Characteristics of Social Stratification Systems
There are many different characteristics that define a social stratification system. These characteristics are the system responds to inequality, is closed in society and its social structure, forms a hierarchy, is built socially, is seen in all societies, explains inequalities according to values in each society, and is found in various forms around the world. More characteristics are the system has different organization principles from one society to the next and has some things in common with societies across the world like, gender, and uses these principles in the hierarchical placement, has placement that is based on personal achievement and talent, and finally, it distributes individuals into the needed position of society (Larkin, 2015). There are several stratification systems that are used, each one has its own range of mobility and values that determine the rank that each person within society holds.
Social mobility has several forms that can be seen across each of the stratification systems. Social mobility is the ability to move within a social stratification hierarchy, and includes four different types. Vertical mobility involves moving up or down in rank, horizontal is moving within the same level, intergenerational is how children change in comparison to their parents, and intragenerational is starting at one level in the stratification system, but ending up in another on one (Blau & Duncan, 1967; Haskins, Isaacs, & Sawhill 2008). First, is social mobility within the class system. This system is the most open of the three, it allows the most mobility, which gives the people in this system the ability to move up and down more easily from the social ranking of which he/she was born. Movement within the class system, unlike the other two systems, can be seen as an outcome of a person’s own attempts, knowledge, and skills or lack there of. Secondly is the estate system, which is based on control over land. Large amounts of land are owned by Lords or nobles, who have serfs and peasants to work the land for them, making the peasants and serfs attached to that land (University of Minnesota Libraries, n.d.). This system has limited mobility because it is dependent on heredity due to inheritance, which is what allows one to change positions (Larkin, 2015). Third, is the slavery system, the most closed of the three, with scarce movement. People in this system are denied their basic rights of freedom, when they are captured, sold, or born into it. People are treated like property as they are forced to work, are sold and bought among owners, and are held against their will (Systems of Stratification, n.d.). There is overall, a wide variety of mobility within these three different systems.
Ways of Ranking
Many different ways of ranking are used within the systems that can include things like wealth, race, power, education, economic standing and more. The class system is the most open system and has a larger ranking system. This system sorts its members based on economic standing, which can include many things like access to goods, services, life options, and origin or ascribed characteristics like personal achievements, race, and gender. The estate system has less rankings than the class system. Ranking in this system is based on hereditary placement and land ownership, specifically inherited land. Landowners fully own the land, placing them higher than peasants because peasants are only tied to the land. People will usually remain in their original ranking, but increasing technology has made it easier for land workers to achieve higher standings based on better goods, services, and life options no matter what their origin (Larkin, 2015). Finally, is the salve system. This system has the lowest standings of the three. There are a wide variety of things that can separate people under this system including gender, race, power, and wealth. When slavery is mentioned, the thought of African Americans from the early days of the Unites States is what most likely comes to mind, but it is alive in todays society and is seen in things such as human trafficking and debt like in South Asia (Systems of Stratification, n.d.).
A various amount of things can be seen about males and females based on race, class, and education by looking at the graphs and charts that are featured in chapter 8 of Our Social World: An Introduction to Sociology. To begin, males are seen as tough and doing the harder, labor related work, while the females are seen as sweet and gentle and are found doing things like cooking, cleaning and raising the children. Women are seen as minorities to men based on these views. Next comes race, based on racism, whites are seen as majorities over blacks or those with colored skin. Whites view themselves superior to blacks based on race, often denying them better freedoms, opportunities, and rewards.
Overall, whites are at the top, followed by hispanics and blacks are at the bottom. After looking at gender and race, it can be seen how they affect the ranking of class and education. Since men are seen as majorities over women and based on the different stereotypes, it can be seen, as shown in figure 8.12 that men receive higher amounts of education by a pretty big margin. Higher education levels are viewed as a masculine pursuit, over a feminine pursuit. This higher education that men receive allows them to maintain higher job positions which enables them to obtain a higher income, making them wealthier than women. This education, ultimately leads men to higher resources and job positions in life, eventually gaining them a higher class than women. Similarly compared to gender, race can also be looked at. Asians and whites are seen as superior to hispanics and blacks, leading them to higher education levels.
Whites and Asians, because of their ability to receive higher education levels, are able to receive higher job positions than other races who cannot obtain as high of an education level. This higher education level, allows them to earn a bigger income, causing them to be wealthier, which in the end brings them to more resources, power, and opportunity, raising them higher up in class (Larkin, 2015). Whites and Asians while obtaining job positions, are lessening job positions for blacks, increasing their unemployment rate, which also effects their income (Thompson, 2013). Overall, Males generally hold a higher rank above females in race, class, and education. When it comes to race, the women in each individual rank usually fall below the men of that same race. The rankings based on what is stated above falls with Asian men and women on top followed by white men, white women, hispanic men, hispanic women, black men and finally black women (Larkin, 2015).
Pros and Cons of Stratification
These findings reveal several things about stratification. It shows that stratification is not just based off of how hard you work, but in reality how rich you can become. The black women can work harder than the white men, but are viewed as inferior to them, which can cause them resources that would put them at the same rank as the men. This reveals that stratification is definitely unequal and it brings out the inequalities between these different groups. While stratification can bring forth inequality, it can be an affective way of ranking groups (Larkin, 2015).
There can be many different factors in determining power. Overall, white males are typically seen to have the most power. Men are usually dominant to women as they are seen as logical, strong, and judged based on work, while women are seen as soft and focused on home. Men also achieve more education and higher college degrees, making them bigger targets than women in the workforce. Whites are typically seen to have the most wealth and income over other races due to higher education and college degree levels, placing them higher in the workforce as well. Overall, white males generally hold the most power because they are typically seen as dominant over females and other races, causing them better education, which leads to better job positions, which brings forth more income and wealth (Larkin, 2015).
Overall, several stratification systems are used, each one obtaining its own range of mobility and values that help to form the ranking each person holds within a society. These rankings look at several different things including race, class, education, income, personal achievements, etc. There can be a large gap between the highest and lowest ranking members. Stratification systems are ways to organizing society, allowing each person hold his/her rank, but also enables a person to move up if desired. Stratification systems do have down falls, such as it brings forth inequality, but are a great way to keep organization that could otherwise turn to chaos.
- Systems of Stratification: Boundless Sociology. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://courses.lumenlearning.com/boundless-sociology/chapter/systems-of-stratification/
- Blau, P. M., & Duncan, O. D. (1967). The American occupational structure. New York, NY: Wiley.
- Haskins, R., Isaacs, J. B., & Sawhill, I. V. (2008). Getting ahead or losing ground: Economic mobility in America. Washington, DC: Pew Charitable Trust.
- Larkin, T. M. (2015). Sociological beginnings. In Grand Canyon University (Ed.) Our social world: An introduction to sociology. Accessed at https://lc.gcumedia.com/soc102/our- social-world-an-introduction-to-sociology/v1.1/.
- Thompson, D. (2013, November 13). The Workforce Is Even More Divided by Race Than You Think. Retrieved https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/11/the-workforce- is-even-more-divided-by-race-than-you-think/281175/.
- University of Minnesota Libraries. (n.d.). Retrieved from open.lib.umn.edu/sociology/chapter/8- 1-systems-of-stratification/.