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Social Stratification

Social Class And Social Mobility

2006 Alan S. Berger

Characteristics of Stratification Systems

Social stratification describes the structured ranking of individuals and groups and their grading into horizontal layers or strata.
Social stratification depends upon, but is not the same thing as, social differentiation the process by which a society becomes increasingly specialized over time. Where people can change their status with relative ease, sociologists refer to the arrangement as an open system. Where people can not change their status with relative ease, sociologists refer to the arrangement as a closed system.

2006 Alan S. Berger

Characteristics of Stratification Systems

Social stratification is a system by which a society ranks categories of people in a hierarchy. There are four basic principles of stratification: Social stratification is a trait of society, not simply a function of individual differences. Social stratification persists over generations. However, most societies allow some social mobility or changes in peoples position in a system of social stratification. Social mobility may be upward, downward, or horizontal. Social stratification is universal but variable. Social stratification involves not just inequality but beliefs.
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Stratification and Inequality

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
Four major stratification systems: slavery, caste, estate, and class
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Caste Systems
A caste system is social stratification based on ascription or birth. Caste systems are typical of agrarian societies because the lifelong routines of agriculture depend on a rigid sense of duty and discipline Caste systems shape peoples lives in four crucial ways: Caste largely determines occupation. Caste systems generally mandate endogamy. Caste systems limit outgroup social contacts. Powerful cultural beliefs underlie caste systems.

2006 Alan S. Berger

Characteristics of A Caste System

Caste systems shape peoples lives in four

crucial ways:
Caste largely determines occupation. Illustrations: India and South Africa. systems generally mandate endogamy. Caste systems limit outgroup social contacts. Powerful cultural beliefs underlie caste systems. Caste systems are typical of agrarian societies because the lifelong routines of agriculture depend on a rigid sense of duty and discipline.
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Caste in Japan
Feudal Japan was divided into several castes: Nobility. Samurai or warriors. Commoners. The burakumin or outcasts. Japan today consists of upper, upper-middle, lower-middle, and lower classes, and people move between classes over time. But they may still size up ones social standing through the lens of caste.
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Characteristics of Class Systems

In a class system, social stratification is based on both birth and individual achievement. Industrial societies move towards meritocracy, social stratification based on personal merit. In a class system, social stratification is based on both birth and individual achievement. In class systems, status consistency, the degree of consistency of a persons social standing across various dimensions of social inequality, is lower than in caste systems In class systems, status consistency, the degree of consistency of a persons social standing across various dimensions of social inequality, is lower than in caste systems
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The Soviet System

The former Soviet Union.
Although the former Soviet Union claimed to be classless, the jobs people held actually fell into four unequal categories: apparatchiks or high government officials. Soviet intelligentsia. manual workers. rural peasantry

The second Russian Revolution.

Gorbachev introduced perestroika, and in 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed. Social mobility is relatively common in the Soviet Union, especially structural social mobility, a shift in the social position of large numbers of people due more to changes in society itself than to individual efforts.
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Chinese Stratification
Sweeping political and economic changes are taking place in

the Peoples Republic of China.

A new class system is emerging with a mix of the old political hierarchy and a new business hierarchy.

2006 Alan S. Berger


The Persistence of Stratification

Stratification persists across generations because it is backed up by an ideology, a set of cultural beliefs that justify social stratification and inequality .
Plato explained that every culture considers some type of inequality fair. Marx understood this fact, although he was far more critical of inequality than Plato.

2006 Alan S. Berger


Characteristics of Estate Systems

Estate stratification systems were agrarian and peasants were required to work land leased to them by nobles in exchange for military protection and other services.

During the feudal era, British society was divided into three estates:
The first estate was the hereditary nobility. The second estate was the clergy. The third estate was the commoners. The United Kingdom today is a class society, but it retains important elements of its former caste system
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The American Class System

Inequality follows relatively consistent and stable patterns that persist through time.
Typically, stratified groups in the United States are referred to as the upper class, the upper middle class, the lower middle class, the working class and and the lower class. Income inequality is high in the United States; it is increasing; and it is at its highest level in 50 years. In 2001, the top 20 percent of the population received half of the income and inequality in wealth is even greater.
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The American Class System

Social class largely determines peoples life chances and style of life.

