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Social Stratification in American Society

In American society, there is a belief that class differences do not matter and that social mobility is such that the sort of social stratification that was and is prevalent in Europe has been eliminated in the egalitarian United States. However, it is clear that class differences do exist at some level, with power unevenly distributed through the levels of society and with the institutions of government and society structured so as to respond differently to different segments of society. In America today, the distance between the very rich and the very poor is greater than ever. One issue, though, is whether class differences in American society are stronger than the racial and ethnic differences which seem to have an even more profound effect on social stratification and on a continuation of the poverty and social redlining that keeps entire groups out of the mainstream to this day. Is racism the primary component of class differences today, or is it strictly economic? The two are not really separable, since the primary effect of racism seems to be a form of economic discrimination perpetuating poverty for a racial or ethnic group, but there is a clear difference between economic discrimination as such and racial discrimination that produces an economic difference which then becomes an occasion for further discrimination.

Social stratification is usually considered in terms of economic position in American society, though there are other determinants of social class. In much of Europe, for instance, there is an aristocracy which is born to a high social class, regardless of the wealth inherited within these families. Many of these aristocratic families become tied to land form which they can no longer make a living, yet they retain their social position. For the most part, birth does not determine social position in America, and social class is more associated with economic level. Yet, the egalitarian attitude in Americ...

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Social Stratification in American Society. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 18:01, February 20, 2017, from