Social Stratification, also known as social structure is patterned of social arrangements within a society that is both emergent from and determinant of the actions of the individuals. On the macro scale, social structure is the system of socioeconomic stratification (e.g., the class structure), social institutions, or, other patterned relations between large social groups. On the mesoscale, it is the structure of social network ties between individuals or organizations. On the micro scale, it can be the way norms shape the behavior of individuals within the social system.To better understand social stratification, I'll give you an example, because the role stratification plays in everyone's life makes it important to understand its meaning and to what category it is being used.The word stratification usually refers to a system or formation of layers, classes, or categories. So social stratification refers to a system by which a society ranks categories or class of people in a hierarchy.
As an example, I'll use the society here in the United States because it is a perfect representation of social stratification and just like any other society, some groups of individuals have greater status, power, or wealth than other groups of individuals. For those who are in the working class category within the society, social stratification’s role in your life is pretty simple. You will find it easier to shift down to a lower social class or category than it is to shift up towards a higher social class or category, due to the fact that there is not that much room to navigate. By no mean, I’m saying it's impossible but very difficult even with a good and quality education (Kimberly M., 2015).
However, if compared to other societies, if you lose your job today, it will be a matter of days or perhaps weeks before you can find another job. But since it's a fast-moving society, although it won't take that long for you to find another job you may find yourself moving from the working class individuals to the non-working class, which is those living below the poverty line; the poor class. Without social stratification, it wouldn’t be that hard for anyone to move from a lower class or category to a higher one, as long as you work hard it would've been that easy to achieve. So technically, social stratification is designed to keep you where you are.
However, other than the negative, social stratification has its positive side as well. For example, let's say you in school right now getting a Ph.D. in psychology. Once finished, you have a guarantee that you will get a better job, offering much better pay. It’s like you are being rewarded for your education and the higher you go with your education level the more money you'll earn. It wouldn’t be fair to see someone without your education and who didn't make the same sacrifices that you've made through the years to get where you are, doing the same job that you're doing and then making the same amount of money that you are making. Because of social stratification, the chance for this to take place is next to zero. One can see this as the positive side of social stratification (Russ L., 2013).
(Caste System versus Class System)
The caste system, on the other hand, is a lot more difficult and complicated to move from one class or category to another. This system is a very complex and intricate social system that determines social status achieved by birth.
According to experts, there are four different ways in which one's social status can be determined or can be controlled by caste:
(1) Occupation or the work that a person does.
(2) Marrying another person within their own caste only.
(3) Socializing with other people within their own caste only.
(4) Indulge in the religious code of belief or social ideology that reinforces or strengthens the caste system only.
On the other hand, a class system is more flexible, just like the caste system, the class system is also achieved by birth; however, a person’s social status can change within the class system. In the caste system, a person’s status never changed. This means, if you were born poor you will die as such and if you were born rich you will die rich. With that says, despite a person's great efforts and sacrifices to educate himself/herself and achieved a lot of other things in life, they wouldn't mean nothing if you were in a caste system and have found yourself in the lower class or category.
(Social Stratification within race and genders)
When it comes to race and gender issue this has always been a very touchy subject because however, you address it, somebody somewhere going to be pissed about it. Socio-psychologically speaking, social stratification has its play in both, the gender and the race gap.
Although it's shameful, however, it’s not surprising to the majority that women don’t get the same pay as compared to men for doing the same and equal.
This is a form of social stratification that makes one gender superior the other within our society. And frankly, it's not just within our society, it's societies across the globe, and this is what technically leads to the social imbalance and inequality that exist between genders.
When it comes to race, let's not be hypocritical about it. We all know despite many efforts and compromises that have done to date within our society to move away from that race issue, a person’s skin color as well as his/her country of origin still matter in the justice system, in school, at the workplace, etc.
Argosy University (2015). Groups and Social Stratification. Data Retrieved on 05/16/2015, from: https://digitalbookshelf.argosy.edu/#/books/9780558788391/pages/49073259?return=/books/9780558788391/outline/17
Kimberly M. (2015). Social Stratification: Definition, Theories & Examples. Data Retrieved on 05/16/2015, from: http://study.com/academy/lesson/social-stratification-definition-theories-examples.html
Russ Long (2013). Social Class or Social Stratification. Data Retrieved on 05/16/2015, from: http://dmc122011.delmar.edu/socsci/rlong/intro/class.htm