Differentiate in between open and also closed stratification systemsDistinguish between caste and also class systemsUnderstand meritocracy as perfect system of stratification

Strata in rock illustrate social stratification. People are sorted, or layered, into social categories. Many factors identify a person’s social standing, such as income, education, occupation, and also age, race, gender, and also even physical abilities. (Photo courtesy of just a Prairie Boy/flickr)

In the united States, civilization like to think everyone has an equal chance at success. Come a details extent, Aaron illustrates the id that hard work and also talent—not prejudicial treatment or societal values—determine society rank. This focus on self-effort perpetuates the id that world control their own social standing.

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However, sociologists acknowledge that social stratification is a society-wide device that renders inequalities apparent. While there are constantly inequalities in between individuals, sociologists room interested in bigger social patterns. Stratification is not around individual inequalities, but around systematic inequalities based on group membership, classes, and the like. No individual, wealthy or poor, deserve to be blamed because that social inequalities. The framework of society affects a person’s society standing. Although people may support or struggle inequalities, social stratification is created and also supported by culture as a whole.

India supplied to have a strictly caste system. The world in the shortest caste suffered from excessive poverty and were shunned through society. Some aspects of India’s defunct caste mechanism remain socially relevant. In this photo, an Indian woman of a particular Hindu caste functions in construction, and she demolishes and also builds houses. (Photo courtesy the Elessar/flickr)

Caste systems room closed stratification equipment in which civilization can do little or nothing to adjust their social standing. A caste system is one in which human being are born into their social standing and will remain in the their totality lives. World are assigned occupations nevertheless of your talents, interests, or potential. There space virtually no opportunities to boost a person’s society position.

In the Hindu caste tradition, world were meant to work-related in the occupation of their caste and to go into into marriage according to your caste. Accepting this society standing was considered a moral duty. Cultural values reinforced the system. Caste systems promote beliefs in fate, destiny, and the will of a greater power, fairly than promoting individual flexibility as a value. A person who lived in a caste society was socialized to expropriate his or her social standing.

Although the caste mechanism in India has actually been officially dismantled, its residual visibility in Indian society is deeply embedded. In countryside areas, elements of the legacy are more likely to remain, while metropolitan centers present less evidence of this past. In India’s larger cities, people now have much more opportunities to choose their own career paths and marriage partners. As a worldwide center the employment, corporations have introduced merit-based hiring and also employment come the nation.

The course System

A class system is based on both social factors and also individual achievement. A class is composed of a set of civilization who share comparable status through regard to factors like wealth, income, education, and also occupation. Unlike caste systems, class systems room open. Civilization are totally free to gain a various level of education and learning or employment 보다 their parents. They can additionally socialize with and marry members of various other classes, which allows people to relocate from one class to another.

In a class system, occupation is not resolved at birth. Despite family and also other societal models help guide a person toward a career, an individual choice plays a role.

In course systems, people have the alternative to kind exogamous marriages, unions of couple from different social categories. Marriage in these scenarios is based upon values such together love and compatibility quite than on society standing or economics. Despite social conformities still exist the encourage world to pick partners in ~ their very own class, civilization are not as pressured to select marriage partners based solely on those elements. Marriage to a partner from the very same social lift is one endogamous union.


Meritocracy is an ideal system based on the belief that social stratification is the an outcome of personal effort—or merit—that determines society standing. High levels of effort will lead to a high society position, and also vice versa. The ide of meritocracy is an ideal—because a culture has never existed whereby social rank was based purely on merit. Since of the complicated structure the societies, processes choose socialization, and also the realities of economic systems, society standing is affected by lot of factors—not merit alone. Inheritance and also pressure to conform come norms, because that instance, disrupt the concept of a pure meritocracy. When a meritocracy has actually never existed, sociologists see aspects of meritocracies in modern-day societies once they research the duty of scholastic and task performance and the systems in ar for examining and financially rewarding achievement in these areas.

Status Consistency

Social stratification systems identify social position based on factors favor income, education, and occupation. Sociologists use the term status consistency to define the consistency, or lack thereof, of one individual’s rank across these factors. Caste solution correlate through high status consistency, conversely, the much more flexible class system has actually lower standing consistency.

To illustrate, let’s consider Susan. Susan earned her high institution degree yet did not go come college. That variable is a trait of the lower-middle class. She started doing landscaping work, which, as hands-on labor, is likewise a trait of lower-middle course or even lower class. However, end time, Susan began her own company. She hired employees. She won bigger contracts. She ended up being a company owner and earned a the majority of money. Those traits represent the upper-middle class. There room inconsistencies in between Susan’s education level, her occupation, and also her income. In a course system, a person deserve to work hard and have little education and also still be in center or top class, vice versa, in a caste mechanism that would certainly not it is in possible. In a course system, low standing consistency correlates v having an ext choices and also opportunities.