Children and the elderly account for nearly half of all Americans living in poverty.
Three theories predominate regarding poverty: The culture of poverty theory, poverty as situational poverty as a structural feature of capitalist societies

2006 Alan S. Berger


Three primary methods are employed by sociologists in identifying social classes:

the objective method, the self-placement method, the reputational method.

2006 Alan S. Berger


Functional Analysis of Stratification The Davis-Moore thesis is the assertion that social stratification has beneficial consequences for the operations of a society.
It is difficult to specify the functional importance of a given occupation; some are clearly over- or underrewarded. Davis-Moore ignores how social stratification can prevent the development of individual talents. The theory also ignores how social inequality may promote conflict and revolution.

2006 Alan S. Berger


Conflict Analysis of Stratification

Marx saw classes as defined by peoples relationship to the means of production. Capitalists (or the bourgeoisie) are people who own factories and other productive businesses. The proletarians sell their productive labor to the capitalists. Big Bucks: Are the Rich Worth What They Earn? Equating income with social worth is risky business. Critiques Marxism is revolutionary and highly controversial. Marxism fails to recognize that a system of unequal rewards may be necessary to motivate people to perform their social roles effectively. The revolutionary developments Marx considered inevitable within capitalist societies have failed to happen.

2006 Alan S. Berger


The Failure of the conflict model of Stratification

The capitalist class has fragmented and grown in size, giving more people a stake in the system. A higher standard of living has emerged. Blue-collar occupations, lower-prestige work involving mostly manual labor, have declined. White-collar occupations, higher-prestige work involving mostly mental activity, have expanded. Workers are better organized than they were in Marxs day, and their unions have been able to fight for reform. The government has extended various legal 18 protections to 2006 Alan S. Berger workers.

Defense of Conflict theory of Stratification

Wealth remains highly concentrated.

White-collar jobs offer no more income, security, or satisfaction than blue-collar jobs did a century ago. Class conflict continues between workers and management. The laws still protect the private property of the rich.

2006 Alan S. Berger


Sociological Study of Stratification Systems

Sociologists typically take a multidimensional view of stratification, identifying three components: economic standing (wealth and income) prestige Power Sociologists typically take a multidimensional view of stratification, identifying three components: economic standing (wealth and income) prestige power
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Sociological Study of Stratification Systems

Questions Sociologists Ask about Stratification
What type of system is it How much social mobility is there How much inequality is there and what is the basis for inequality Why is there stratification

The founders of Sociology had several set of answers

2006 Alan S. Berger


Sociological Study of Stratification Systems

Many sociologists use the term socioeconomic status, a composite ranking based on various dimensions of social inequality (Income, Occupation, Power)
Inequality in history: Webers view. Weber noted that each of his three dimensions of social inequality stands out at different points in the evolution of human societies. Although social class boundaries may have blurred, all industrial nations still show striking patterns of social inequality. Income inequality has increased in recent years. Because of this trend, some think Marxs view of the rich versus the poor is correct.
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Social Inequality in the US

U.S. society is highly stratified, but many people underestimate the extent of structured inequality in U.S. society for the following reasons:
In principle, the law gives equal standing to all. Our culture celebrates individual autonomy and achievement. We tend to interact with people like ourselves

2006 Alan S. Berger


Social Inequality in the US

The United States is an affluent society. Income consists of wages or salaries from work and earnings from investments. U.S. society has more income inequality than most other industrial societies. Wealth consists of the total amount of money and other assets, minus outstanding debts. It is distributed even less equally than income.

2006 Alan S. Berger


Income and Wealth

Income: wages and salaries measured over some period, such as per hour or per year Wealth: total of a persons material assets, including savings, land, stocks, and other types of property, minus his or her debts at a single point in time
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Mean Household Income by Quintile, 2006

Source: U.S. Census 2007d.

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The Income Pie: Percent Share of Total Income, 2006

Source: U.S. Census 2007c.

