Category Archives: social mobility

Caste System

So, what is there to say about caste systems? Well, they’re based on what caste a person is born to and are designed to keep order within society based. The way I see a caste system is that there are levels of power and in no way can you ever move up or down to experience any other one of the castes.

Caste systems maintain the power structure and at the same time, they limit access to power. When born in a caste, you have no chance of mobility and have no idea how the other castes live and prosper. During the Middle Ages in Europe, society was like a caste system; Kings and Queens were at the top, knights were the next stage down and at the bottom were the peasants.  It was an extremely rare occurrence for someone to experience mobility at that time.  There were exceptions like Joan of Arc who was born a peasant girl, having no chance of ever being anywhere but the bottom. But, by the age of 17, she was hearing voices from God and was chosen to lead the French armies into battle and experienced upward mobility as a result (Deadliest Warrior: Season 3, Episode 2. Los Angeles: Spike TV, 2011. N. pag. Web. 27 July 2011).

But for the most part, caste systems are made to keep organization among the masses; it’s mainly set around the characteristic traits that you inherit at birth. And with this specific trait, society sees you as nothing more than that person. You are basically type caste by society, meaning you are known for that one trait and nothing can change that; you live in your caste.

While the United States isn’t based on a caste system, the country of India has a caste system of five castes: you have your priests, the warriors or military, merchants which are your traders or officials, the unskilled workers which are your equivalent to the American blue-collar occupations, and the untouchables who are subjected to doing the jobs that no one wants to take. Thet are trash collectors, window washers, janitors, pretty much the untouchables do the dirty work for the people of India.

A caste system could also be linked to a slave system as well, because, slave systems work a bit like a caste.   Slaves have children, and they too become slaves because of their parents status. They typically were not allowed to move up in status.

Caste systems may be justified based upon stereotypes of how the people are built physically and then subject to jobs that best suit that physique. Caste requires endogamy, and thus  people reproduce with similar individuals and pass on these traits, so it is claimed. For instance, if some people appear to be big and strong, you would label them only useful for a physically demanding jobs like construction or firefighting. Or, an individual with a more slender appearance may only be labeled as a banker or teacher; because that’s pretty much all that they are useful for. But this is discriminatory, because you are labeling and stereotyping people based on appearance and and using this to justify caste discrimination. In my view, I see this as an unnatural way to keep order.

Caste levels can be made based shared physical traits, such as the racially based systems of segregation in the U.S. and South Africa.  A critique of these systems can be found in the 1968 film “Planet of the Apes”, in which the system of caste was based on the species of simian. In this movie, gorillas were the hunters and military based on their size and muscularity. Orangutans were the leaders and government officials because of their ability to cooperate and debate. And chimpanzees were the scholars, teachers, and scientists of the Planet of the Apes (Watchmojo: Planet of the Apes Franchise Retrospective. N.p.: YouTube, 2011. Web. 4 Aug. 2011.) In this system, no one from any castef could move up or down, even those who made the system. In this system, the law forbids you to change caste.  For example, a rich person just sitting around one day thinking, “Gee, I wonder what it’s like to collect trash, or teach children at a school, or even repair a motorcycle for a living,” wouldn’t be allowed to try any of these occupations.












In a democratic society like the United States, people can experience any occupation. But in a caste system, it’s like being in a box with only one window that doesn’t open so that you can only see what happens and not actually participate. This is similar to a slave system, where there is no chance of mobility through heredity. But for a slave, there is a way out; it’s just very difficult to pry up one of the walls of the box enough in order to get out. Those who are lucky enough to escape the box broke the code of slave and caste to experience social mobility.

In some ways, social class is comparable to a caste. As you know, castes are like being in a box with no door, but social class is like the box with one difference, there’s a door. But there’s a rule for this: in order to experience mobility in a social class system, you need to have some wealth and a little education to move up. It often feels like you are going to be in the class for your whole life, but with that American dream of working hard, you can move up from the bottom.  This is compared to a caste, where no matter how hard you work, you are never going to move up or down; it’s always the same.

