What is the Difference Between Social Stratification and Social Mobility

The main difference between social stratification and social mobility is that social stratification is the way people are ranked and ordered in society, while social mobility is the movement of individuals through a system of social stratification.

Every society has a system of stratification; society categorizes people into different ranks and positions according to various factors. For example, the society we live in today uses a stratification system based on income and wealth. Sometimes, it is also possible to move through the strata in social stratification and reach a different level. We call this ability to move through social stratification social mobility.  

Key Areas Covered

1. What is Social Stratification
     – Definition, Principles, Types
2. What is Social Mobility
     – Definition, Types
3. What is the Difference Between Social Stratification and Social Mobility
     – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms

Social Mobility, Social Stratification

Difference Between Social Stratification and Social Mobility - Comparison Summary

What is Social Stratification

Social stratification is a system by which society categorizes people, and rank them in a hierarchy. This ranking is done based on several factors like race, education, income, occupation, social status and power. Those in higher ranks are more likely to have access to various resources and enjoy more privileges when compared to those in lower ranks. Moreover, all societies have a system of stratification. Most western countries have social stratification based on wealth and income. There are three classes in such societies: upper class, middle class and lower class.

Furthermore, there are four main principles of social stratification:

  1. Social stratification persists over generations.
  2. It is universal (exists in every society), but variable (the system of stratification varies across time and place)
  3. It is a trait of society, not just a reflection of individual differences.
  4. Stratification involves inequality as well as beliefs and attitudes.

Types of Social Stratification

There are two main types of social stratification systems as closed system and open system. Closed systems tend to be extremely rigid, and does not allow changes in social positions. In such systems, social position is based on ascribed status, or social position you inherit at birth. For example, the Indian caste system where people are categorized into four main castes: Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya, and Shudra. Members of the castes are not allowed to associated or marry into other castes, and it is not possible to move from one caste to another.

Difference Between Social Stratification and Social Mobility

Figure 1: Indian Caste System

Open system, on the other hand, allows more change and freedom. The class system we see in many modern societies is an open system. In open society, there is a possibility to move from one class to another based on one’s achievements.  

What is Social Mobility

Social mobility is the changes in position within the social hierarchy. In the section above, we talked about how it’s possible to move from one class to another in an open social stratification system. Social mobility is actually the ability to move within social ranks in society. As discussed above, closed social systems allow little social mobility, whereas open social systems allow more social mobility.

Main Difference - Social Stratification vs Social Mobility

In social stratification, social mobility can occur in three directions:

  • lower to higher
  • higher to lower
  • between two positions at the same level

Accordingly, there are two types of social mobility as vertical mobility and horizontal mobility. Vertical mobility is the movement from one status to another. This brings changes in class, occupation, and power. There are two types of vertical mobility as upward mobility (e.g., from middle class to upper class) and downward mobility (e.g.: from middle class to lower class). Horizontal mobility, on the other hand, is the movement from one social group to another group on the same level. This indicates a change in position, but not a change in status.

Difference Between Social Stratification and Social Mobility

Definition

Social stratification is the way people are ranked and ordered in society, while social mobility is the movement of individuals through a system of social stratification.

Universality

Moreover, social stratification is universal, but social mobility is not possible in every system of social stratification. In fact, there is very little room for social mobility in closed social systems.

Types

There are two basic types of social stratification systems as open system and closed system, whereas there are two types of social mobility as horizontal mobility and vertical mobility.

Conclusion

The main difference between social stratification and social mobility is that social stratification is the way people are ranked and ordered in society, while social mobility is the movement of individuals through a system of social stratification.

Reference:

1. Cole, Nicki Lisa. “The Way People Are Ranked and Ordered in Society.” ThoughtCo, ThoughtCo, 3 Sept. 2019, Available here.
2. “Social Stratification: Meaning, Types, and Characteristics: Sociology (2446 Words).” Your Article Library, 10 Dec. 2013, Available here.

Image Courtesy:

1. “Caste System” By Saylor Foundation –  (CC BY 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “3386334” (CC0) via Pixabay

About the Author: Hasa

Hasa has a BA degree in English, French and Translation studies. She is currently reading for a Masters degree in English. Her areas of interests include literature, language, linguistics and also food.

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