What Is Social Stratification?. Definition. Social stratification is the hierarchical arrangement of large social groups based on their control over basic resources and their access to opportunities or “life chances”. Life Chances.
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Definition • Social stratification is the hierarchical arrangement of large social groups based on their control over basic resources and their access to opportunities or “life chances”.
Life Chances • Max Weber's term life chances describes the extent to which people have access to important scarce resources (food, clothing, shelter, education); people's life chances are intertwined with their financial status, race, ethnicity, gender and age.
Scarce Resources • A resource is anything that is valued in society, ranging from money and property to medical care and education. • They are considered to be scarce because of their unequal distribution among social categories.
Systems of Social Stratification • Slavery: Economic form of inequality in which some people are legally the property of others • Caste system: Stratification system based on heredity, with little movement allowed across strata • Estate system (feudal system): Stratification system in which high status groups derive land and power from birth
All societies distinguish among people on the basis of age. Young children typically have less authority and responsibility than older persons. • However, older persons without wealth or power often find themselves at the bottom of the social hierarchy as well. • Similarly, all societies differentiate between males and females. Woman are often treated as subordinates to men.
From society to society, people are treated differently as a result of their religion, race, ethnicity, appearance, physical strengths, disabilities or other distinguishing characteristics. • All of these differentiations result in inequality.