Social Mobility

America is very well known as a social system in which the position of each individual is influenced by his or her achieved status (defined in Jon Witt’s Soc 2013 textbook) (“open system”). The United States is constructed of five social standings, which are all based on individuals economic ranking (upper, upper-middle, middle, working and under class). An interconnected concept is social mobility. So what are social mobility and stratification in reality? Social mobility is described by example below:

Starting with the most desirable; upward vertical mobility. Oprah Winfrey a famous entrepreneur accomplishes the dream of movement from poverty to upper class. As quoted in Good Reads, Oprah opines, “I’ve come to believe that each of us has a personal calling that’s as unique as a fingerprint – and that the best way to succeed is to discover what you love and then find a way to offer it to others in the form of service, working hard, and also allowing the energy of the universe to lead you”. It is obvious that holding the ascribed status of an African American woman in the sixties, created a great burden in social class movement for Oprah. The movement in economic class that Winfrey achieved is inspiring. Her mother had her as a teenager and had to look for work elsewhere. Until age six Oprah lived with her Grandmother. Suddenly her world took a twist and she was living in Milwaukee with her mother who worked long days as a housemaid. While her mother was away, she repeatedly was raped and abused by the men allowed in their apartment. Thankfully, at age fifteen, she was rescued by her disciplined father whom she is still thankful for. After all, the rules her father insisted on have paid off. Oprah became a successful teenager on the honor roll and even was nominated as Miss Black Tennessee Beauty. She went to college and studied performing arts and speech. Suddenly she began to receive many opportunities. After all of this, America adored Oprah which allowed her to create her own successful television show (“The Oprah Winfrey Show”). Quoted from the Academy of Achievement, “The business press measures her wealth in numerous superlatives: the highest-paid performer on television, the richest self-made woman in America, and the richest African-American of the 20th century”.

Yes, all of these are great achievements but there is no way to measure all of the humanitarian acts she has done over the years. If we look at Oprah’s life now, we could agree that she is successful according to the fact that she owns her own production of Television program and organizations of charity.  Oprah is upper class in all three ideas (class, status group and party). She is the wealthiest black woman in America, our population sees her as an inspiring, successful icon and she has many followers that agree with the goal she has for our world.

Moving from class to class is difficult in many ways. The people of the upper class tend to all participate in the same expensive activities and minimal opportunities. Looking back on Oprah Winfrey, one of the big steps in her mobility in social class was when she moved in with her father and finally had the opportunities with school, awards and the pageant she won. This created a different world of people and places besides the poverty she lived in before ending in a social class movement.

— Emily

Works Cited

Witt, Jon. Soc 2013. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2013. Print.

“Oprah Winfrey Quotes.” Good Reads. Good Reads Inc. 2014. Web. 29 Nov. 2014.

“Oprah Winfrey Biography” Academy of Achievement. American Academy of Achievement, 2014. Web. 2 Dec. 2014.


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