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Social Class and Social Stratification



Social class refers to differences in groups of people by income level, occupation, education, and cultural values. These differences are created through social stratification, the layers or rankings of social groups within a society. Social stratification results from structural inequalities that evolve along with social institutions over time. Class structure in many modern nations, such as the United States, is largely based on socioeconomic status (SES), a combined measure of income, education, and occupation. Those with higher SES, more income, and more wealth have more power and are able to better protect their own interests. Social inequalities based on class have wide-ranging effects, including the ability to move up the class ladder, educational attainment, and physical and mental health outcomes. People in the lowest economic classes can experience poverty. In the United States, the federal government uses two measures to determine poverty: federal poverty guidelines and federal poverty thresholds. Poverty affects less privileged social groups disproportionately. Sociologists stress that poverty should be studied in relationship to structural inequalities related to race, gender, age, and other factors.

At A Glance