Perhaps we can overlook the “always the same” idea by taking a look at the novel Divergent; a society divided by five factions represented by one personality trait. How this type of caste system works is that all 16-year old children actually have a chance of mobility. They all have a simulation test that will determine what traits they possess. When finished, the instructor informs them which traits they presented, and they ultimately change caste by blood oath and remain there for the remainder of their days. This concept plays like a caste system that experiences limited mobility. (Roth, Veronica. Divergent. N.p.: HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2013. Web. 22 Oct. 2013). How about that, huh?

Sometimes it’s difficult for people to have mobility based on wealth and income because of their occupation. The people who are in the lower class have it the hardest, they have low paying jobs that almost never experience college education and therefore cannot move up the social ladder. It’s hard to pay for school because they earn very little to pay for it. In contrast, children who are born to wealth, have a much higher chance of attending college, mainly due to the fact that they have the wealth to pay for it. Therefore it’s easier for them to become educated and successful. But it does make me think what their parents or grandparents did to earn that wealth because they may have started with little money as well and their children were just born to rich parents. The parents thought about the American dream and succeeded, but their kids could actually ask their parents for the money and go to college and become whatever they want without really working hard. Think about it.

I feel like that there really is no need for caste systems. Because even though it’s a way to keep peace and order and avoid chaos, we have to realize that people are not going to follow only one person’s system forever. Those people may one day realize that they have more to offer than to just one trait or one occupation,  like the groups in the Planet of the Apes film. We should not label people as belonging to a certain group or otherwise that’s what society is just going to see them as. We also shouldn’t build a society based on what group people are born into, but we should build one based on what they can do.  Stratification systems should be built on talent and freedom, never heredity. What do you think?

— Alexander

Work Cited

Deadliest Warrior: Season 3, Episode 2. Los Angeles: Spike TV, 2011. N. pag. Web. 27 July 2011.

Roth, Veronica. Divergent. N.p.: HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2013. Web. 22 Oct. 2013.

Watchmojo: Planet of the Apes Franchise Retrospective. N.p.: YouTube, 2011. Web. 4 Aug. 2011.

Social Mobility

Social class is a social ranking. Your social class is often determined by how much money make, but it can also be determined by how you dress, the kind of food you eat, music you listen to, and people you hang out with. Many people in America try to deny that social classes exist. Yet many people try to move into higher social rankings. That process is called social mobility. With social mobility you can move up into higher “better” social class, which is called vertical mobility. Other types of social mobility are horizontal mobility, moving from one social position to another in the same social rank. So you are actually not improving or decreasing your class. An example of this would be working at McDonalds making minimum wage, and leaving McDonalds to take another different type of minimum wage job, such as a maid at Holiday Inn. Intergenerational mobility is changing your social position from that of your parents. An example of this would be if someone’s mom was a dentist and their child became a store clerk; that is an example of downward intergenerational mobility. Upward intergeneration mobility would be if your mother was a high school teacher and you became an engineer.  In this, you would be experience upward intergenerational mobility. The last form of social mobility is intragenerational mobility is moving up in social class as an adult. An example of this would be starting your adult life as a dental assistant and then becoming a dentist.

Horizontal mobility is the mobility that many people go through. I have personally experienced and have witnessed other people go through this experience. When I turned 16 I got my first job at a clothing store, and since turning 16 I have had three other jobs at other clothing stores. So I continue to move to different jobs but they always have the same ranking. A different example of horizontal mobility that I have witnessed is with my dad. My dad graduated high school, but did not continue his education, and because of that my dad has not been able to move upward. He worked at a warehouse for about ten years packing and unpacking foods to prisons, and once he became tired of that he started a different job as a truck driver. Even though the jobs have different titles, they both have the same social rank. Vertical mobility does not happen as often as horizontal mobility but it does happen. Some examples of this date back all the way back to pre-Civil War America. Before President Abraham Lincoln took office, he was born into a poor family and had little money to his name. Lincoln would often use his vertical mobility successes as a way to show people that anyone can achieve this American dream like he did, as long as you work hard.

