Difference Between Ethnicity and Social Class

Ethnicity vs Social Class

The key difference between ethnicity and social class is that a person’s social class is defined by his/her economic status whereas his/her ethnicity is decided by the ancestry of that person. Both theses terms, ethnicity and social class, are related to social stratification. Each and every person in this world belongs to an ethnic group and to a social class. Ethnicity and social class are inherited at a person’s birth, but h/she can change his/her status when they grow up. Social class is mainly defined in relation to the economic status in a society and almost all the societies, there are upper class, middle class and lower class people. Ethnic identity of a person is recognized by his/her ancestry, culture or the group of a particular society to which h/she belongs, etc.

What is Social Class?

Social class is a concept of sociologists or economists in which the members of a particular society are grouped according to a set of social hierarchy. The most common division is to classify as upper class, middle class and lower class. As mentioned above, the social class is mainly defined according to people’s socio-economic status. People those who have more wealth and assets have been placed in the upper class. The upper-class members are inborn to that class or by making much fortunes, a person can become a member of the upper class. Those who have little more money than the amount they need to survive have been placed in the middle class. A higher population in the country represents the middle class. On the other hand, the people who cannot at least make their both ends meet are known as lower class members. These people lack money and they do not have the necessities sometimes. They engage in laborer jobs and get paid a little amount.

However, the class position of an individual said to be deciding many things in his/her life. For example, upper-class people can have good education and they have higher access to best health facilities as well. Middle-class people also have access to education, but sometimes they cannot afford for higher studies due to high costs. The lower class people are deprived of many things and they sometimes do not have accessto the education either. They face much health problems due to malnutrition and lack of facilities and knowledge. However, there is always class mobility and any person can move up or down along the social ladder. Social class is sometimes ascribed but mostly it is an achieved status.

Difference Between Ethnicity and Social Class

What is Ethnicity?

Ethnicity is the recognition of a person based on his/her common ancestry, social and cultural identity, language, race, motherland, etc. The ethnicity is characterized by the religion, physical appearance, way of dressing, food patterns, etc. An ethnic group may consist of thousands of members as well as just five or six people. The largest ethnic group in the modern world is considered to be Han Chinese. Further, an ethnic group may have clans or tribes in them. These might later form own ethnicities or some different ethnic groups merge themselves forming one ethnicity that is called ethnogenesis. Depending on the source of identity, there are several ethnic groups can be seen. Ethno-racial groups, ethnoreligious groups, ethno-national groups, ethnolinguist groups are some of them. Moreover, it is possible for individuals to move from one ethnic group to another if there is acceptance from the latter.

What is the difference between Ethnicity and Social Class?

• When considering about both ethnicity and social class, we can see that both are either ascribed or achieved statuses.

• One may be born into one social and ethnic group but later on there is a possibility of shifting.

• Also, different social class and ethnicities have their own beliefs and standing in a particular community.

• Which ethnicity belongs to the higher or lower class depends on the society and it is common that the ruling class of a society share the same ethnicity.

• Both statuses are socially defined and they may vary from one society to another.


Images Courtesy:

  1. A monument to the working and supporting classes by BrendelSignature (CC BY-SA 3.0)