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Social Stratification, Social

Class, and Ethnicity


Social Stratification
A system by which a society ranks categories
of people in a hierarchy based on their access
to scarce resources.
Division of society into groups that differ greatly
in wealth, power and prestige.
Class based on achieved status
Caste based on ascribed status

Four Basic Principles of
Social Stratification:
It is a characteristic of society, not
simply a reflection of individual
differences.
It persists over generations.
It is universal but variable.
It involves not just inequality but beliefs.
Cultural beliefs serve to
justify social stratification.
That is part of the
reason why it persists.
Types of Stratification Systems
Caste System-
social
stratification
based on
ascribed status.
Class System-
social
stratification
based on
achieved status.

Interpretations of Stratification
Functionalist
Meritocracy
Social Conflict (Marx)
Max Weber
Wealth, Prestige, Power
Socioeconomic status- An individuals
comparative status in a society based on
factors (education, income and occupation).
Status: Position in society
Ascribed
born into or comes without effort
e.g., kinship, race, gender
Achieved
must work to get

CASTE IN INDIA
Basis is kinship
Associated occupation
Clearly separated, self-regulating groups
No individual mobility in one lifetime
No intercaste marriage
Religious interpretation ranked by purity
Brahmin scholars and priests
Kshatriya political leaders and warriors
Vaishaya merchants
Shudras menial workers, artisans

Untouchable
Castes interdependent economically but system
relies on coercion
Sub-caste can try to gain higher position
over time or convert to try to escape system
Caste officially illegal in India
Affirmative action type laws

People in the US are stratified
based on the following:
Income
Prestige
Wealth
Education
Power
Income
Wages or salaries from work and earnings from
investments.
Distribution of Income in the US
Top 5
th
47%
Next 5
th
24%
Third 5
th
16%
Fourth 5
th
10%
Bottom 5
th
4%
Wealth
Total value of money and other assets, minus
outstanding debts.
Distribution of Wealth in the US
Top 5
th
80%
Next 5
th
15%
Third 5
th
5%
Fourth 5
th
less than 1%
Bottom 5
th
less than 1%
Prejudice and discrimination
Prejudice a negative attitude toward an entire
category of people often based in ethnocentrism

Discrimination an action-- the denial of
opportunities and equal rights to individuals and
groups based on some type of arbitrary bias or
prejudice





Social Construction of Race and Ethnicity
A process by which people come to define a group as a
race based in part on physical characteristics, but also
on historical, cultural (religious) and economic factors

Often an ideology constructed by the dominant or majority
group which has the power to define itself legally but
also to shape a societys values




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