What is social stratification? Strata are layers. So, social stratification means a society made up of layers. It refers to a method to classify the society under several groups or levels.
Social stratification is a system whereby people in the society are categorized depending on various factors such as income, ethnicity, occupation, and level of education.
There are many types of social stratification. The common one includes caste social stratification, class social stratification and stratification based on estate or slavery.
Characteristics of Social Stratification
The main characteristics of this phenomenon are described below.
1. Social-economic classification/ categorization: A stratified society is one with distinct social classes. Most of the social stratification types are based on the social-economic classification. This means the categorization of the society is done through two important considerations. The social status and the economic status are considered mainly under the social-economic stratification.
2. Universal: Another common characteristic of social stratification is that it is universal. This simply means that such social division concepts are found in almost all societies and cultures, sometimes deliberately and in other circumstances subconsciously. From developing countries to developed countries, the concept of social stratification is followed in various forms everywhere.
3. Hierarchical: Social stratification refers to the hierarchical society. Being hierarchical in nature, social stratification is reproduced from generation to generation. If a person belongs to a certain class, his/her generations will continue belonging to the same class. For example, some people will always be regarded to be more powerful than others.
4. Preserves the status quo: Categorization of people into different social classes is meant to ensure that the status quo is preserved.
5. Inequality in income, wealth distribution and social status: Some forms of social stratification refers to the inequality of income. This means if a person has a high capital income he/she falls in the upper class. Those with lower-income fall in the lower class and so on!
6. Unequal control over natural resources such as land: Social stratification results in the unequal control of natural resources. For example, the high-class or the rich class people can own more land or other resources. On the other hand, the poor or the low-class people own fewer resources.
7. Is in diverse forms: Social stratification is diverse in nature. This means the concept remains same with only differences in the name. Caste social stratification, slavery stratification, high-class, middle class, etc., are few such examples.
8. It has consequences: social stratification has consequences such as racial and class discrimination, unjust application of the law, and increasing income gap between the rich and the poor. It also leads to resentment between social classes.
9. It is purely social: It does not focus on natural abilities of an individual other than inequalities that have been caused by the society.
10. Inequality of opportunity: Some strata of society will usually have more opportunities for work, education and so on than others.
11. Stereotyping: Sometimes, people will stereotype the members of different social strata, cementing a particular image of them in the public’s mind.
12. Dissatisfaction: The inequalities described above can lead to dissatisfaction, and even unrest, among the populace in a stratified society.
Conclusion: It is very important to identify and to combat the inequalities that are associated with social stratification.
Also read: What is Social Stratification? – Meaning and Types.