Social stratification

Categories: Slavery And Freedom

The term social stratification refers to, "the division of society into layers, these layers are distinguished by unequal rewards and life chances."(Brown K 2000) Sociologists use the term to refer to the structure of society and the way in which people are classified.

Social classification is a method of grouping individuals who have similar wealth, income and occupation.

There are many ways people can be divided into groups. In years gone by a person's gender would have been a major way of classifying people and could dictate their position in society.

Men were traditionally classed as the main earners and a women's role was to raise children and look after the household.

A person's position in society according to their age is viewed differently by other cultures. In industry societies where industry is technology based and advancing forward, older people are not as valued as young or middle aged professionals. Whereas in agricultural societies the older someone is, the wiser and more knowledgeable they are consider to be.

Get quality help now
Doctor Jennifer
Doctor Jennifer
checked Verified writer

Proficient in: Slavery And Freedom

star star star star 5 (893)

“ Thank you so much for accepting my assignment the night before it was due. I look forward to working with you moving forward ”

avatar avatar avatar
+84 relevant experts are online
Hire writer

The caste system, which exists in India, is a system of classification which people are given at birth. There are four main castes with priests and nobles at the top, landowners 2nd, traders and farmers 3rd and servants at the bottom of the scale. It is forbidden for people of different castes to interact in order to, �avoid any pollution or defilement which would result from close contact with members of a caste." (Taylor P et al 1998) It is impossible for someone born into a lower caste to move up to a higher caste, meaning there is no room for social mobility within this system.

Get to Know The Price Estimate For Your Paper
Number of pages
Email Invalid email

By clicking “Check Writers’ Offers”, you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy. We’ll occasionally send you promo and account related email

"You must agree to out terms of services and privacy policy"
Write my paper

You won’t be charged yet!

Religion is a main way of dividing almost every society in the world; these divisions are the cause of many of the wars and conflict that have occurred. In Northern Ireland the two main religions are Protestant and Catholic with some followers of both segregating themselves from each other and resorting to violence. Religion does not necessarily influence position in society but it is a major way of dividing the population.

The feudal system of classification was mainly found in medieval Europe. "The levels of the social hierarchy were called estates and based on ownership of land"(Brown K 2000) People of higher estates had more legal rights and privileges than lower estates. This meant people from lower estates were legally obliged to do certain things for owners of higher estates for example work on their land at least one day per week. The feudal system had little or no social mobility, as it was very difficult for a person to move from one estate to another. Some upward mobility was possible if land was given as a gift by the owner of the first estate.

First estate The King, aristocrats and gentry

Second estate the church e.g. bishops, abbots and clergy

Third estate Merchants, artisans and serfs

"Slavery is an extreme form of inequality in which some individuals are literally owned by others as their property"(Giddens A 1997) The rights of slaves where different throughout the world with some having no rights whatsoever while some were treated more on a servant level. There were different levels within the slavery system with some making enough money through business deals to have their own slaves. At the other end of the scale were the slaves who were forced to work on plantation and in coalmines for little or no money who were treated very badly.

Another way, and the most commonly used method of dividing society are using social class. Social classification is the way people are divided in groups according to their, "command or lack of command of economic resources" (Stephens P et al 1990). There are three traditional class divisions, illustrated in the diagram below.

As society is constantly changing so to are the classifications. Within the working class there are what's known as the new or affluent working class and the under class. In the 1980's and 90's there became a division between the employed and employed working class. The table below lists some of the difference between these two new classifications.

New working class

Under class



Secure employment

Insecure employment

Private housing

Rented housing

Live in suburbs

Live in inner city


Low income

The new working class has moved away from the jobs they were traditionally associated with. They have moved from heavy industry to light industry by changing from unskilled manual work in factories to jobs in offices.

The main way in which people are classed is on the basis of their occupation as this can create many differences between the classes. There will obviously be major differences in earnings between the classes with manual or factory workers earning significantly less than middle class professionals such as doctors or lecturers. Similar to earnings, there is a significant difference in the prestige associated with certain jobs. The example of doctor versus factory worker illustrates this point as there is more prestige given to doctors.

