Social Stratification and Social Inequality

Social Stratification and Social Inequality

There are three stratification systems in society including castes, estates, and class. All the stratifications systems are different and similar in some ways. Class is a model of social stratification in which members of the society are categorized into hierarchical groups including upper, middle, and lower classes (McIntyre, 2013). These three categories are based on economical status alone. The class even depends on wealth, income, social status, education, and culture. On the other hand, in a caste system, people’s ranks are determined by birth. One can change his or her class but cannot change their caste. Caste is by birth and a person belonging to a particular caste has a fixed occupation to do for his life just because he has been born into a specific caste. A person may become rich and change his class but in the caste system, one cannot change his caste. Estates also consist of three categories. The first estate consists of the nobles, the second estate is made up of the clergy and the last estate consists of the peasants.

A mix of caste and class features plays a significant in the contemporary U.S society. From the historical viewpoint, systemic racism is exactly similar to casteism, and the country has been operating within a stubborn caste system its entire life (Wippler, 2018). The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how the effects of the caste system are still creating chaos. People in the higher castes have benefitted from health-care plans offered through their jobs, while people at the bottom castes have been forced to do the jobs that do not provide health-care plans. The same applies to social class. Social class is a euphemism for economic status. In the U.S, class is defined by how much a person makes, one’s net worth. The more extreme inequality there is, and it is growing, the greater distance between classes, with the top 10 richest Americans having more wealth than the bottom 100 million, thus generating such terms as the “working poor” and the “uber-rich.”

The status attainment process in the United States depends on a person’s income status. There are many routes to higher social status. For example, the figurehead of the “American dream” is the self-made businessman but the most effective route is education. Simply going to college is not enough to guarantee future social status, but people are dedicated enough to make full use of their opportunities, and that kind of drive is going to get them places in the future (McIntyre, 2013). The fact that there are so many first-generation college students is a sign that the status attainment process is probably more common.

I believe in social mobility but I think upward mobility is becoming easier in the United States. Social mobility is the ability to move within the American social structure, mostly in an upward trajectory, but also, to a lesser degree, between social strata (Kelley & Yu, 2018). This means movement between traditionally mutually exclusive social circles. Some good examples are the ’new money elite of Silicon Valley and the established old family dynasties of The Hamptons. As inequality goes up, with more concentrated among fewer, social mobility by necessity goes down. There is a fair amount of social mobility remaining between the working class and the lower middle-middle class because this is achievable with job training in trade schools, which regular families can still afford.






Kelley, J. A., & Yu, J. (2018). Social Change, Social Institutions, and Cohorts. Annual Review of Gerontology and Geriatrics39(1), 5-22. DOI: 10.1891/0198-8794.39.1.5

McIntyre, L. (2013). The Practical Skeptic: Core Concepts in Sociology (6th Edition). Pennsylvania: McGraw-Hill Publishing Company. ISBN: 9780078026874 | 0078026873

Wippler, R. (2018). Social institutions: their emergence, maintenance, and effects (Second Edition). Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.

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