Karl Marx says social status relates to who owns the means of production. Owning the means of production give higher status people a leg up and differentiating them from those who are the workers.   As long capitalism exists there will always be a division in classes. A counter to Marx’s ideas is the belief in the American Dream.  Since competition is at the heart of capitalism it always is showing people that as long as you work harder than the group who is currently dominant, then you have a chance to experience vertical mobility and this type of competition is what keeps the American dream alive.

1-4However there are many problems associated with social mobility. An example of this would be blacks trying to climb the social ladder. Since America was founded, blacks were always on the bottom of the social ladder. Back in the 1900’s, many lower class whites would take pride in the fact that “at least they were not black.” Now in the twenty-first century, blacks are treated as equal, but blacks and whites still think of blacks as lower class.  They think like this without even realizing this is what they are doing.  When blacks start to climb the social ladder, many other blacks start saying things to them like “you are acting white” and other degrading things. Many blacks who try to climb the social ladder and improve on their social status would say things like, “we not only have to prove that we are good enough to move up in class, but we have to prove that we are better than “black”.” An example of this is when Jamelle Bouie, a Slate staff writer, who talks about politics and race talks about how even if a white family and a black family grew up exactly the same, the white family would experience more social mobility than the black. “If you took two children – one white, one black – and gave them parents with similar jobs, similar educations, and similar values, the black child would be much more likely to grow up in a neighborhood with higher poverty, worse schools, and more violence.”(Why black Americans have a hard time climbing the social ladder.)

Many Americans try to ignore the fact that social mobility exists; this is the root of the problem. If people accepted the fact that social mobility was a very common thing that people tried to do every day, then people would not be so tough on those who are openly trying to have vertical social mobility. It’s almost as if these people are trying to make fun of the people they are trying to become. An example of this would be celebrities; everybody always makes fun of the things they do and ignore their accomplishments.  Maybe some of these critics are actually just wishing to experience the mobility that these stars have achieved.

— Meeshon


Work cited:  Bouie, Jamelle.”Why black Americans have a hard time climbing the economic ladder: Slat opinion.” n.b. Web. 22 Nov. 2014.



Social Class

While growing up in America, you learn that people are categorized by their class, which is based on their wealth. The different social classes are the lower class, which is known to most to be poverty, homeless, and unemployed and lacking education. The next class is the working class, the people in this class are considered to be manual laborers. Jobs that you would associate with this class are construction workers, builders, plumbers, and even electricians. Then there is the middle class which most people in the United States would define themselves as. There is an upper middle class and also a lower middle class, usually the upper middle class workers have a good education and a great job, whereas the lower middle class has less of an education and gets paid less. Finally there is the upper class which is comprised of only 1 to 3 percent of the United States population and holds more than 25 percent of the nation’s wealth.  This class divides into two groups:  “old money” and “new money”. Old money are the big dogs at the top of the food chain; they are the most prestigious and were born into wealth.  An example of this would be the Rockefellers.

This picture illustrates the differences in appearance of people in different social classes.

An important belief in the United States is that anyone can advance past the status that they were born into, this belief is what drives many entrepreneurs to come up with new ideas. Social mobility is what keeps people working hard and trying to succeed.  Even though it is rare for someone to change their ascribed class, it is by no means impossible, all it usually takes is hard work and determination. One of the biggest barriers to social mobility is the social inequality that society faces. An example of social inequality is the differences in educational opportunities, a homeless man will be unable to go to college where he can earn a degree which could help him get a job.

