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2003 and 2004 Lecture: Social Stratification

Lecture Vocabulary

Catalin Stoica
Department of Sociology

Achieved – something that you earned, you can control (e.g., education, occupation etc.)

Ascribed – something you are born into, and have little or no control over (e.g., race, gender, caste in India, etc.)

Horatio Alger myth – the idea that anyone, regardless of social standing, can reach the top levels of power and wealth with enough effort (hard work), and perseverance.

Ethnicity – a socially constructed category of people who share a set of common cultural traits (e.g., language, culture, traditions, sometimes religion etc.)

Race – a socially constructed category of people who share a set of roughly similar genetic characteristics, or gene frequencies

Role – the expected behavior of a person occupying a particular position (or having a particular status).

Social stratification (very broad) – a vertical ordering of society into groups of people that have unequal amounts of resources, life-chances, and power.

     Life–chances – opportunities that people have to acquire "things" that are valued and desirable in a society.

     Power – the ability to realize one’s will against the resistance of others (one of the many definitions of power)

Social class – a category of people with approximately similar incomes and occupations, who share similar lifestyles.

Social mobility – (in general) the moves of individuals or groups from one position to another. It might be horizontal or vertical.

     Horizontal social mobility – the transition of an individual from one position to another situated on the same level. E.g., moving from one company to another in the same occupational status (blue-collar worker in company A --- > blue-collar worker in company B)

     Vertical social mobility – the transition of an individual from one position to another, situated at a different level. It can be a move up (upwardly mobile) or a move down (downwardly mobile).

     We usually speak of moves up or down taking into account factors such as occupation or education. For instance, upward occupational mobility means moving from a lower status occupation to a higher status occupation. Downward occupational mobility means moving from a high status occupation to another, situated at a lower level.

Status – the social honor or prestige that a particular individual is accorded by other members of a society.

Lecture Outline: Social Stratification in the United States

Catalin Augustin Stoica
Sociology Department, Stanford University

  1. Definition of Social Stratification
  2. Beliefs about the American Class Structure
  3. The American Class Structure
    • Factors that determine social class
    • Classes in the American Society
  4. The role of ascriptive characteristics for social stratification
    • Race and social class
    • Gender and social class
  5. Social mobility
  6. Conclusions: is the US the land of opportunity?