various Occupations

Click Image to go to Occupational Outlook Handbook

theories of stratification functionalist theory
Theories of Stratification: Functionalist Theory
  • You will remember that functionalist theory understands society as a “system” or “organism”
  • As functionalists, Kingsley Davis and Wilbert Moore contended that stratification was a necessity for society because:
    • Society has numerous positions that must be fulfilled if it is to function properly
    • Some positions, however are more important for the maintenance of society (e.g., physicians)
    • Finally, some positions require special talents that are not generally prevalent in the population
  • Hence, functionally important positions and/or positions requiring rare talent are rewarded most highly
criticisms of functional theory
Criticisms of Functional Theory
  • Ex Post Facto Judgment of Functional Importance of Positions
    • Critics question the functional importance of certain highly rewarded positions such as actors and sports figures, in contrast to positions such as school teachers or social workers
  • The Stratification System itself Inhibits Talent and Abilities
    • Many barriers are placed in the way of individuals from lower classes to keep them from competing effectively
theories of stratification marxist conflict theory
Theories of Stratification: Marxist Conflict Theory
  • Suggests that social stratification is determined by the the relations of production
    • bourgeoisie--capitalists who own the means of production
    • proletariat--wage laborers who sell their labor to bourgeoisie
  • Interests of these two classes are intrinsically opposed
    • Power of the capitalists allows them to impose their will and realize their interests
    • According to Marx, the proletariat will eventually develop a class consciousness, and ultimately overthrow the capitalists
social class in the united states
Social Class in the United States
  • Sociologists are not agreed as to how social classes should be distinguished
  • Most commonly, 5 classes are identified:
    • Upper Class
    • Upper-Middle Class
    • Lower Middle Class
    • Working Class
    • Lower Class
  • Each of these classes represent differences in both income and lifestyle characteristics
poverty
Poverty
  • Approximately 12 million people officially live in poverty
  • As explained on the following several slides:
    • Poverty does not affect all segments of the population equally
    • There is disagreement among social scientists about how to measure poverty, and hence disagreement about how much poverty exists in the United States

Visit PovertyNet Online

poverty s biggest victims gender
Poverty’s Biggest Victims: Gender
  • Female headed families are greatly overrepresented among those in poverty
    • Female householders without husbands had average annual income of $23,732 in 1999
    • Male householders without wives had average annual income of $37,396 in 1999
  • This phenomenon has come to be called “the feminization of poverty”
how do we count the poor
How Do We Count the Poor?
  • The official “poverty index” was developed by the Social Security Administration in 1964
    • It was based on earlier studies that found that families of 3 or more people typically spent about 1/3 of their budget on food
    • The poverty index is thus based on the annual cost of a frugal but adequate diet x 3
  • The threshold of poverty will thus depend on the number of individuals living in a household
myths about the poor
Myths About the Poor
  • Myth #1: People are poor because they are lazy
    • Fact:About half of the poor are not of working age; most of those of working age are either working or looking for work
  • Myth #2: Most poor people are African-American and most African-Americans are poor
    • Fact:Most poor people are white; about 28% of African-Americans are poor
  • Myth #3: Most of the poor are single mothers with children
    • Fact:Female-headed families with children represent about 44% of the poor
  • Myth #4: Most people in poverty live in the inner city
    • Fact:Less than 22% of the poor live in central cities
  • Myth #5: Welfare programs are straining federal budgets
    • Fact:Only about 14% of the federal budget went to welfare programs in 1996, compared to 43% that went to other social assistance programs such as social security and Medicare
consequences of social stratification
Consequences of Social Stratification

Longevity

Health and Illness

Childbearing and Childrearing

Crime and Criminal Justice Contacts