According to Beeghley (2015), social stratification is theorganization of people in a society based on social classes. Theconcept of social classes can be attributed to the differences inincome, occupation, and wealth. It should be noted that socialstratification is defined based on societies as a whole and notpeople within the society. For example, in the United States (U.S.),the whites and African American were in different socialstratification. The whites were the upper class while the AfricanAmericans were regarded as the lower class. The formation of socialrankings can be attributed to three dimensions according to Karl Marx(Lenski, 2013). The characteristics include economic inequality,power and social prestige (Lenski, 2013). However, people are borninto an already existing social class. In this case, they come tounderstand that the current social status as a prestige attached totheir position in the society.
Power, prestige, wealth, privilege and other desirable’s effect mayhave both positive and adverse consequences on individuallife-chances. Beeghley argues that people born in the upper classhave prestige, wealth, and power (2015). The factors will have apositive effect on their life opportunities since they do not have tostruggle (Lenski, 2013). On the other hand, lower classes individualswill have to fight for the various opportunities in their livesbecause they lack the privileges (Lenski, 2013). Davis and Mooreargue that “the function of stratification is placing andmotivating individuals in the social structure” (Beeghley, 2015, p.15). Additionally, people placed in these positions are motivated toengage in the work environment through proper rewards.
Functionalist perspective states that the elite is in power becausethey have the resources and privilege to stimulate various social andeconomic conditions (Lenski, 2013). Alternatively, conflict theoristsposit that the elite is in power because the society is split intotwo. They include the `haves` and `have-nots. The elites areconsidered as the ‘haves’ hence, they benefit more in the socialarrangements than the others (Lenski, 2013).
Social Inequality and Discrimination
Gender discrimination can be defined as bias based on sexualorientation. Hurst, Gibbon & Nurse (2016) propose that thesociety has been structured such that the members have been allocateddifferent responsibilities. The gender roles will determine the rolesthat ought to be played by various individuals in their day to dayactivities. However, there is need to distinguish sexism and genderdiscrimination. In this case, gender bias is more inclusive in naturesuch that it involves both attitudes and behaviors. Genderdiscrimination may be attributed to traditional lifestyles,education, and religion (Hurst et al., 2016).
Traditions play a primary role in pushing gender inequality in thesociety. Some cultures have placed a woman as a homemaker who istasked with the preparation of food and taking care of children. Thetraditional lifestyles mandate them to seek permission from parentswho are usually male before getting married. Educationalopportunities have also been prioritized such that most careers aremale oriented. Religion also breeds gender inequality. For example,in Muslim countries, women were prohibited from becoming leadersthough they have leadership attributes (Hurst et al., 2016). Thepresence of the wage gap in the society has been contributed byvarious factors such as imperfections of labor markets, the degree oftraining and skill, and type of occupation.
Women earn less than men because of the perception that they haveother responsibilities such as taking care of their households (Hurstet al., 2016). Gendered jobs still exist such as house helps.Prejudice is defined as an assumption that is not based on actual orknown experience. Racism is an act of being distinguished from othersregarding color. Discrimination is the unjust treatment of peoplebased on grounds such as gender and race (Borell, Kiefe, Diez-Roux,Williams & Gordon-Larsen, 2013). Segregation is an act of settingsomeone apart from others. Assimilation is a process where anindividual acquires certain skills or ideas. Pluralism is whereby aperson has diverse views on something. Genocide is the intentionalmurder of a large group of individuals, either an ethnic group orfamily. Individual discrimination is a situation where a person hasnegative attitude and behavior towards another person. Alternatively,institutional discrimination is where a group of people is subjectedto ill-matched bias by the community (Borell et al., 2013).
Social Class in America and Poverty
The U.S. is one of the fast growing economies in the world. Itspopulation is made up of diverse people comprising of Whites, AfricanAmericans, and Hispanic among others. The social class in America canbe elaborated in a three-tier structure that makes up the upper,middle and lower classes (Beeghley, 2015). It should be noted thatthe socioeconomic conditions are one of the leading contributors ofthe class systems. The upper class comprises of those individuals whocontrol the factors of production or the private wealth in the nation(Beeghley, 2015). However, it should be heeded that the income andwealth define the social status. Income can be defined based on whatone makes while wealth is what an individual owns. In the U.S., theupper class is divided into upper-upper and lower-upper. Theupper-upper class membership results from birth in that they inheritthe wealth left by their families (Beeghley, 2015). Alternatively,the lower-upper have earned their lifestyles. They include actors,successful entrepreneurs, and professional athletes. Middle classcomprises of those individuals who earn above average wages. Whitecollar and blue collar jobs form this class. They include localpoliticians, lawyers, teachers, managers, plumbers, police officers,and electricians. Lower class comprise of the population that lacksthe resources to meet their basic needs such as food, clothes, andshelter. Social class sets back the society as a whole. The successof the nation or society is measured by the access to resources andopportunities among the lower class.
DeNavas, Proctor & Smith (2015) define poverty as the inabilityto meet basic needs due to inadequate resources. Poverty sets backindividuals and a country as a whole. It leads to malnutrition, poorhealth, economy, and education (Lenski, 2013). People do not haveaccess to nutritious food as result of poverty. At times, thefamilies are malnourished because they do not have enough to consume.The lack of nutritious food exposes people to diseases because theirbodies lack the ability to fight various infections (DeNavas et al.,2015). There is a high illiteracy rate among these families sincethey lack the opportunity to attend school.
Beeghley, L. (2015). Structureof social stratification in the United States.Routledge.
Borrell, L. N., Kiefe, C. I.,Diez-Roux, A. V., Williams, D. R., & Gordon-Larsen, P. (2013).Racial discrimination, racial/ethnic segregation, and healthbehaviors in the CARDIA study. Ethnicity& health, 18(3),227-243.
DeNavas-Walt, C., Proctor, B. D., &Smith, J. C. (2015). Incomeand poverty in the United States: 2014 (p.22). United States Census Bureau.
Hurst, C. E., Gibbon, H. M. F., &Nurse, A. M. (2016). Socialinequality: Forms, causes, and consequences.Routledge.
Lenski, G. E. (2013). Powerand privilege: A theory of social stratification.UNC Press Books.