Stratification in the US
Stratification involves arrangement of people according to their social status. It is a hierarchical arrangement of groups of people based on how they control resources in society. Social stratification occurs in all societies, and the US is among those societies. Any type of stratification system may incorporate numerous elements, and inequality is demonstrated in the arrangement of these groups. Max Weber, a legendary sociologist, asserted that individual’s position in any stratification system portrays a mixture of status, class, and power. Social economic status determines the position of each individual in the stratification. Social stratification in the US is exhibited in form of ethnicity, education, occupation, wealth and income.
According to various American sociologists, social stratification is usually based on social factors, which include wealth, education, occupation, income, and intellectual capabilities (Nadrag and Bala 365-366). Social position also determines the social stratification through race, ethnicity, as well as age and gender. Most Americans are aware of their origin, and slavery is not a new idea to them. People who are perceived as “slave” are treated as property even in the contemporary society. Despite the end of slavery in the US long time ago, many sociologists believe that its legacy is still implanted in the current prototypes of discrimination, especially against African Americans (Kendall 211). Slavery may not end, as long as child labor, forced labor, and limited opportunities and mobility still exist in the country.
The class system involves a grouping where status is determined by what an individual has achieved. This type of stratification allows vertical mobility, where individuals move from a low status to a higher status. The class system has a massive influence on social inequality, as well as social change in the contemporary American society. Wealth is perceived as the most essential element that differentiates classes, and can be transferred from parent to children. Wealth categorizes people into upper class, middle class, and lower class. People who earn high income are categorized in the upper social class while those who earn low income belong to the lower social class.
Education attainment in the US indicates that the school system is not uniform in terms of quality. Free compulsory education, which has been in existence from the twentieth century, does not benefit everyone, as some schools have better structures than others do. Even though the federal government has subsidized the college education, low class people are still excluded from attaining higher education. Wealthy people take their children to schools that offer the best education, thus, placing them at a higher chance of securing good jobs, compared to children from the poor families. In occupation stratification, jobs requiring broad schooling and scholarly insight are out of reach for low class citizens. People who earn the same income usually form their own class, and do not associate with those who earn less than what they earn.
Ethnic stratification involves ranking people based on their ethnic or racial background. Race has always been a powerful organizing principle in the US, dating back from Jim Crow to civil rights legislation (Weir 239). Ethnicity serves a more neutral term than race, since it focuses mainly on cultural qualities. Thus, ethnic stratification happens due to unequal interactions of people who were perceived to be culturally different from one another.
Stratification in the US still exists because people do not prefer to abandon their behavior. Inequality in form of income and wealth has contributed immensely in sustaining stratification since the rich people do not want to be associated with the poor people. According to Brym and Lie, stratification will continue to exist since inequality benefits the wealthy and powerful people (142). Some of the behaviors developed in a social stratification have become a culture to that group. Most Americans are against the government’s idea of reducing inequality. In a free-market economy, people usually take job opportunities that suit them, but if the economy is unstable, some people are coerced to take any job, as long as it can provide an income.
As the US economy continues to grow, social stratifications are likely to continue, leading to new levels of class system. The old saying that “the rich get richer” is still valid in the US, making the poor people to be isolated from the rest of population (Kendall 225). People who work in the same company have a tendency of developing a social class, which restrict others from joining the group.
Stratification has an impact in people’s survival and social interactions. It determines the ability of an individual or a group to access basic resources. People react on their situations depending on their races or ethnic groupings while the resources and opportunities that they possess determine how they are treated in society. The type of stratification determines life chances, and each individual belongs to a stratification that dictates his/her fate. If an individual belongs to the slavery stratification, chances of having adequate resources are very low. The class system allows social mobility, and individuals’ lives are changed once the move from lower class to upper class of stratification. The gap between the moneyed and the poor is widened by the formation of social stratification. This disparity lead to chaos in society as each group perceives the other as a hindrance to progress.
The wealthy people are likely to maintain their possessions while the poor will continue sinking in poverty. Wealthy people are perceived to be more educated, and are usually cherished in society. Some American citizens are oppressed due to their conditions, which restrict them from achieving the life’s desires. They develop emotional stress and dejection due to lack of access to basic resources. Some people end up feeling unworthy and eventually develop low self-esteem. Stratification leads to unequal distribution of resources, as areas where low-income earners live are usually ignored in terms of development. It encourages monopoly of power in a given group. Stratification tends to explain that people born from lowest social class can never succeed in life while those from affluent communities work hard to maintain their status.
Stratification bred capitalist class, which owns the resources. The capitalist class has the capacity to exploit other classes since it possesses the production means. According to Karl Marx, class position and the level of income that individuals earn determine life chances (Kendall 188). The working class is often exploited and discriminated in its endeavor to enhance its life chances. Workers are vulnerable to displacement through new technology or cheap labor. Lack of employment opportunities among low class individuals may lead to crime and other social evils in society. It is so unfortunate that some people were born from slave families while others come from wealthy class. Unless the government takes steps to minimize the gap between the rich and poor, class conflict will always exist in American society.
Brym, Robert J, and John Lie. Sociology: Pop Culture to Social Structure. Australia: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2013. Print.
Kendall, Diana E. Sociology in Our Times: The essentials. Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning, 2012. Print.
Nadrag, Lavinia, and Monica Nadrag Bala. “Socio-Economic Stratification.” Economics, Management & Financial Markets 9.1 (2014): 362-369. Business Source Complete. Web. 18 June 2014.
Weir, Robert E. Class in America: An Encyclopedia. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2007. Print.