SYG2000 – Chapter 7: Stratification, Class, and Inequality

Absolute Poverty
The minimal requirements necessary to sustain a healthy existence.

People who own companies, land, or stocks (shares) and use these to generate economic returns.

Caste Society
A society in which different social levels are closed, so that all individuals must remain at the social level of their birth throughout life.

Caste System
A social system in which one’s social status is given for life.

Although it is one of the most frequently used concepts in sociology, there is no clear agreement about how the notion should be defined. Most sociologists use the term to refer to socioeconomic variations between groups of individuals that create variations in their material prosperity and power.

Culture of Poverty
The thesis, popularized by Oscar Lewis, that poverty is not a result of individual inadequacies but is instead the outcome of a larger social and cultural atmosphere into which successive generations of children are socialized. The culture of poverty refers to the values, beliefs, lifestyles, habits, and traditions that are common among people living under conditions of material deprivation.

Dependency Culture
A term popularized by Charles Murray to describe individuals who rely on state welfare provision rather than entering the labor market. The dependency culture is seen as the outcome of the “paternalistic” welfare state that undermines individual ambition and people’s capacity for self-help.

The forbidding of marriage or sexual relations outside one’s social group.

Exchange Mobility
The exchange of positions on the socioeconomic scale such that talented people move up the economic hierarchy while the less talented move down.

Feminization of Poverty
An increase in the proportion of the poor who are female.

People who have no place to sleep and either stay in free shelters or sleep in public places not meant for habitation.

Payment, usually derived from wages, salaries, or investments.

Intergenerational Mobility
Movement up or down a social stratification hierarchy from one generation to another.

Intragenerational Mobility
Movement up or down a social stratification hierarchy within the course of a personal career.

Kuznets Curve
A formula showing that inequality increases during the early stages of capitalist development, then declines, and eventually stabilizes at a relatively low level; advanced by the economist Simon Kuznets.

Life Chances
A term introduced by Max Weber to signify a person’s opportunities for achieving economic prosperity.

Lower Class
A social class comprised of those who work part time or not at all and whose household income is typically lower than $17,000 a year.

A program under the U.S. Social Security Administration that reimburses hospitals and physicians for medical care provided to qualifying people over sixty-five years old.

Means of Production
The means whereby the production of material goods is carried on in a society, including not just technology but the social relations between producers.

Middle Class
A social class composed broadly of those working in white-collar and lower managerial occupations.

Pariah Groups
Groups who suffer from negative status discrimination—they are looked down on by most other members of society. The Jews, for example, have been a pariah group throughout much of European history.

Poverty Line
An official government measure to define those living in poverty in the United States.

Relative Poverty
Poverty defined according to the living standards of the majority in any given society.

Short-Range Downward Mobility
Social mobility that occurs when an individual moves from one position in the class structure to another of nearly equal status.

A form of social stratification in which some people are literally owned by others as their property.

Social Exclusion
The outcome of multiple deprivations that prevent individuals or groups from participating fully in the economic, social, and political life of the society in which they live.

Social Mobility
Movement of individuals or groups between different social positions.

Social Security
A government program that provides economic assistance to persons faced with unemployment, disability, or agedness.

Social Stratification
The existence of structured inequalities between groups in society, in terms of their access to material or symbolic rewards. While all societies involve some forms of stratification, only with the development of state-based systems did wide differences in wealth and power arise. The most distinctive form of stratification in modern societies is class divisions.

The social honor or prestige that a particular group is accorded by other members of a society. Status groups normally display distinct styles of life— patterns of behavior that the members of a group follow. Status privilege may be positive or negative. Pariah status groups are regarded with disdain or treated as outcasts by the majority of the population.

Structural Mobility
Mobility resulting from changes in the number and kinds of jobs available in a society.

Structured Inequality
Social inequalities that result from patterns in the social structure.

Surplus Value
The value of a worker’s labor power, in Marxist theory, left over when an employer has repaid the cost of hiring the worker.

A class of individuals situated at the bottom of the class system, normally composed of people from ethnic minority backgrounds.

Upper Class
A social class broadly composed of the more affluent members of society, especially those who have inherited wealth, own businesses, or hold large numbers of stocks (shares).

Vertical Mobility
Movement up or down a hierarchy of positions in a social stratification system.

Money and material possessions held by an individual or group.

Working Class
A social class broadly composed of people working in blue-collar, or manual, occupations.

Working Poor
People who work, but whose earnings are not enough to lift them above the poverty line.