— Jason

Social Class

Income and wealth varies from one social class to another and you are most likely going to stay in the same economic class as when you are a growing up. I noticed this when I was very young. I happened to know a few people that were “rich” or “well off” and it seemed like their children grew up and got very good jobs and stayed in the same class as their parents. In SOC, 2012, it states that of the 36 percent of children with parents in the top wealth quintile, only 11 percent drop down into the bottom quintile. The mean income in the United States of American is just over $67,000, the median income is $49,445. Remembering that the mean is the middle of the road, from the poorest of the poor to richest of the rich, the mean income is directly in the middle. The median is all the incomes of every U.S. citizen divided by the number of people the United States. Income brackets are divided into five quintiles. In the lowest quintile the average mean household income is $11,034 per year. The second quintile’s average household mean income is $28,636, the middle quintile’s average mean income is $49,309 per year. In the fourth quintile the mean is $79,040. Now we start getting into the six digit incomes. The fourth is $169,633 and in the fifth quintile, the mean income per household is $287,686. You can plainly see the difference between the levels. In America in 2010, 15 percent of the nation’s population was living below the poverty line. Poverty involves all races, people and ages. People between the ages 18 to 65 years old make up 56.7 percent of the poor population. If you break the percentage of people living at the poverty line up by race, white people make up 42.4 percent, African Americans make up 23.1 percent, Hispanics make up 28.7 percent and Asians and pacific islanders make up 3.0 percent. Statistically, looking at the percent of people that pull themselves out of poverty and live better than their parents did, you see a very small percent of people that move up to a higher quintile. It seems that people tend to be okay with not having more then they grew up with, although it is true that others set goals and work hard to achieve more than their parents did. In some cultures it isn’t a matter of not wanting more. Some cultures look down upon those who want more. It is seen as selfish and disrespectful to outdo your ancestors. In others, the concept of working hard to move up in the world and bettering your life is respected. In general, people that want more out of life can work for it and their hard work can pay off.

— Ethan

Work Cited:  Witt, J. (2012). Ch. 10 Social Class. In SOC 2013. New York: McGraw-Hill Higher Education

Cultural Capital

According to sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, cultural capital is our tastes, knowledge, attitudes, language, and ways of thinking that we exchange in interaction with others. We adapt to our certain cultural capital when we become a part of certain social classes and cultural groups. Almost everything that a person does is because of their cultural capital. What we wear, how we talk, where we live, what grocery stores we shop at, what we consider to be entertainment, are all a part of our cultural capital.

This concept of cultural capital relates heavily to our social classes. People of the upper class have different lifestyles and tastes than people of working or lower class. For example, people of the upper class are more likely to consider the opera or “black-tie parties” as entertainment than people of the working or lower class, who may enjoy NASCAR on television. Another example of this takes place in high schools. In high schools all over the United States, there are different social classes within each of them. For some schools, most of the students belong to the same social class, usually when the school is private or in a well-off area. But in most schools there is a little bit of everything. When there are different social classes in one school, there will be groups, or “cliques” that stick together because they share the same cultural capital. There may be a group of students that all hang out together because they live in the nice part of town, shop at expensive places and have nice cars. At the same time, there will be groups of students that hang out together because they all live in the poor area of town, they get their clothes from the same stores like Good Will, and don’t have cars but ride the bus together. People tend to associate and stick together with people in their social class because they share the same cultural capital and it makes it easier for them to interact sharing the same interests and hobbies.

Often times when dealing with cultural capital, stereotypes are involved. Stereotypes are unreliable generalizations about all members of a group that do not recognize individual differences within that group. It is very common for people to stereotype social classes other than their own. For example, people of the upper class often stereotype the lower class as being lazy, talking with uneducated slang, and being obese. Stereotypes cause problems between social classes and forces a bigger gap between them with negative thoughts on each other. People of certain social classes sometimes don’t do things only because they don’t want to be judged by their peers as someone of another social class. An example would be if someone of the upper class wanted to partake in an activity called “mudding” (people drive their trucks through the mud and get stuck) but didn’t because they would be judged as someone from the lower class by their friends and feel this would be negative due to stereotypes. This is the problem that comes along with cultural capital.

There are also some problems with cultural capital when social mobility occurs. Social mobility is when someone moves from one social class to another. The problem with this is that when someone joins a new social class, the cultural capital that they had with their old class now changes and they adopt new cultural capital. If someone originally from the working class gradually becomes a part of the upper class, they no longer have the lifestyle they once had. Often times, people struggle with the new change because they feel they don’t belong or are not accepted by the people in their new social class. For example, in the movie “People Like Us,” there was a woman who felt uncomfortable going to the upper class social gatherings because she was new to that lifestyle and wasn’t used to the etiquette rules and things like that. Although the people around her in the video seemed to be accepting of her, often times that is not the case. Also when social mobility occurs, the people who are a part of the social class that the person left behind often times feel betrayed because they “forget where they came from”. The person making the change feels unaccepted in either social class.