Prince William, duke of Cambridge, who is in line to it is in king of England, married Catherine Middleton, a so-called commoner, an interpretation she go not have actually royal ancestry. (Photo courtesy the UK_repsome/flickr)

On April 29, 2011, in London, England, Prince William, battle each other of Cambridge, married Catherine Middleton, a commoner. The is rare, though not unheard of, because that a member that the british royal household to marry a commoner. Kate Middleton has an upper-class background, but does not have actually royal ancestry. She father was a former flight dispatcher and her mother a former flight attendant and owner the Party Pieces. Follow to elegant Wong’s 2011 short article titled, “Kate Middleton: A family business that constructed a princess,” “he organization grew to the point where quit his job . . . And it’s evolved from a mom-and-pop outfit run out of a melted . . . Into a venture operated out of 3 converted farm structures in Berkshire.” Kate and also William met when they were both students in ~ the college of St. Andrew in Scotland (Köhler 2010).

Britain’s monarchy developed during the center Ages. Its social pecking order placed royalty at the top and also commoners top top the bottom. This was usually a close up door system, with human being born into positions of nobility. Riches was passed from generation come generation with primogeniture, a law stating that all building would be inherited by the firstborn son. If the family members had no son, the land checked out the next closest masculine relation. Women can not inherit property, and their social standing to be primarily determined through marriage.

The arrival of the Industrial transformation changed Britain’s society structure. Commoners moved to cities, acquired jobs, and also made better livings. Gradually, people found brand-new opportunities to boost their wealth and also power. Today, the government is a constitutional monarchy v the prime minister and other ministers elected to your positions, and with the royal family’s function being mostly ceremonial. The long-ago differences in between nobility and also commoners have actually blurred, and the contemporary class device in britain is similar to that of the United says (McKee 1996).

Today, the royal household still regulates wealth, power, and a good deal the attention. When Queen Elizabeth II retires or passes away, Prince Charles will be first in line to ascend the throne. If he abdicates (chooses not to end up being king) or dies, the place will go to Prince William. If the happens, Kate Middleton will certainly be called Queen Catherine and also hold the place of queen consort. She will certainly be one of the couple of queens in history to have earned a college degree (Marquand 2011).

There is a great deal the social push on she not just to behave as a imperial but also to be afflicted with children. In fact, Kate and Prince William invited their first son, Prince George, top top July 22, 2013 and are expecting their 2nd child. The royal household recently changed its succession laws to enable daughters, not just sons, come ascend the throne. Kate’s experience—from civilian to potential queen—demonstrates the fluidity the social position in contemporary society.


Stratification systems space either closed, definition they allow little change in society position, or open, meaning they allow movement and also interaction in between the layers. A caste mechanism is one in which society standing is based upon ascribed condition or birth. Course systems space open, with accomplishment playing a function in social position. People fall into classes based on factors prefer wealth, income, education, and occupation. A meritocracy is a mechanism of social stratification that confers standing based on an individual worth, profitable effort.

Short Answer

Track the social stratification the your family members tree. Did the social standing of your parents different from the social standing of your grandparents and great-grandparents? What social traits to be handed down by your forebears? space there any type of exogamous marriages in her history? walk your household exhibit standing consistencies or inconsistencies?What defines neighborhoods that have actually low status consistency? What are the ramifications, both positive and negative, of cultures with low standing consistency? shot to think of particular examples to assistance your ideas.Review the principle of stratification. Now pick a team of people you have actually observed and also been a component of—for example, cousins, high college friends, classmates, sport teammates, or coworkers. How does the structure of the social group you chose adhere to the principle of stratification?


caste systema device in which human being are born into a society standing the they will certainly retain their whole livesclassa team who shares a usual social status based on factors choose wealth, income, education, and also occupationclass systemsocial standing based upon social factors and individual accomplishmentsendogamous marriagesunions of civilization within the same social categoryexogamous unionsunions of spouses from different social categoriesincomethe money a human earns from occupational or investmentsmeritocracyan ideal system in which an individual effort—or merit—determines social standingprimogeniturea legislation stating that all residential property passes to the firstborn sonsocial stratificationa socioeconomic device that divides society’s members right into categories ranking indigenous high come low, based upon things favor wealth, power, and prestigestatus consistencythe consistency, or absence thereof, of one individual’s rank throughout social categories prefer income, education, and also occupationwealththe worth of money and also assets a person has from, for example, inheritance

Further Research

The New York Times investigated society stratification in their series of write-ups called “Class Matters.” The digital accompaniment to the series includes an interactive graphic dubbed “How class Works,” which tallies four factors—occupation, education, income, and also wealth—and areas an individual within a specific class and also percentile. What class describes you? check your course rank ~ above the interactive site: http://openstaxcollege.org/l/NY_Times_how_class_works


McKee, Victoria. 1996. “Blue Blood and also the shade of Money.” New York Times, June 9.

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Marquand, Robert. 2011. “What Kate Middleton’s Wedding to Prince William can Do for Britain.” Christian scientific research Monitor, April 15. Recall January 9, 2012 (http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Europe/2011/0415/What-Kate-Middleton-s-wedding-to-Prince-William-could-do-for-Britain).