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Stratification. A Look Ahead. Is social inequality an inescapable part of society?. How does government policy affect the life chances of the working poor? Is this country still a place where a hardworking person can move up the social ladder?. Understanding Stratification.

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a look ahead
A Look Ahead
  • Is social inequality an inescapable part of society?
  • How does government policy affect the life chances of the working poor?
  • Is this country still a place where a hardworking person can move up the social ladder?
understanding stratification
Understanding Stratification
  • Social inequality: condition in which members of society have different amounts of wealth, prestige, or power
  • Stratification: structured ranking of entire groups of people that perpetuates unequal economic rewards and power in a society
  • Income: salaries and wages
  • Wealth: encompasses all of a person’s material assets
systems of stratification social classes
Systems of StratificationSocial Classes
  • Class System: social ranking based primarily on economic position in which achieved characteristics can influence social mobility
  • Rossides (1997) uses five-class model to describe U.S. class system:
  • Upper class • Working class
  • Upper-middle class • Lower class
  • Lower-middleclass
understanding stratification5
Understanding Stratification

Is Stratification Universal?

Functionalist View

  • Yes. A differential system of rewards and punishments is necessary for the efficient operation of society

Functionalist feel that stratification is functional for the following reasons

  • Society must make certain that its positions are filled
  • Some positions are more important than others
The more important positions must be filled by the more qualified people
  • To motivate the more qualified people to fill these positions, society must offer them greater rewards
karl marx s view of class differentiation
Karl Marx’s View of Class Differentiation
  • Social relations depend on who controls the primary mode of production
  • Capitalism: Means of production held largely in private hands and main incentive for economic activity is accumulation of profits
  • Bourgeoisie: Capitalist class; owns the means of production
  • Proletariat: Working class
conflict perspective karl marx
Conflict Perspective (Karl Marx)
  • Marx Focused on two classes the bourgeoisie and the proletariat
  • From this perspective, stratification is functional mainly for those at the top of the social hierarchy
  • All ruling groups-from slave masters to modern elites-develop an ideology to justify their position at the top.
  • This ideology often seduces the oppressed into believing that their welfare depends on keeping society stable.
karl marx s view of class differentiation9
Karl Marx’s View of Class Differentiation
  • Class consciousness: Subjective awareness of common vested interests and the need for collective political action to bring about change
  • False consciousness: Attitude held by members of class that does not accurately reflect their objective position
Consequently, the oppressed may support laws against their own interests and even make sacrifices that benefit the bourgeoisie.
  • Most workers develop a false consciousness - an attitude where they feel that the bourgeoisie is treating them fairly and accept their position in society.
Conflict inevitably will lead to the destruction of the capitalist system
  • Eventually the proletariat will come to identify the bourgeoisie as the oppressors and will overthrow them
  • For this to happen the working class has to develop class consciousness
max weber 1864 1920
Max Weber (1864-1920)
  • Weber believed that Marx's wholly economic view of stratification could not capture primary features of modern industrial stratification systems
  • Weber noticed that social position did not always seem to be simply a matter of property ownership
  • Weber believed that no single characteristic (such as class) dictates a person's position within the stratification system
max weber
Max Weber
  • According to Weber, each of us has not one but three ranks in society.
  • Class -Weber used class to categorize people who have a similar level of wealth and income
  • Status – Weber defined status as people who have the same prestige or lifestyle, independent of their class positions.
  • Power -according to Weber, power reflects a political dimension
gerhard lenski s viewpoint sociocultural evolution approach
Gerhard Lenski’s ViewpointSociocultural Evolution Approach
  • As a society advances technologically, it becomes capable of producing a considerable surplus of goods
  • Emergence of surplus resources greatly expands possibilities for inequality in status, influence, and power
  • Allocation of surplus goods and services reinforces social inequality
sociocultural evolution approach
Sociocultural Evolution Approach
  • In contemporary industrial society, the degree of social and economic inequality far exceeds what is needed to provide for goods and services
measuring social class
Prestige: respect and admiration an occupation holds in society