— Mackenzie

Witt, Jon. Soc 2014. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2014. Print.


No country has reached gender equality. I say this with great regret. For centuries women have been battling to achieve equality. It has taken hard work and perseverance from women to achieve even a slight change in the social construction of gender. These women, who campaign for gender equality, are called feminists. Feminists believe in feminism, which is the advocacy for the rights of women to be socially, economically, and politically equal to men.

There are three waves of feminism. The first wave began in the 19th and 20th century. In the early 1900’s, women were not to work; they were to give birth and care for their children. Men were the workers; men were the only people who had social mobility. Social mobility is the ability for an individual to “move from one position of a society’s stratification system to another” (Witt 241). Women were not to be anything other than housewives; they could not experience mobility because they had limited involvement in the workforce.

In this case, men were the instrumental leaders of the household; they handled all of the outside obligations of the family and had certain goals outside of the home. Women were the expressive leaders of the house, where they were responsible for handling the internal affairs of the family. Harriet Martineau, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and Ida B. Wells, formed this theory about instrumental and expressive leaders. In their theory they recognize that the woman’s job as being an expressive leader, gives way for men to complete their instrumental tasks (307). In my understanding this is saying that, while women are at home taking care of the family, men are progressing in society because they have time to do so. This means that women cannot progress through society on their own, but merely in their husband’s shadow. Feminists are the kind of people who aspire to show other women that they too, can have goals. Feminists view themselves and other women to have the ability to be instrumental leaders. So, from a feminist point of view, not only can the man be the one who is allowed to have goals outside of the home, but women can too. Women can express themselves in whatever way they would like, and they have the ambition, will power, and intelligence to be more than just housewives.

Even in the political world in this time, women were not equal to men. Not only were not working outside of the home in large numbers, but they also could not vote. This wave of feminism is noticeable because it was in the time that there was a significant move towards gender equality. Up until 1919, women were not granted suffrage. Women were not granted the right to vote, to work, or to be a part of governmental decisions. Feminists in this time fought for their right to suffrage; they marched, they rallied, and they campaigned for equal rights. These women were tired of being oppressed; they wanted to be involved in the world around them. In 1920, feminists won one of their many battles for equality; they were granted suffrage.

In the second wave, many journalists stepped forward to pronounce their understanding of gender equality, and advocated for change in the workforce. Betty Freidan, the author of The Feminine Mystique,used both her writing and her verbal language to communicate to the public her beliefs on feminism (300). From Freidan’s understanding, women were isolated from society and did not have the social, economic or political resources to be successful. As a feminist, Friedan suggested that women should contest the thought that their goal in life is to have children and be a wife. Women needed to strive to achieve more in life and fight for the kind of life they wanted and occupation they wanted. Feminist organizations, such as the National Organization for Women, started to arise. These organizations helped to fight for women’s equality politically, while women individually fought for their social freedom.

Feminists strive to be equal to men and aim for the dollar they make to be the same dollar that men make. Today, women make about 77 cents to the dollar that a man makes. The amount of money a woman receives for the same work as a man is significantly less than what he makes, this is called the gender pay gap.

Even though the pay gap is not completely closed, there has been some success in closing it. Women in 2014, are able to work in the government, along with men. Even though they are not paid equally to men, they can achieve similar, though not equal, social statuses to them. Along with that, there are also some men who earn less than women since women have taken over a large portion of the workforce in America. Although these success stories are enticing, they also reveal the problem with the social statuses of women in the United States. Women can only go so far in the workplace; they cannot succeed men in their standing of prestige. Where men are doctors, women are nurses, if that brings upon a better understanding of the matter. There is an invisible barrier between how much a woman can achieve in relation to what a man can achieve this is called the glass ceiling. The glass ceiling stops qualified women from moving upward in the workforce. Feminists have worked hard to break this glass ceiling. But it is important to note that without feminist actions bringing women to the workforce in the first place, there would not only be a glass ceiling, there would be no work.

