Chapter 9 notes

Sociology Chapter 9
Social Stratification in the US
Introduction to US Social Stratification
Social Stratification- Is the system of social standing within a society
Major Factors in Social Standing
US Social Stratification
Most people in the US believe that self-effort and ability determine a
person’s social standing. That’s why we are really against corruption
and other unfair hindrances.
We even go so far as to support programs to equalize the playing
*What are some ways that we try and assist disadvantaged people in
our society?*
How a Sociologist Sees US Stratification
1. Social stratification is a society-wide system that makes inequalities
2. A person’s social standing is affected by the structure of society
3. Social stratification is created and supported by society as a whole
4. No individual, rich or poor, can be blamed for social inequalities
5. Systematic inequalities involve group membership, classes etc.
Factors that Define Stratification
1. Economics
*Wealth- the net value of money and assets a person has
* Income- a person’s wages or investment dividends
##other societies value attributes like charisma, wisdom, educators
and age etc more than the US
**Societies’ cultural beliefs often reinforce the inequalities of
Why do you think money is so tied to social stratification in the US?
Systems of Stratification
1. Closed System- Born into it, therefore there is little
chance/opportunity of changing your social system. A caste
system is a good example. Being a woman in some societies is a
closed system.
2. Open System- Based on achievement, therefore, movement
between layers is possible
Socialization plays a big role in people accepting and perpetuating the
system they were raised in
Caste Systems
The Class System
• A class system is based on both social factors and individual achievement
• A class is people who share similar status- wealth, education, income and
• A class system is open and people can socialize, marry or move from one class
to another
• Individuals have a choice through education, vision, motivation, talent etc
• Exogamous- Marriage of people from different social classes
• Endogamous- Marriage of people from the same social class
• Meritocracy- Social status is determined by effort and ability
*Reality is that a person’s social standing is a complex process and a pure
Status Consistency
Status Consistency is the consistency that a person ranks
across factors like income, education and occupation.
• Caste Systems have real high Status Consistency.
• Class Systems have much less
Example: Teachers have high education, a respected
occupation but relatively low pay. Therefore they have
relative low Status Consistency
The text example of Susan and her lawn business is also good
Chapter 9 Section 2
Social Stratification and Mobility in the USA
*The higher your status, the more power, prestige and
opportunities that you have.
Categories that Affect Social Standing
• Family Ancestry, Race, Ethnicity, Age, Gender, IQ, Athletic
Ability, $, Appearance, Personal skills, Achievements
Social Stratification reflects an unequal distribution of
resources. Your group compared to other groups
Standard of Living
Standard of Living is how well you can meet the necessities and
comforts needed for life. It is often used to compare different social
The SOL varies in the US and the TOP 1% of our population controls
1/3 the wealth in the US.
Advantage$ of Wealth- most and better schooling, better health,
consume more goods and services, around more motivated/entitled
people and
wield more decision-making power.
The Disappearing Middle Class
(It is even more skewed in 2015)
Social Stratification and Occupations
In most high income nations, social stratifications and
standards of living are partly based on occupation
This basis is from three main factors:
1. $- need more be said?
2. Power your job has- ability to influence others
3. Prestige your job has- some jobs have more status than otherseven if the income is not as great. Priest, teacher, truck driver.
Can you think of jobs that are real high/low for all three?
Divisions Within the Upper Class
Upper Class- Have power and control over their own lives and often
other lives as well. They often control media, colleges, sports teams,
Among the Upper Class there is a distinction between “Old Money”
and “New Money” (nouveau rich). Bill Gates is considered a country
bumpkin by the Rockefellers, Carnegies etc.
The old money has generations of contacts, influence, superior
education- many haven’t had to actually work for wages in
*The new rich are often ostentatious and flaunt their wealth*
The Middle Class
• Hard to define and there are many opinions on what
exactly it is
• Most middle class people work hard and lead comfortable
• Huge range of incomes- 30K to 150K
• Therefore broken into two subcategories- Upper and Lower
• With our change from producing goods to providing
services it has shrunk dramatically
Upper-Middle Class
• Tend to hold bachelors and postgraduate degrees
• Often study subjects like business, law, medicine,, management
• Often have big homes, nice cars
• Take nice vacations
• Their children receive quality education and have insurance
Lower Middle Class
• Tend to have jobs supervised by people of the Upper- Middle Class
• Make more $ than Lower Class and less than upper
• Jobs are often of the technical, lower-level management type
• Administrative support positions- secretaries type
• Can afford a decent, mainstream life style but struggle to maintain it
• Have trouble building savings
• More likely than upper to lose jobs during hard times
The Lower Class-AKA The Working Class
• Subdivided into three subsets: working class,
working poor, underclass
• Generally less education and lower income
• Perform jobs with little prior skill
• Routine tasks
• Close supervision
Working Class
• Decent jobs often in custodial and food service- often some benefits
• Hands on
• Often demanding
• Examples: landscaping, cooking, cleaning, building
Working Poor
• Low-skilled low paying employment- like working class
• Their jobs seldom have insurance or retirement
• Often seasonal or temporary
• More drop outs and illiterates
• Seldom vote- feel powerless
• Examples: share croppers, day laborers, migrant farm workers
*Even with full time work these groups are generally very poor
because of the difference between their wages and the cost of living
The Underclass
• Lowest Tier
• Mainly found in inner cities
• Mostly under or unemployed
• Generally menial tasks for low pay
• Some are homeless
• Often rely on the Welfare System
What types of assistance does the welfare system
Pie Graph of US Class System
Social Mobility
Social Mobility is the ability to change your social situation within
your social stratification system. There are many types.