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Percentage of Wealth Owned, by Percentile

Source: Kennickell 2006: 29.

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Power is also unequally distributed. Occupational prestige. Occupation serves as a key source of social prestige since we commonly evaluate each other according to what we do. .Schooling affects both occupation and income. .Social Stratification and Birth. Ancestry. Family is our point of entry into the social system. Gender. On average, women have less income, wealth, and occupational prestige than men. Race and ethnicity. Race is closely linked to social position in the United States.

2006 Alan S. Berger


Why Stratification ?
Explanations of social stratification involve value judgments.
The Bell Curve Debate: Are Rich People Really Smarter?: A series of claims made in The Bell Curve (Murray, Charles and Hernstein, Richard J., Free Press, 1994) that Race and class are related to intelligence.

Historical patterns of ideology. Ideology changes as a societys economy and technology change.
Is Getting Rich "The Survival of the Fittest"? Spencers view that people get more or less what they deserve in life remains part of our individualistic culture. Max Webers Protestant Ethic
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Social Mobility
The process of moving from one stratification level to another takes a number of forms: vertical horizontal intergenerational intragenerational. Intragenerational social mobility is a change in social position occurring during a persons lifetime; intergenerational social mobility is upward or downward social mobility of children in relation to their parents.

2006 Alan S. Berger


Social Mobility
When sociologists speak of social mobility, they usually mean intergenerational occupational mobility.
More Americans are upwardly mobile than downwardly mobile across generations. Sociologists study the course of an individuals occupational status over the life cycle by looking at the socioeconomic life cycle. The processes of status attainment are different for women and blacks than for white males. Critics of status attainment research contend that it has a functionalist bias and that the dual labor market operates to sort people into core or periphery sector jobs. There is ongoing controversy about whether the American middle class is shrinking and whether the American Dream is history.
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Social Mobility
Social Classes in the United States. The upper class. Historically, though less so today, the upper class has been composed of white Anglo-Saxon Protestants. The upper-upper class includes less than 1 percent of the U.S. population. The lower-upper class are the working rich; earnings rather than inherited wealth are the primary source of their income. Color of Money: Being Rich in Black and White. The number of affluent African Americans has increased markedly in recent years, but well-to-do blacks differ from their white counterparts in significant ways.
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Social Mobility
Historically, people of English ancestry have enjoyed the most wealth and wielded the greatest power in the United States. Throughout our history, upward mobility has sometimes meant converting to a higher-ranking religion

2006 Alan S. Berger


Social Mobility
Impact of formal schooling is even greater than that of family background Important means of intergenerational mobility Critical factor in development of cultural capital

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Social Mobility
Occupational Mobility
Common among males Most mobility is minor

Income and Wealth

Mobility occurs, but most do not move very far Likelihood of ending up in same position as ones parents has been rising since 1980

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The Shrinking Middle Class

Contributing factors:
Disappearing opportunities for those with little education Global competition and rapid advances in technology Growing dependence on temporary workforce Rise of new-growth industries and nonunion workplaces
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What Difference Does Class Make

Health. Richer people live, on average, seven years longer because they eat more nutritious food, live in safer and less stressful environments, and receive better medical care.
Values. Affluent people with greater education and financial security are more tolerant of controversial behavior, while working-class people tend to be less tolerant. Politics. Well-off people tend to be more conservative on economic issues but more liberal on social issues. The reverse is true for those people of lower social standing. Higher-income people are more likely to vote and join political organizations than people in the lower class.

2006 Alan S. Berger


What Difference Does Class Make

Family and gender.
Most lower-class families are somewhat larger than middle-class families. Working-class parents encourage conventional norms and respect to authorities whereas parents of higher social standing transmit a different cultural capital to their children, stressing individuality and imagination.

