Called “the most binding and central concern of sociology,” social stratification is a topic of intense study among sociologists. But what does this lofty term mean? At the simplest level, stratification refers to the formation of layers, or strata. From a sociological perspective, this term can also be used to refer to the divisions separating social classes and other forms of inequalities.

“All men are created equal,” a cherished phrase from the Declaration of Independence, points to a society free of class divisions or social hierarchy. However, when you consider that the phrase—as originally intended—referred only to white, male, Protestant landowners, the foundational social stratification of the United States becomes more evident.

Race, gender, religion, and economic status are just a few of the criteria by which social stratification is imposed in our multicultural society, regardless of what our ideals might suggest, and in possibly every society on the planet. Karl Marx, considered one of the founders of classical sociology, devoted his life to the discussion of social class and its role as the motor of change in society. Another theorist, Max Weber, saw the United States as a classless society. Yet, studies of the Great Depression and subsequent times showed otherwise. Social stratification and various inequalities are a worldwide phenomenon.

The Status of Social Stratification Then and Now

Social stratification seeks to define individuals’ “place” in society. In doing so, it observes inequalities that are often based on arbitrary, biased, and immutable criteria. Historical examples of social stratification include slavery, caste systems (termed one of “the world’s oldest forms of surviving social stratification”), and apartheid, though these still exist in some form today. In modern times, particularly in the Western world, social stratification is generally seen in the form of socioeconomic inequality. A prime example is the ongoing wage gap between white men and women of all races or ethnicities. Recent studies have shown that white women make only 79 cents for every dollar that white men earn. Women of color earn even less, with Latina women earning just 54 cents for every dollar that white men earn.

Why Study Social Stratification?

The study of social stratification brings the disparities of our society to light, which is the only way we can address them. Learning about social stratification and sociology in general makes one more aware of how society has been structured and the factors that figure into that structure: education, lack of economic opportunity, etc. Sociologists have determined that sexism, racism, homophobia, and other prejudices commonly force people into a specific layer of society—one that they may find difficult to rise above. That is to say, people in certain strata of society have less upward mobility, or the ability to better their economic status. The more people understand social stratification, the more likely they are as members of a society to dismantle many of its detrimental forms, especially the institutional forms of racism, sexism and other inequalities. A very acute example of this would be the historical and recent attacks on people of color.

Study Social Stratification Online

The University of Texas Permian Basin offers an online Bachelor of Arts in Sociology program for individuals guided by a desire to help promote greater equality among all groups and individuals within diverse societies. Our program examines the ways humans interact when in groups, the different cultures and populations that comprise our planet, and issues that influence social behavior inside societal subgroups. In addition, the program investigates ways in which social and political identities can impact how certain subcultures are thought of within their larger society.

Our online bachelor’s degree in sociology provides a comprehensive general education in a range of subjects including U.S. history, English composition, college algebra, and biology. With this foundation, you’ll develop critical and transferrable skills that will enrich you in your professional life and beyond, like communication, critical thinking, and research. Upon completion of the UTPB program, you’ll also be eligible to advance into graduate-level programs within sociology and other disciplines, if you so choose.

Set Your Own Class Hours (and Choose Your Own “Classroom”)

The asynchronous, 100% online format of UT Permian Basin’s Bachelor of Arts in Sociology program offers you distinct advantages. Regardless of your professional duties or personal responsibilities, you can still give your education the attention it needs. Complete coursework at your own pace, 24/7, from any location with internet access—even other countries. As much as we love seeing our students, you don’t need to visit campus at all during your program. Six start times each year and eight-week courses provide additional flexibility.

Perhaps most importantly, our online BA in sociology program offers you the same high-quality education that you’d get on campus. You’ll study the same curriculum from the same renowned program faculty that you would in face-to-face classes, but with added convenience.

If you have a passion for social studies and social justice, we encourage you to apply to our online Bachelor of Arts in Sociology program. Build a foundation for a more fulfilling life and career starting here!