Social divisions have several functions in a society. Division of labor is a principal driver of social division. Modern societies need groups of people to attend to the different types of labor required to run the society. Types of labor include basic social requirements such as procuring food, providing protection, and raising children, as well as more complex requirements such as contributing to the growth of the economy and providing a legal and governmental structure for society. This division of labor is necessary for a society to function. However, division of labor also contributes to different roles, expectations, and opportunities for members of different social divisions. Thus, while social division contributes to a society being able to function effectively and efficiently, it also creates the potential for structured inequalities—inequalities built into the larger social system giving unequal access and opportunities to different groups. For instance, in the United States structured inequalities impact people who are not fluent in English. Many of these individuals provide socially and economically valuable labor in fields such as agriculture, construction, food service, child care, and household services. They provide this labor at a low cost, benefitting society. However, these individuals often do not have access to education and employment opportunities that other groups have.
Members of different social divisions do not have the same access to material rewards, such as wealth and property, or symbolic rewards, such as status and respect. One potential result is that social divisions are repeated over generations, with the children of people who hold low status jobs having limited pathways to achieve higher status. Structured inequalities relating to racial divisions result in some racial groups having greater access to good education, good jobs, health care, more social and cultural prestige, and better treatment by the justice system. Other racial groups without this same access face barriers to achieving material and symbolic rewards. This may serve a social function—providing society with groups of people who are available to perform low-status jobs. In this way, structured inequality can be seen as an efficient way to organize a society. However, structured inequality also can lead to conflict and social problems, including poverty.
|Major Theories of Social Stratification|
|Davis and Moore||