2006 Alan S. Berger


Life Chances
Max Weber saw class as being closely related to peoples life chances: their opportunities to provide themselves with material goods, positive living conditions, and favorable life experiences
In times of danger, affluent and powerful have a better chance of surviving than people of ordinary means Digital divide is recent aspect of social inequality 2009 The McGraw Hill 40

The Shrinking Middle Class

Only about 22 percent of American households qualified as middle class in 2006, compared to 28 percent in 1967
About half rose to higher ranking, and half dropped to lower position Suggests broadly based middle class is being replaced by two growing groups of rich and poor

2009 The McGraw Hill Companies


In 2006, 36.5 million people in U.S. 12.3 percent of the populationwere living in poverty One in five households has trouble meeting basic needs

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Defining Poverty
Absolute poverty: minimum level of subsistence that no family should be expected to live below
Common measure is federal governments poverty line

Relative poverty: floating standard of deprivation by which people at the bottom of a society are judged as being disadvantaged in comparison with the nation as a whole
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The Poverty Rate in Households with Children, Selected Countries

Note: Data are for 2000 except for Germany (2001) and Mexico (2002). Poverty threshold is 50 percent 2009 The McGraw Hill of nations median income. Source: Frster and dErcole 2005: 36. Companies


Who Are the Poor?

Our stereotypes about poverty are flawed Likelihood of being in poverty is shaped by factors such as age, race, ethnicity, and family type Feminization of poverty is a worldwide phenomenon Underclass: long-term poor who lack training and skills
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Who Are the Poor in the United States?

Note: Data for 2006, as reported by the Bureau of the Census in 2007. 2009 The Source: DeNavas-Walt et al. 2007.

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People Below Poverty Level

Source: 2006 census data presented in Bureau of the Census 2007d: Tables R1701, 1901.

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Education Pays: Full-Time, Year-Round Workers, Ages 2564, 2006

Source: U.S. Census 2007f.

2006 Alan S. Berger


Myth versus reality. Four general conclusions about social mobility in the United States: Social mobility over the course of the last century has been fairly high. The long-term trend in social mobility has been upward. Within a single generation, social mobility is usually small. Social mobility since the 1970s has been uneven. Mobility varies by income level. Mobility varies by race, ethnicity and gender. The "American Dream:" Still a reality? For many workers, earnings have stalled. Multiple job-holding is up. More jobs offer little income. Young people are remaining at home.

2006 Alan S. Berger


CEOs Get Richer: The Great Mansions Return The Global Economy and U.S. class structure. Much of the industrial production that gave U.S. workers high-paying jobs a generation ago has moved overseas. In their place, the economy now offers service work, which often pays far less. Poverty in the United States. Relative poverty refers to the deprivation of some people in relation to those who have more. Absolute poverty is a deprivation of resources that is life-threatening. The extent of U.S. Poverty. In 2001, 11.7 percent of the U.S. population was tallied as poor. The typical poor family had to get by on about $10,873 in 2001.

2006 Alan S. Berger


Who are the poor? Age. 2001, 16.3 percent of people under the age of eighteen (11.7 million children) were poor. Race and ethnicity. African Americans are about three times as likely as non-Hispanic whites to be poor. Gender and family patterns. The feminization of poverty is the trend by which women represent an increasing proportion of the poor. Urban and rural poverty. The greatest concentration of poverty is found in central cities.

2006 Alan S. Berger


Explaining poverty. One view: The poor are mostly responsible for their own poverty. The poor become trapped in a culture of poverty, a lower-class subculture that can destroy peoples ambition. Another view: Society is primarily responsible for poverty. Most of the evidence suggests that society rather than the William Julius Wilson points out that while people continue to talk about welfare reform, neither major political party has said anything about the lack of work in central cities.

2006 Alan S. Berger


Weighing the evidence. The reasons that people do not work seem consistent with the blame society position.

The working poor. Three percent of full-time workers earn so little that they remain poor. Homelessness. Counting the homeless. As many as 1.5 million people are homeless at some time during the course of a year. Causes of homelessness: Personality traits. Societal factors. Welfare reform has slashed the number of people receiving welfare, but it has done far less to reduce poverty.

2006 Alan S. Berger


Social Mobility
Race and Ethnicity
Class system more rigid for African Americans than for other racial groups Typical Hispanic has less than 10 percent of the wealth that a White person has

Traditional mobility studies have ignored gender Women especially likely to be trapped in poverty
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