Esteem: reputation specific person has earned within an occupation

Measuring Social Class
  • Objective Method
  • Class largely viewed as a statistical category based on
    • Education
    • Occupation
    • Income
    • Place of residence
wealth and income
Wealth and Income
  • One important dimension of economic inequality involves income, wages or salary from work.
  • Whereas wealth, is an individuals or family's total financial assets.
  • Income in the United States is distributed unevenly.
  • Richest 20 percent earned $150.499 or more in 2001. The Poorest 20 percent earned $17,970 or less
All the data show that there is an enormous gap between the haves and the have nots and that it has been growing steadily wider
  • In the past 15 years, our highest-income family saw its share of all income go up about 12 percent while our eight low-income families saw their share drop 9%.
  • Overall, Americans are worth over $72 trillion
figure 8 5 u s minimum wage adjusted for inflation 1950 2005
Figure 8-5: U.S. Minimum Wage Adjusted for Inflation, 1950-2005

Source: Author’s estimate and Bureau of the Census 2005a:413.

the middle class
The Middle Class
  • The middle-class include 40 to 45 percent of the population
  • Because it is so large and embodies the aspirations of many more people, the middle class exerts tremendous influence on our culture.
  • Television and other mass media usually show middle-class men and women and most commercial advertising is directed at these average consumers.
upper middle class
Upper Middle Class
  • Of all the classes, the upper middle is the most shaped by education.
  • A large number of members of this class have at least a Bachelor's degree, and many have postgraduate degrees in business, management, law, or medicine.
  • About 14 percent of the population belongs to this class.
the working class
The Working Class
  • About 30% of the population is a member of the working class holding manual or blue-collar jobs.
  • Even if they make good income, higher than lower middle class, they tend to identify with manual workers.
  • Compared with the lower middle class, they have less years of formal education.
the lower class
The Lower Class
  • Have little income, their lives are unstable and insecure.


  • approximately one out of every nine Americans lives below the poverty line established by the federal government.

The Poverty Line

Official U.S. government definitions of poverty are based on the calculation of a minimum family “market basket”.

  • Absolute poverty: Minimum level of subsistence that no family should live below
  • Relative poverty: Floating standard by which people at the bottom of a society are judged as being disadvantaged in comparison to the nation as a whole
The U.S. Department of Agriculture regularly prepare estimates of the cost of achieving a minimum level of nutrition, based on average food prices.
  • It is assumed that an average low-income family must not spend one third of its total income on food
  • The poverty line for 2005 was $19,350.
  • In 2004 roughly, 12.7 percent or about 38.1 million-live below the poverty line
The majority of all poor people in the USA are white - about two thirds
  • the percentage of whites below the poverty line is considerably lower than it is for most minorities.
  • Poverty rate for white families is about 9.9 percent, for black and Hispanic families is 22.7 and 21.4 percent respectively.
The Underclass are long term poor people who lack training and skills.
  • Members of the underclass live in neighborhoods in social isolation
life chances
Life Chances
  • Max Weber saw class as being closely related to people’s life chances
  • Life chances: Opportunities to provide material goods, positive living conditions, and favorable life experience

In times of danger, affluent and powerful have better chance of surviving than people of ordinary means

social mobility
Social Mobility
  • Open versus Closed Stratification Systems
  • Indicate social mobility in a society
    • Open System: position of each individual influenced by the person’s achieved position
    • Closed System: allows little or no possibility of moving up

SocialMobility: Movement of individuals or groups from one position in a society’s stratification system to another

social mobility37
Social Mobility
  • Socialmobility: Movement of individuals or groups from one position in a society’s stratification system to another
social mobility38
Social Mobility
  • Types of Social Mobility
  • Horizontal Mobility: movement within same range of prestige
  • Vertical Mobility: movement from one position to another of a different rank
  • Intragenerational Mobility: social position changes within person’s adult life
open vs closed stratification systems
Open Vs. Closed Stratification Systems
  • Open system: Position of each individual influenced by the person’s achieved status
  • Closed system: Allows little or no possibility of moving up
social mobility in the united states
Social Mobility in the United States
  • Occupational Mobility
  • The Impact of Education
  • The Impact of Race and Ethnicity
  • The Impact of Gender