Difference Between Social Inequality and Social Stratification

Social Inequality vs Social Stratification
 

Although the concepts of social inequality and social stratification sound similar, there exists a clear difference between these two concepts. However, it is also important to point out that these are two interrelated processes in any society. First let us define these two concepts. Social inequality is when the resources, opportunities, and rewards are unequally distributed. When speaking of inequality there are many types of inequality such as gender inequality, economic inequality, etc. On the other hand, social stratification refers to the division of people into different classes based on various factors such as gender, income, status, etc. Through this article let us comprehend the difference between social inequality and social stratification.

What is Social Inequality?

First let us begin with social inequality. Social inequality can be defined as the unequal distribution of resources, opportunities, rewards of a society. This is followed by unequal treatment of individuals due to their personal characteristics. For instance if a woman is not given a promotion within the organization although she has all the necessary qualifications and is suppressed because she is a woman, this is inequality. This branch of social inequality is known as gender inequality. If you observe the modern society, you will notice that inequality occurs for various factors. For example status, power, public services, income are some of the key factors through which inequality can be observed.

Now let us concentrate on why social inequality prevails in the society. According to sociologists ascribed and achieved status play a significant role in the understanding of inequality. In the past people had ascribed status due to caste systems. This allowed some people to enjoy special privileges while others were denied these privileges. In the present achieved status is recognized more than the ascribed status. People who are better performers and achievers have a better chance and climbing the social ladder than others. One’s socio-economic standing also affects the manner in which he is treated in the society. In this sense, one’s socio-economic standing is also a determinant factor. With this understanding let us move on to social stratification.

Difference Between Social Inequality and Social Stratification

What is Social Stratification?

Social stratification can be defined as the categorization of people based on their income, power, status and similar factors. In all societies, one can observe a social stratification system. According to this model, people are divided into different classes. In the modern society, we can identify mainly three classes. They are the,

  1. Upper class
  2. Middle class
  3. Lower class

If we look at social stratification through a sociological approach, the ideas of Karl Marx and Max Weber provide a comprehensive picture of this concept. According to Marx, in every society there are two classes of people. They are the haves and the have-nots. It is the economy that leads to social stratification of individuals. However, Weber believed that the economy cannot be considered as the sole determinant and other factors such as class, power and status all determine one’s social class. This highlights that although these two are different concepts they are interconnected.

Social Inequality vs Social Stratification

What is the Difference Between Social Inequality and Social Stratification?

Definitions of Social Inequality and Social Stratification:

Social Inequality: Social inequality can be defined as the unequal distribution of resources, opportunities, rewards of a society.

Social Stratification: Social stratification can be defined as the categorization of people based on their income, power, status and similar factors.

Characteristics of Social Inequality and Social Stratification:

Connection:

Social Inequality: Social inequality leads to social stratification. If the social inequality does not exist, social stratification cannot be established.

Social Stratification: Social stratification can be understood as an institutionalized form of social inequality.

Focuses on Hierarchy

Social Inequality: The concept of hierarchy does not come into social inequality .

Social Stratification: Social stratification focuses on a hierarchy.

 

Image Courtesy:

1. “8marchrallydhaka (55)”  via Wikimedia Commons [CC BY 2.5]

2.“Pyramid of Capitalist System” by Artist not credited. Published by International Pub. Co., Cleveland, Ohio. – Uni Hamburg [Public Domain] via Wikimedia Commons