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WHAT IS SOCIAL STRATIFICATION?
• A hierarchical ranking of people who have different access to valued resources
• Property, prestige, power, and status
Closed Stratification Systems
• Movement from one social position to another is limited due to ascribed statuses.
• Slavery and castes are closed systems.
• In slavery, some people own others and have control over their lives – In chattel slavery people are bought and
sold as commodities. – In domestic slavery employers force
people to work for long hours and little if any pay.
Discussion How is it possible for employers to enslave
workers, even in the United States?
• In caste systems, social categories are based on heredity.
• India is the classic example. • Indian castes
– Brahmins—priests and scholars – Kshatriyas—kings and warriors – Vaishyas—merchants and farmers – Shudras—peasants and laborers
• Dalits—untouchables – Outside the caste system – Poor – Performed the most menial tasks – Were considered "polluting"
• Caste system was outlawed in 1949. • Social distinctions persist.
Open Stratification Systems
• Social classes are relatively fluid. • Based on achieved statuses. • A social class is a category of people
who have a similar rank based on wealth, education, power, or prestige.
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Discussion To what extent is mobility possible in the
DIMENSIONS OF STRATIFICATION
• Wealth—money and economic assets – Includes property and income
– Wealth is cumulative, passed on to the next generation, and produces income. – Income inequality is increasing in the
• Prestige—respect, recognition, or regard – Based on wealth, family background, fame,
occupation, and leadership – Prestigious occupations require education,
pay more, involve mental activity, and offer autonomy
• Power—the ability of individuals to achieve goals, control events, and maintain influence over others despite opposition – Power elite—a small group of white men
who make the important decisions in U.S. society
Application • What happens when statuses are
inconsistent? • What are some examples of status
inconsistency? • What problems are associated with status
SOCIAL CLASS IN AMERICA
• Socioeconomic status (SES)—an overall rank of people's positions based on their income, education, and occupation
• Upper-upper class—enormous wealth, inherited fortunes, considerable economic and political power
• Lower-upper class—nouveau riche, engage in conspicuous consumption
• Upper-middle class—live on earned income, professional and managerial occupations
• Lower-middle class—non- manual, semiprofessional occupations, rely on two incomes, maintain comfortable lifestyle
• Working class—skilled and semiskilled laborers, possess high school education
• Working poor—work at least 27 weeks a year but live in poverty
• Underclass—persistently poor, segregated residentially, relatively isolated, chronically unemployed, lack skills and education
Application Identify the class of each example:
– Maria is a dental technician working in a large clinic.
– Kevin dropped out of high school, works in agriculture only in the summer, has trouble making ends meet.
– William inherited family wealth, attended private schools, and became a politician.
POVERTY IN AMERICA
• Poverty is increasing. • 37 million people live in poverty in the U.S.
• Absolute poverty—not having enough money to afford the most basic necessities
• Relative poverty—not having enough money to maintain an average standard of living
Types of Poverty
• Poverty line—the minimal level of income that the federal government considers necessary for basic subsistence
• In 2006, the poverty line was $20,444 for a family of four.
Who are the poor?
• Children • Women • African Americans, American Indians, and
Why are people poor?
• Culture of poverty view—The poor share values, beliefs, and attitudes that are different from the non-poor.
• Functional view—Society creates and sustains poverty.