Social stratification is the creation of layers of people or groups of people based on the unequal access to scarce resources (income, wealth, power, and prestige). Each layer in the system is known as a social class. There are three perspectives on stratification; functionalist, conflict theory, and symbolic interactionism. The functionalist perspective exists in society for good reasons; it helps keep orders in our society. In this perspective, certain tasks in society are more valuable than others. Everyone knows what job they should hold and the people that are most qualified are the ones that should receive the most rewards. Conflict theory happens when times are tough and resources are limited, different social classes have to rely on each other.
In this perspective, some social classes have to take from other social classes to better themselves; which promotes inequality. Symbolic interactionism is a perspective or theory that uses everyday interactions of people to explain society as a whole. This class impacts a person’s self-esteem and the people in this class are taught that their social class is a result of talent and effort. This perspective also focuses on relationships and how people associate themselves with others within a society. Out of the three perspectives, I agree with the conflict theory because it focuses on how we are in competition for scarce resources and the elite control the weak and the poor.
There are 5 social classes in America; the upper class, the middle class, the working class, the working poor, and the underclass. The upper class is only made up of 1% of the population and consists of two subgroups; the upper-upper class and the upper-middle class. The upper-upper class high society families with “old money” who have inherited wealth. The lower-upper class includes those with “new money” or money based on achievement. The middle class is made up of 44% of the population and consists of two subgroups; the upper-middle class and the middle class. The upper-middle-class is made up of higher status members of the middle class. The upper-middle-class includes business owners and has above-average incomes and advanced degrees (aka white collar).
The middle class consists of people who are usually college-educated and, are secured financially, and consists of business and professional jobs such as a nurse practitioner or a software developer. In Leonard Goodwin’s study, it shows that middle-class people tend to misperceive the work ethic of the poor. Researchers find that middle- class people assume that poor people lack personal responsibility. The working class (lower-middle class) is made up of 30% of the population and consists of skilled workers with some or no college education and has more unstable employment. This class consists of members like truck drivers, plumbers, and roofers, or usually laborers who build.
The working poor is made up of 13% of the population and is consisted of law skilled jobs with low pay like construction and maintenance occupations and whose incomes fall below the poverty level. The underclass is made up of 12% of the population and are people at the bottom of society. This class is largely composed of the disabled, old, chronically-sick, unemployed, or single parent. Being poor has odds stacked up against them of being able to obtain good jobs and have the health facilities and other things that can keep them in a job. My family is currently in the middle class because my dad owns a business, has a bachelor’s in liberal arts and is secured financially. My mom is a counselor at Harlem Middle School and has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and her master’s degree in counseling.
Social mobility is the movement of individuals or a group of people between social classes. It also refers to the ability to change positions within a social stratification system. There are two types of social mobility; horizontal mobility and vertical mobility. Horizontal mobility is the movement from one position to the same position in social status but the social class stays the same. Vertical mobility is the movement from one social status to a different social status. Vertical mobility usually happens over generations and is very hard for a person to move up from a social class.
Yes, there has been social mobility in my family, in fact, there has been vertical mobility. Both my grandparents grew up very poor and they were classified as being in the underclass. Later in life, my papa became a pathologist and my nana became a surgical nurse. They worked there way up and moved to underclass to upper-middle class. As I experienced in playing Monopoly, some people work there way up especially moving up from underclass to working poor.
I think that wealth is spreading unevenly in America because we are a capitalist country. Capitalism makes certain groups more wealthy than others. The inequality of wealth in the world is due to an uneven spread of capitalism. Yes, I think that everyone has different talents and skills which reflect on how much they make but that does not explain the huge gaps between rich and poor in our capitalist country. The inequality of wealth is not only found in a capitalist country but it is found in inequality of heritage. If you do not come from a rich background it may reflect your future. Inequalities of wealth lead to several things such as how much power we have, what education we have, and what are income is. In the video “My Reality
Yes, I believe in the American dream for several reasons. The American dream is the belief that anyone can attain their own version of success in society and is possible for everyone. I think there are many opportunities for people to achieve success through hard work. For example, Jeff Bezos wasn’t rich at all when he was a kid and now he worked his way up into becoming a multi-billionaire. I think the American Dream is still possible in America today and people are still able to move up in social class even though it may be challenging in today’s society. I believe in the American dream because we have freedom, justice, and the ability to serve others.
In the video we watched “My reality: A Hidden America” it talks about how the American dream is still possible but it is harder to achieve. I agree with this because more people at the top (upper class) have been getting more and more money. The top 20% have 14 times the wealth as the rest of us. The people who have billions or millions should consider helping out the middle class. Being able to put away some savings, and being able to save for retirement is so much harder to achieve than it was back then but it is still possible. We want all of these things like a house but student loans, credit card debt, and underemployment are all dragging us down. Overall, I believe in the American dream even though some of us may struggle to reach it.
I have learned several things about this unit and about other social classes. I learned that there are many subgroups to each class like the upper class has an upper-upper class and a lower-upper class. I also learned what members are in each social class and their background and how people are assigned to classes. I also learned some statistics; 30% of the working poor is 25-34 years old and in Montana, 34% of working families are low income. The biggest thing that opened my eyes was when I learned that you do not have to be rich to be powerful. While playing monopoly, I had the most money in my group and I felt powerful. Most people think that you need to be rich in order to get on top of the hierarchy. Overall, social stratification affects lifestyles, opportunities, and power.