There is always another step to take when attempting to achieve gender equality. There are some women who have guided the way to prove that the ceiling can be broken. For example, Sheryl Sandberg has become the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, which is a highly appraised position that would normally be held by a man. The fact that a woman has taken charge of such a large corporation proves that even though society has attempted to stop strong women from achieving their goals, they do not always succeed. Feminists are the people who believe that women can be just as strong and predominant as Sandberg, Hilary Clinton, or even Michelle Obama. Feminists advocate for women to aspire to achieve the highest social status they could possibly imagine. This is because feminists do not fear such a thing as the glass ceiling, but rather see it as a challenge that they are ready to face head on.

The third wave of feminism involved advocacy for cultural freedom for women. There was this idea that women were to be uptight, clean, polite, and obedient. Women were sanctioned negatively if they broke their gender role. This idea that women were supposed to behave and dress how men wanted them to, is where the term sexism originated. Sexism is, as Jon Witt has explained it, “the ideology that claims one sex is superior to the other” (308). Men were under the impression that women dressed and behaved for them, and that everything they did, was to be for the pleasure of men. This was because women were inferior to men, and were to be submissive to their ideals. Sexism is what really started off the third wave of feminism.

Kathleen Hanna was a feminist who pushed for another wave of feminism to begin. This part of the third wave was mostly viewed and understood by millennials of the era. This is because Kathleen was in an all-girl punk band titled Bikini Kill. Many people ranging from pre-teens to those in their early twenties were deep into the punk scene. This is why this part of the wave is not found in history or sociology books, because it was sort of an underground station of feminism. Instead of soft, soothing singing and harmonious sounds, Kathleen screamed into the microphone and wore only her underwear and a t-shirt to gigs. Occasionally she would write “slut” across her stomach or some sort of label that men had given her in the past. She shouted about how men treated women like they were some sort of material good, and how women deserved just as much as what men have. Her words struck the hearts and minds of women who had been abused, neglected, and even oppressed by men. She not only played for women, but for men also. She talked about the hardships of men and how she hoped to see the day when men could be seen as sensitive creatures without being oppressed because of it. This band was a powerhouse for a large feminist movement called Riot Grrrl.

Riot Grrrl was focused on bringing women together and having them recognize their oppression. It was all about GIRL POWER. Hanna had an unladylike persona and outright opinion that turned men away from her, and brought more girls to her shows. Girls began to relate to Hanna since she sang about rape, sexism, and the oppression of women in society. When men became disgusted by Hanna’s performance and attitude, it was obvious that gender equality in this time was less about sex and more about gender. Sex is the biological difference between a man and a woman. Gender is the social and cultural differences between a man and a woman. In this case, a woman was acting out of the ordinance that society thinks that a person of the female gender should act. The female gender is supposed to be petite, clean, and quiet. The male gender can be vile, gross, and loud. So when Hanna broke the socially constructed norm for the female gender, she was deemed as deviant. Even though Hanna was deviant, that did not stop her feminist movement. Riot Grrrl expanded, and even more women started to break their gender roles. This opened up an entirely new world of feminism, one where it was a culture, rather than just a movement. Still today Riot Grrrl exists, along with many other feminist organizations. The purpose of the Riot Grrrl movement and of Bikini Kill was to allow women to express themselves however they wanted. If a woman wanted to dress like a man at a Bikini Kill show, that was accepted, she was accepted no matter how she looked or acted. Eventually, this movement of the 1990’s encouraged women to express themselves freely. Obviously, women are still pressured through gender roles, but there are more women acting freely now than there were many years ago.

Still, today, women are advocating feminism. Why, might you ask? Well, because gender inequality is still an immense problem in not only the United States, but all around the world. One of the main dilemmas with feminism is that, not everyone truly understands what it means. The definition can be disoriented, because there are so many pop stars that are skewing the understanding of the word. There are famous people who are making it seem as if feminism is hatred towards men, and that feminists should rally against men. This understanding of feminism is far from correct. Like I said before, feminism is the advocacy for women to be equal to men. That is taking into consideration that men have been oppressed also, and there are gender norms for men, just like there are for women. So, instead of fighting against men, it is better for us to inspire men to fight with us. An actress that campaigned for feminism brilliantly was Emma Watson. Emma began a campaign called He for She, which asks men to promote equality for women through social media. This helped to invite men to express themselves as feminists, because before it was as if they were not allowed to be part of the movement. Women like Emma Watson are changing the future of our women. It is important that females, look to people like Emma and Kathleen, and never give up on fighting for equality. Equality is what we have been fighting for, for years. After centuries, we still have not achieved gender equality. There is still a gender pay gap, sexism still exists, and so do the norms for men and women in society.

