This unit explores how rewards and opportunities are differentially available to individuals and groups. Patterns of inequality are based on a variety of sources. Sociologists define and measure social class, race and ethnicity, and gender, for example. Importantly, students learn how these factors affect individuals' access to different resources and opportunities. Resources and opportunities are connected to larger patterns of power and privilege in a given society. A key aspect of the study of social stratification is an understanding of how these patterns of inequality are maintained and challenged.
- Understand that societies differ based on the degree of inequality they exhibit and that different dimensions of inequality intersect and reinforce one another; thus, the course will examine how race, class, gender, and age intersect in the structure of a given society.
- Learn to distinguish between social inequalities and what sociologists call social stratification, how to identify and articulate individual-level and social structural explanations for social inequality, and how sociological theories try to explain social stratification.
- Understand the concept of ranking systems in which categories of people who share some characteristic that is considered socially important (for example, wealth, gender, race/ethnicity, age, or nationality) are socially evaluated as higher or lower than other categories.
- Learn how these ranking systems are structural features of society, are related to the distribution of power and resources (both material and symbolic) in society, and have important consequences for individuals’ opportunities, experiences, and life outcomes.
- Understand that ranking systems tend to change slowly because they become related to such social institutions as the family, economy, political system, legal and judicial systems, education, religion, and media.
- Learn that sociologists study how groups maintain or change their positions within systems of stratification, how systems of stratification vary across societies, change over time, and the processes and amounts of individual mobility vary in various societies.