Social Stratification in the US
America is known as the land of the free and home of the brave. When thinking of this you think about all the opportunities presented to people and all the freedom. An idea of America is that we’re a meritocracy, which means anyone can be able to to become anything they want as long as they work hard playing by the rules. Along with that many people believe that diversity will bring together the country and unite us all but that’s not the case. America is not a meritocracy. First off, it’s needed to look at how people move up in society, so looking at social mobility and social stratification can help to explain the basics of this movement. Social stratification is the way individuals are categorized in rankings by their wealth, income, and social status. Social mobility is the movement of individuals throughout these rankings.
Social stratification is a sociological phenomenon in which people in the society are placed in different ranks with reference to same economic conditions. Normally, there are those of a high standard and others of a low standard. Social stratification borrows classification from earth sciences and thus it refers to its classes as strata. The difference in economic characteristics of persons leads to domination of power by one group to another. Social Stratification is characterized by four core principles namely; Social stratification has been said to be transferable from generation to another. Every generation adopts the classifications that had been set by a generation that proceeded. Social stratification is a societal characteristic and not an individual view. The society forms a uniform way of grading persons ‘which is not a sole person’s objective’. Social stratification is said to be universal and also variable. Though this statement seems contradictory, it means that classification is uniform in a certain society but will vary when compared with other societies. Lastly, social stratification is not all about equality of persons, but also the beliefs that they hold. This means that social classes in the society are also based on common beliefs. The classification of the society into various ranks brings about inequality. In the western communities, social stratification adopts three key; the upper, middle and lower class. It is due to these classes that inequality is developed. Those of upper class view themselves as superior and having more prestige compared to their counterparts in lower ranks. Therefore, sharing of common resources in the society is based on the stratification ranks. Inequality is a social evil that emanates from social stratification.
Locklin claimed that moving from one social class to another requires steps and measures that can help one jump from one class to another. Locklin argued that jumping to the upper class would require steps like making wise decisions investment issues, one’s parents, participating in some kind of sports and attending some special schools. These suggestions are actually out of natural reach in general. It is common knowledge that one cannot choose his/her biological parents as in the case of adoption. Sports are also talents that can only be nurtured and not taught. The school to attend is also to a large extent dependent on your parents’ income, a direct relation to a social class. Locklin in other words is bringing the implication that it is relatively hard for one to quickly from one class to another (Locklin 1).The second class in the ladder is the middle class. It consists of educated professionals ranging from secretaries to teachers all the way to the highly educated people like “businessmen, doctors, lawyers, stockbrokers and CEOs” (Cliffs 1). This group has a relatively average income (Cliffs 1). In the American economy about 30% of the population falls in the middle class with their household income averaging from $50,000 to $90,000 and an average individual income ranging from $27500 to $52500 per year.
In conclusion, social stratification concept makes it possible to understand people’s behavior. Without classifying people, it will be difficult to address social needs and social issues. Social class determines people’s way of life, customs, religions, happiness and other important aspects in the development of the individual, the community and the nation as a whole. Popular culture’s catering to the wealthy and social welfare for the poor can be easily tracked as shift in economic activity is pronounced such as the economic situation now.
Cliff, Note. Types of Social Classes of People. Cliff Notes, 2011. Web.
Kerbo, Harold. Social stratification and inequality: class conflict in historical, comparative, and global perspective. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 2002. Print.
Locklin, Scott. Social Classes: the Upper Class in America. Alternative Right, 2010. Web.