Differences in education can cause major differences," usually the higher the education a person is the higher the occupation"(Moore S 1997) Generally this statement is true as very few graduates will choose a career working in manual low paid jobs. The higher the income the more spending capability that can lead to major differences in lifestyle between the classes. These differences can be seen in the car someone drives, their house and the number and type of holidays they take. There are definite styles of dress associated with a certain class. Middle class professionals would commonly wear suits or smart casual style clothing whereas working class are more associated with wearing more casual clothes such as jeans and sweatshirts. This is not necessarily the �dress code� of the classes but it is a common trend.

There are problems with occupation as the main measure of social class. "Classification based on occupation omit the very rich who own factories and commercial instructions"(Moore S 1997) this means the systems do not have classes to cover people in this position therefore they are not inclusive of the entire population.

They do not take into account the variation in backgrounds of people in the same occupation. For example an estate agent who is from a rich background and receives money from their family is different to an estate agent who does not receive extra income. Although they both have the same job, their lifestyles may be vastly different.

They don't take into account the homeless.

They also do not take into account job titles having different meanings in different circumstances. "A doctor can mean a very successful general practitioner with a practice in a pleasant part of a city with some private patients; or it can mean a junior hospital doctor in an inner city hospital earning low wages"(Moore S 1997)

There are many classification systems, which use occupation as the main basis for categorizing people. The Registrar General's classification groups all jobs into 5 general categories shown in the a diagram below:

Class Type of occupations

1 Professional and higher administrative e.g. lawyers, architects, doctors, managers, university teachers.

2 Intermediate professionals and administrative e.g. shopkeepers, farmers, actors, musicians, teachers.

3 Skilled

(a) Non-manual e.g. draughtsman, shop assistants, clerks

(b) Manual e.g. electricians, coal miners

4 Semi-skilled e.g. milkmen, bus conductors, telephone operators, fisher men, firemen, farm workers

5 Unskilled e.g. night watchmen, porters, refuse collectors, cleaners, laborers

As the table shows the system covers many different jobs and was valid and used by the government at one point. However as society is constantly changing it is no longer a valid measure. It no longer covers all the man types of jobs and many of the jobs listed are gender specific and assuming that a male is the head of a household, which is not always the case in modern society. The Registrar General system was a good system when it was first created but has since become out of date.

The hope and Goldthorpe classification system is a step up from the Registrar Generals as it has developed it further. It divides 8 groups into 3 classes. The diagram below shows how the classes are divided into Service, intermediate and working classes.

Occupations % Classes

1 Higher grade professionals, 7.7

Administrative and managers


2 Lower grade professionals, administrators, 6.0

Managers, supervisors and high grade


3 Clerical, sales and rank-and-file service

Workers 7.4

4 Small proprietors and self employed Intermediate

Artisans 12.6

5 Lower-grade technicians and foreman 11.3

6 Skilled manual workers in industry 27.2

7 Semi and unskilled workers in industry 22.6 Working

8 Agricultural workers and small holders 5.2

All 100

Again this is a good way to class people by their occupation but there are some groups, which are not included. For example the unemployed, rich non-workers, house wives, retired and disabled are left out and as with the Registrar General system it is male orientated.

The 1998 Standard Occupational Classification (SOC), with 822 detailed occupations, reflects the current occupational structure in the United States and was designed to provide a universal occupational classification system.

Occupations are classified based on the work performed, and on the required skills, education, training, and credentials for each one. All of the occupations in this structure are classified at four levels of aggregation to suit the needs of various data users. Each occupation is given a unique six-digit code that not only identifies the occupation, but the four levels of aggregation as well.

Occupations are classed based upon work performed, skills, education and training required for the job

The practice of officially classifying the British population according to occupation and industry began in 1851. The occupational element was gradually increased from 1881, and in 1887 the idea was first mooted by the Assistant Registrar General that, for mortality analyses, the population might be divided into broad groups based on social standing.

No one system could class every member of society by his or her occupation due to the ever-changing nature of society. However the more modern the system the applicable they are. A system designed in the 1970's would no longer be of use as society has changed so dramatically since it's first introduction.

Updated: Nov 01, 2022
Cite this page

Social stratification. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

Social stratification essay
Live chat  with support 24/7

👋 Hi! I’m your smart assistant Amy!

Don’t know where to start? Type your requirements and I’ll connect you to an academic expert within 3 minutes.

get help with your assignment