Social Stratification: A ranking of people based on some set of social desirables.
We’ll cover both achieved and ascribed statuses, and how they affect your ranking in the
social hierarchy. For now we’ll cover achieved statuses. Whenever people interact over
an extended period of time, which varies, there will develop some type of stratification
system based on what the group feels are social desirables.
Soci. Strat. Always has/does/will be present in societies. E.g. communes who seek a
classless society, inevitably end up with one anyways.
With interaction, certain differences between the people will become apparent. First,
more obvious ones: gender, height, skin color, eye color. Then later, more subtle ones:
intelligence, humor, strength.
Vertical differentiation is the ranking of people on a vertical plane. Before this happens,
horizontal differences must be apparent (men, women, short, tall). Then the group comes
to a decision that it’s better to be x, then y (short than tall) etc.
Less than 2% of the citizens in the Soviet Union were members of the communist party,
which strived for a classless society. But those who were members gained significant
benefits over the average citizen.
Why study social stratification?
1) It is an exceptionally insightful independent variable. If you know something about the
position within the social hierarchy a position holds, you can gain great insight on that
person’s behaviors and attitudes. We have discovered that the higher up one is on the
social ladder, the greater likelihood they can deviate from norms and suffer little
2) The prestige hierarchy of occupations mirrors society’s value structure. Every year the
national science foundation makes a grant to the American sociological association who
polls at random Americans to rank occupations on a scale of 1 – 5 of prestige. The
rankings of occupations have changed very little over time (since WWII). There are blips
ie. during Watergate, people became jaded of politicians, and as such lawyers,
congressmen etc. dropped on the rankings.
3) Social class affects longevity. Infant mortality, birth rate, fetal alcohol. Infectious
diseases (exposute to toxic chemicals, occupational hazards. Protein, mineral, vitamin
deficiencies, poor diets. Psychological disorders and lack of counseling. Substandard
housing. Exposure to homicides and accidents.
Social Class Longevity: short timeframe example, “The Titantic”