Stratification Sociology Essay Ideas

An important research field in the stratification literature is concerned with inequalities along the ascribed characteristics of race and ethnicity. The term race connotes biological differences among people (skin color, facial features) that are transmitted from generation to generation. As such, these biological differences are seen as permanent characteristics of people. However, the notion of race does not make much sense as a biological concept, because the physical characteristics that make people distinctive are trivial. Even though biological differences are superficial, they are important sociologically. For if people believe that others are biologically distinctive, they tend to respond to them as being different. Furthermore, skin color is transmitted from generation to generation by assortative marriage, a prime sociological phenomenon.

Race is considered a social construct and in that sense incorporated in the more general notion of ethnicity. An ethnic group is a subpopulation of individuals who are labeled by the majority and by the members of a group itself as being of a particular ethnicity. The term ethnicity refers to the (perceived) historical experiences of a group as well as its unique organizational, behavioral, and/or cultural characteristics. Thus, ethnic groups can be distinguished by their country of origin, religion, family practices, language, beliefs, and values. The more visible the characteristics marking ethnicity, the more likely it is that those in an ethnic category will be treated differently.

Ethnic inequality is documented in different ways. Important aspects of inequality include education (school dropout, educational attainment), the labor market (unemployment, occupational status, income), wealth, housing quality, and health. These issues are examined at the national level, telling us something about the distribution within a population, and at the individual level, informing us about mobility. Questions on mobility include examinations of the life course of people (i.e., intragenerational) and studies comparing parents and their children (i.e., intergenerational).

The literature on ethnic stratification is divided into three different research lines. The first is concerned with the position of indigenous populations that were annexed through military operations and colonization, such as the American Indians in North and South America, Aboriginals in Australia, and Maori in New Zealand. The second focuses on ethnic groups that are the offspring of slaves or involuntary migrants, such as African Americans in America. The third is concerned with the economic position of voluntary migrants and their offspring, such as the Italians who moved to the US at the turn of the twentieth century.

Many researchers use notions of discrimination to explain group differences in ethnic stratification. Two different types of ethnic discrimination (i.e., the unequal treatment of minority groups) are outlined: attitudinal and institutional. Attitudinal discrimination refers to discriminatory practices influenced by prejudice. Research shows that prejudice, and, in turn, discrimination, tends to increase when ethnic groups are perceived as threatening to the majority population in terms of cultural, economic, or political resources. Ethnic groups that are numerically large and that are distinct culturally are especially vulnerable to discrimination. This led to theories about ethnic competition and split labor markets.

Another important theory is that of statistical discrimination. Institutional discrimination refers to rules, policies, practices, and laws that discriminate against ethnic groups. This type of discrimination is used to explain the economic difficulties that African slaves and their offspring experienced in the USA. For instance, through the first half of the twentieth century, they were formally excluded from acquiring or inheriting property, marrying whites, voting, testifying against whites in court, and attending higher-quality schools.

Various research designs have been used to study ethnic stratification. The classical design is the case study, in which a single ethnic group in a single receiving context is examined. Because this design provides little information on contextual effects, comparative macro designs have also been developed. One such popular framework is the ”comparative origin” method, which compares multiple ethnic groups in a single location, yielding important insights into ethnic group differences. Similarly, researchers have paid attention to the role of the receiving context by comparing a single ethnic group across multiple destinations, such as cities or nations (”comparative destination” design). More recently, these macro approaches have been combined into a ”double comparative” design, which studies multiple-origin groups in multiple destinations simultaneously. This design provides a better understanding of ethnic origin, the receiving context, and the specific interaction between origin and destination (”ethnic community”).

Researchers nowadays agree that ethnicity plays a role in people’s life chances, that ethnic groups gradually improve their economic standing across generations, and that the process of assimilation can be interpreted in terms of human capital accumulation. At the same time, it is found that assimilation rates of ethnic groups vary. Initially, researchers have relied on theories of biological traits and cultural dispositions to explain such group differences, but they have been largely replaced by extensions of the human capital theory, ideas on discrimination, the concept of ethnic capital, and spatial differences in economic opportunities. In recent work, researchers have combined the theories explaining group differences with micro-level approaches explaining individual assimilation.


  1. Aguirre, A. & Turner, J. H. (2004) American Ethnicity: The Dynamics and Consequences of Discrimination. McGraw-Hill, New York.
  2. Alba, R. & Nee, V. (2003) Remaking the American Mainstream: Assimilation and Contemporary Immigration. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA.
  3. Gordon, M. M. (1964) Assimilation in American Life. Oxford University Press, New York.

This example Essay on Race, Ethnicity, and Stratification is published for educational and informational purposes only. If you need a custom essay or research paper on this topic please use our writing services. offers reliable custom essay writing services that can help you to receive high grades and impress your professors with the quality of each essay or research paper you hand in.