Upward Mobility- Moving upwards in social class. Rags to riches
stories like Oprah, Stephen King etc give us a warm fuzzy. The huge
moves are rare in real life. More common are more modest moves
like college degrees, marrying up, getting a promotion at work.
Downward Mobility- A lowering of one’s social class. Can be caused
by divorce, dropping pout of school, losing a job.
Other ways for upward or downward mobility?
Other Types of Social Mobility
• Intergenerational Mobility (between generations)- Upward or
downward movement between generations. Factory worker whose
child becomes a doctor. A medical doctor whose child become a
teacher. Sometimes these can represent societal changes like 1950’s
factory workers whose increased pay moved them into the middle
class. 1920’s pro athletes as compared to now.
• Intragenerational Mobility (within a generation)- The difference
between individuals in the same generation- often how you do as
compared to your siblings
Structural Mobility
Happens when changes in society move whole groups up or
In the 50’s the prosperity of the times moved huge segments
of society into the middle class. Not always fair because
women and minorities didn’t share as equally as men in the
The recent economic downturn moved many down in society
with lay-offs and/underemployment.
Class Traits
Class Traits, also called class markers, are the typical behaviors,
customs and norms that define each class.
The Upper Class are often associated with costly, refined, luxury etc
tastes. Opera and the like.
Middle and Lower Class are more often associated with camping,
hunting and shopping at large retailors.
These can be Stereotypes and today many people blur these lines, but
some stereotypes are more often accurate than not.
Social Problem Novels
These publications had a huge impact on society. Industrialization
resulted in education, so more (poor) people could read. A huge
category of literature began to expose the cruelties that the lower
classes had to endure.
The net effect was that there was pressure to help people in the
bottom strata. Not to end stratification per se- but to improve the lot
of the lower tiers.
Oliver Twist, The Jungle, Sister Carrie were examples of publications
that had a major impact on society
Chapter 9 Section 3
Global Perspective
Global Stratification- Global stratification highlights and examines
worldwide patterns of social inequality- wealth, economic stability, status,
The industrial revolution cause great change in society and in the
interdependence around the world. It also resulted in the VAST inequality
of wealth from some regions of the world and others.
Conflict theorists feel that powerful (industrialized) nations used their
power advantage to take advantage of the resources of the poorer nations.
Global Inequality
Countries are ranked according to their relative economic status. This is
based on the Gross National Product (GNP).
Though outdated, nations were/are typically referred to as “first
world”, “second world” or “third world”. First and second world refer
to industrialized countries and third world means undeveloped.
Another model breaks countries into two classes: more developed and
less developed based on the amount of wealth to distribute around the
The GDP System
GDP stands for per capita gross domestic product. This means
that you add up all the income of the citizens, the value of the
goods and services produced, government spending and divide
this by the number of citizens to give a number to compare to
other countries.
This number is used to calculate the country’s standard of living
and the global average.
A UN system called GNI PPP ranks the world’s countries and can
be found at (
Low versus High GDP Countries
Low-Income Countries
• People are poorer- dah
• Less access to electricity, plumbing and clean water
• Less- often have access to education- higher illiteracy
• Infant mortality is higher
• Life expectancy is less
Functionalism’s Take on Social Stratification
Davis-Moore Thesis (1945)- The greater the importance of a role the
greater the reward. This means that you get paid more for important jobs
that requires more education and talent and less for menial work that
anyone can do. I wonder what stay at home parents would think of this
thesis? Teachers?
Melvin Tumin (1953)- Countered this for obvious reason like inequalities
due to race an gender.
Think of the social situation during this time period? Girls were still
required to wear dresses to school and segregation was legal.
Conflict Theory and Stratification
Conflict theorists feel stratification only benefits some people in
society and perpetuates itself.
How can a basketball player make millions and a teacher 35K?
How can a rich society have so many poor people?
According to Marx the world is divided into two classes; the
proletariats who do the work to produce the goods and the Bourgeois
which own the capital (Capitalists) and keep getting richer.
The resulting stratification creates class conflict
Occupy Wall Street, 1%’s etc
Was Marx right about anything?
Symbolic Interactionism and Stratification
SI uses everyday interactions of individuals to explain society as a
Therefore- tries to explain how people’s social standing affects their
everyday interactions.
People tend to live and work with people of a similar social standing.
SI also notes that people’s appearance reflects their perceived social
standing- cars, clothes, houses etc.
Conspicuous Consumption- Buying things that show things about you
like: eco-friendly cars, expensive jogging suits, Mcmansions
Can you think of other examples?