Gender equality needs to be the objective for our children, our grandchildren, and even our grandchildren’s children. Feminism must not die out like it did after its second wave, and it needs to be understood for what it really means; men and women deserve to be equal to one another.

— Danielle

Works Cited:  Witt, Jon. SOC 2014. 3rd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2015. Print.

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.


Social Inequality

Do you know what social inequality is? When it’s brought to your attention you most likely are thinking it means having unequal rights in society, which, in a way, you’re right! Social inequality is described as a condition in which members of society have different amounts of wealth, prestige, or power. You understand now? Let’s look at it this way, a boy who is raised around parents that are farmers versus a boy being raised around parents that are lawyers is most likely going to stay in or around that same “class” per say.  A child’s social class greatly affects his chance to go outside of the class he was born into. This affects the boy’s amount of wealth, prestige or power throughout his life.

Now you may be asking, what is social class.  Well, it’s a group of people with similar positions in society. Like the boys and their parents, in most cases, will be in the same class. In other words a maid and a janitor are in the same social class just as a dentist and an architect are. These two sets of examples of social classes are also forms of social inequality; one set makes a greater amount than the other set. With all this being said, I’d like you to know that just because one is raised in a certain class it is very possible for them to change classes, this is called social mobility.

Social mobility is when there is movement of individuals or groups from one position in society to another, this can happen positively or negatively, this is called vertical mobility. To give you a better understanding let’s say the maid is now a dentist and the architect is now a janitor. The maid has now experienced great vertical mobility while the architect has now experienced negative vertical mobility. Let’s just go into a little more depth, here’s a short story about Benjamin Franklin. Franklin’s father was a soap maker with 17 children to take care of, he wanted Benjamin to enter the clergy but could only afford one year of schooling and clergymen needed many years of schooling. Instead he had him apprenticed to his brother who was a printer and he ended up selling their work on the streets. After trying many times to show his work to his brother and others, he ran away looking for printers work, he failed greatly and even became homeless. Soon enough he finally got a printers job and started his own business and the citizens began to notice him. He began getting contracts to do government jobs and from then on business was booming. To this day we know him as drafting the Declaration of Independence and the face to the $100 bill. Benjamin Franklin is just one example of vertical mobility, social class and social mobility that ties into social inequality.

— Ryan


Cited Sources

“A Quick Biography of Benjamin Franklin.” The Electric Ben Franklin., 4 July

  1. Web. 1 Dec. 2014. <;.

Witt, Jon. “Social Class.” SOC. 3rd ed. New York: McGraw Hill, 2014. 238. Print.

Witt, Jon. “Social Class.” SOC. 3rd ed. New York: McGraw Hill, 2014. 240-242. Print.

Caste System

Here in America when you are born you have the choice to become whoever or whatever you want. In places like India where the caste system is in place when you are born you are to automatically assume the same social rank, or position as your parents. Caste means hereditary rank, usually religiously dictated, that tends to be fixed and immobile. The caste system is mostly associated with Hinduism in India and in some other countries as well. In India there are priests, warriors, merchants, and artisans/farmers. They are also known as Brahman, Kshatriya, Vaishya, and Shudra. These are the four major castes. There is also a fifth caste known as the untouchables or the Dalit caste. The Dalit caste is known to be so low in rank and unclean that they are said to have no place in this system of stratification.

People who live within a caste system have no choice about their social rank, they cannot change which caste they are in. You are expected to marry within your caste as well. This reminds me of a time when I was in middle school and some classmates were telling me that since my parents didn’t go to college and don’t have good jobs that I would turn out the same way. Just because I was born into a family that doesn’t have a history of going to college doesn’t mean that I can’t. I can experience social mobility and can change the social rank that I am in.