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If you are tasked with writing a reaction paper on social stratification, your first step is to select the most appropriate topic, one which has been narrowed down enough to fill the page requirements you have ahead of you. But this is not always easy. There are many topics out there from which to choose and which can make it difficult. Thankfully, you can get a little break by reading the 20 topics on social stratification for a reaction paper listed below. You might even find that one of them is perfect for your reaction paper:

  1. The Functionalist Perspective to Social Stratification
  2. The Contributions of Kingsley Davis and Wilbert Moore to Stratification
  3. The Role Social Stratification Plays in Social Function
  4. Why those Who Perform More Difficult Tasks Are Entitled to More Power and Prestige
  5. Social Mobility: Why Social Stratification Benefits from Open Stratification and Social Mobility
  6. What Contributes to Social Strata: Beyond Power, Wealth, and Prestige
  7. Melvin Tumin’s Theory of Social Stratification: What New Assumptions Are Given
  8. Max Weber’s Theory of Social Stratification
  9. Karl Marx: The Original Contributor to the Theory of Social Stratification
  10. The Positive and Negative Impact Social Stratification has on Society
  11. Can Societies Function without the Rules of Social Stratification?
  12. Why Closed Social Systems Are Beneficial to Economic Stability: The Case of India
  13. Conflict Theory and the Nature of Class: How Social Stratification Was Historically Defined
  14. Capitalist Societies: Exploiting the Working Class and Keeping Social Mobility Down
  15. The Harmful Impact of Social Stratification on Criminal Behavior
  16. The Positive Impact of Social Stratification on Religious Organizations
  17. The Role of Wealth and Production on Social Classes
  18. How Increases in Wealth Change the Landscape of Social Stratification
  19. The Validity of Kingsley Davis and Wilbert Moore’s Theory of Social Stratification
  20. The Validity of the Functionalist Perspective

Aren’t those great topics? Naturally these are meant only as a guide for you when you set out to write. You will have specific guidelines which you must follow, as explained by your teacher. Nonetheless, this list gives you some idea of where to start and what kind of topics make for appropriate essays. You can take one of the topics from the list above if it is applicable to your task and use it as the foundation of your next essay. Along with all this useful material you may also check our 12 facts on social stratification and guide for a reaction paper on the subject.

Sample Research Paper: Max Weber’s Theory of Social Stratification: What He Influenced

For centuries social stratification has been analyzed by sociologists in terms of the causes and the effects it has on society. Karl Marx and Max Weber disagreed implicitly about the nature of class, something which applied to the traditional framework of stratification. Karl Marx based his ideas on the fact that modern society was divided into two groups of people. He divided people based on those who owns all means of production and those who work for production.

According to this theory the capitalist societies, particularly those who owned all means of production exploded those who had to work. They did not pay a livable wage nor did they give workers an affordable place to live. Unfortunately it was thought that the workers fail to realize they were being exploited. It was Marx who believed that a revolution was on the horizon especially given the fact that the rich continue to grow richer by exploiting the lower class. His vision however did not come true. Society began to modernize and the working class acquired more education and specific job skills which allowed them to achieve financial success which was not feasible during the time of Karl Marx. Those individuals who were being exploited soon came to appreciate the protection offered by labor laws and unions. Factory workers started to earn salaries which were similar to the middle-class counterparts. It was Max Weber who attacked this seemingly simplistic idea of social stratification.

Max Weber argued that only property, such as owning the equipment or the factories used for production, is not the only thing which determines the social class in which an individual is placed but rather a small part of that. Social class was better defined by Max Weber to include power and prestige as well as wealth and property. People who run businesses but do not own them are still able to increase production and enjoy greater profits.

Max Weber argued that property can bring individuals prestige given the fact that people tend to hold rich people in a higher regard. But this can also come from another source such as an intellectual ability which far surpasses counterparts or athletic ability which is outstanding. In such cases the athletic or individual ability can lead to property if an individual is willing to pay for access to prestige. That being said Webber further defined prestige as something intertwined with wealth.

It was Max Weber who believed that social class resulted from power, something which was a reflection on the ability of each individual to get what they want.  As part of his theory, Weber stated that individuals could overcome opposition, something which would lead to increased social mobility. Individuals who were simply hard-working and honest enough to overcome any opposition would be able to achieve greater power and change social classes. Wealthy individuals were more powerful than poor people but that power can come from the prestige of an individual which means that even poor people are able to achieve the same social status as wealthy people.

Today sociologists consider social class to be the grouping together of individuals or groups of people who have similar levels of power, wealth, and prestige. It was the contribution of Max Weber to expound upon the ideas presented by Karl Marx which led to the modern understanding of social stratification and the manner in which Western societies divide individuals socially into different strata. Without the extrapolation on the different classes and what contributes to different social strata, modern social stratification would be significantly different if not for Max Weber.


Esping-Andersen, Gøsta. “UNTYING THE GORDIAN KNOT OF SOCIAL INHERITANCE”. Research in Social Stratification and Mobility 21 (2004): 115-138. Web.
Gamson, Zelda F. “The Stratification Of The Academy”. Social Text 51 (1997): 67. Web.
Gupta, Dipankar. Social Stratification. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1992. Print.
Hiller, Peter. “SOCIAL REALITY AND SOCIAL STRATIFICATION”. The Sociological Review 21.1 (1973): 77-99. Web.
Holmwood, John. Social Stratification. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 1996. Print.
Jackson, J. A. Social Stratification. London: Cambridge U.P., 1968. Print.
Lambert, Paul. Social Stratification. Farnham: Ashgate, 2011. Print.

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