Social Stratification: 12 Major Characteristics of Social Stratification

Exploring the Characteristics and Implications of Social Stratification

Social stratification, a complex framework shaping the structure of societies, involves the categorization of individuals based on factors such as income, ethnicity, occupation, and education. This phenomenon manifests in various forms, including caste, class, and estate-based stratifications. Unraveling the layers of social stratification reveals 12 major characteristics that define this intricate societal structure.

  1. Social-economic classification/ categorization: The foundation of social stratification lies in distinct social classes, primarily based on social and economic considerations. This dual classification shapes the societal landscape, determining an individual’s status.
  2. Universal Presence: Social stratification transcends geographical and cultural boundaries, existing universally in various forms across societies—whether consciously implemented or subtly ingrained in social norms.
  3. Hierarchical Nature: Operating within a hierarchical framework, social stratification tends to perpetuate across generations. One’s social class often becomes a hereditary characteristic, maintaining the existing hierarchy.
  4. Preservation of the Status Quo: The categorization of individuals into different social classes serves to preserve the existing societal structure, reinforcing established norms and power dynamics.
  5. Inequality in Income, Wealth, and Social Status: Social stratification accentuates disparities in income and wealth distribution, contributing to the delineation of social status. High-income individuals belong to the upper class, while lower-income individuals occupy lower social strata.
  6. Unequal Control over Natural Resources: The stratification results in the uneven distribution of natural resources, with the affluent class exercising greater control over land and other resources compared to the less privileged.
  7. Diverse Forms: Social stratification manifests in various forms, encompassing caste-based, slavery-based, and class-based divisions. The concept remains consistent, with differences lying in nomenclature and specifics.
  8. Consequential Impact: Social stratification gives rise to far-reaching consequences, including racial and class discrimination, unjust legal practices, widening income gaps, and fostering resentment between social classes.
  9. Purely Social Focus: Unlike natural abilities, social stratification centers on societal-induced inequalities, emphasizing external factors that contribute to differential treatment and opportunities.
  10. Inequality of Opportunity: Certain societal strata enjoy greater opportunities for education, employment, and other advantages, perpetuating a cycle of privilege for some and disadvantage for others.
  11. Stereotyping: Members of different social strata often face stereotyping, solidifying societal perceptions that may not accurately represent their abilities or character.
  12. Dissatisfaction and Unrest: The inherent inequalities within social stratification can breed discontent and unrest among the populace, highlighting the urgent need to address and rectify these disparities.

Conclusion: Recognizing and addressing the inequalities associated with social stratification is crucial for fostering a more equitable and harmonious society. By understanding the characteristics and consequences of this complex phenomenon, societies can work towards dismantling barriers and promoting inclusivity for all.


Social stratification, the division of society into layers based on factors like income, ethnicity, and education, is a pervasive and universal phenomenon. Rooted in a hierarchical structure, it categorizes individuals into distinct social classes, often perpetuating across generations. The preservation of the status quo is a key characteristic, reinforcing established norms and power dynamics.

Inequalities in income, wealth, and social status are accentuated, contributing to an uneven distribution of natural resources. This diverse phenomenon takes forms such as caste and class stratification, leading to consequences like discrimination, unjust legal practices, and widening income gaps.

Social stratification focuses solely on societal-induced inequalities, ignoring natural abilities. It perpetuates inequality of opportunity, with certain strata enjoying more advantages. Stereotyping and dissatisfaction among different classes can lead to unrest. To build a more equitable society, recognizing and addressing these inherent inequalities is imperative. By understanding the characteristics of social stratification, societies can work towards dismantling barriers and fostering inclusivity.

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