Social mobility is not seen in places like India, people do not have the right to move from one position in a society’s stratification system to another. The caste system is a closed system; the people involved have little to no way of social mobility. People live very unequally in the caste system and they should be able to do whatever they want, go wherever they want, and be able to be or marry whoever they want. There should be no invisible walls keeping these castes separate. There should be an open system everywhere in the world. An open system is where the position of an individual is because of their own achieved status, not because of their parent’s status. Even a class system would be better than a caste system because you have the freedom and opportunity to move from one class to another, it’s all up to you.

— Emily



Social Mobility

Most people are told by their guardians, starting at a very young age, that if they really want something with enough work and time they can change anything to suit their desires. This is a great initial concept and one of the things that most people who remember their childhood fondly keep as one of the warmest memories of their caretakers. It is not my focus to debate the value of this idea on the positive development of children, even though it might be interesting to do so, but to examine the actual validity of this idea when compared to the real world application of social mobility.

When we are working towards our goals it is ingrained into our ideology as Americans that we will eventually move upwards within our social class system and be more socially stable or well off than our parents/guardians. The definition of social mobility is “The degree to which one can change the social stratum into which one is born.” When we think of the American success story we idealize people who were born into poverty or substandard conditions and rose above their initial means and found a new place within the world in a higher social class. What most people don’t realize however is that these are the very few cases within the thousands of similar scenarios that play out much differently all across the country. There is a growing stress on the need for a college education in order to be successful within our current system and this is supported by many studies showing the importance of education and the influence that it has on job security and yearly income.

The strength of education is widely accepted as a necessary part of a successful life, and more young adults are enrolling in colleges and universities across the country than ever before. In addition to all the young individuals attempting college there is also high numbers of middle aged people returning to education in attempts to better themselves. These are very commendable ideals but when compared with the success rate and actual reality of the chances of people going through college when born into the middle or lower class, all of a sudden we don’t see our country advancing as a whole at the rate we had thought we were. Studies have shown that children with high intellectual ability born into socially successful classes maintain this level of intellectual superiority, while children of the same potential born into lower social classes quickly plummet to a lower standard of intellectual pursuits. The inverse follows the same trend of logic, children with low potential that are born into the upper class quickly rise to reach the near levels of their peers while those born with low potential from a poor class level off fairly early and don’t usually rise above what they were born with. There are obviously exceptions for this idea however the data that supports this as an average is fairly startling.

The idea that people born into higher classes stay there is not an entirely uncommon concept and is shown most prevalently in the Conflict Theory represented by the Bourgeoisie and Proletariat concept. The Bourgeoisie representing the upper class of our capitalist system, and the Proletariat being those born into the lower classes. While this sociological perspective might not be the absolute best representation for the American class system it does postulate some interesting reasons for the tendency of people to maintain the same general class status as their guardians. If you are born into a wealthy family who possesses the ability to buy all the best educational opportunities, it only stands to reason that you will be more likely to succeed in the world maintaining that elevated social status. On the other hand if you are born into a low social class who does not possess the resources to offer the best chances at success you will be far more likely to follow along the same footsteps of not earning an advanced education setting you at a serious disadvantage in today’s job markets. This can be seen in general trends for children’s test scores when scaled with their parents education levels.

All of this is not to suggest that should you be born into a high social class that you aren’t likely to move down in standing, for that is an ever present and dangerous fact for the majority of New York stockbrokers and such. However, the concept of being able to stay in a higher social class when born into it only makes sense if you consider the fact that people raised in a higher class standing were given more opportunities and developmental chances because of the resources they had available to them.

In summary, I do not believe that social mobility is something to be given up on as an unattainable ideal, but rather should be understood to be far less likely than the common belief currently is within our country. Social mobility is not impossible and a truly inspirational occurrence, yet the statistics of today show that we may need to seriously evaluate how we view social mobility in terms of realistic outcomes. This is important to us as a nation because all issues should be seen as they truly are, not how we wish we could see them simply because of the ideal of what we wish them to be.