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Stratification describes the way in which different groups of people are placed within society.

The status of people is often determined by how society is stratified - the basis of which can include;

  • Wealth and income - This is the most common basis of stratification
  • Social class
  • Ethnicity
  • Gender
  • Political status
  • Religion (e.g. the caste system in India)

The stratification of society is also based upon either an open, or closed, system.


Status is achieved through merit, and effort. This is sometimes known as a meritocracy. The UK is a relatively open society, although disadvantaged groups within society face a glass ceiling.


Status is ascribed, rather than achieved. Ascribed status can be based upon several factors, such as family background (e.g. the feudal system consists of landowners and serfs). Political factors may also play a role (e.g. societies organised on the basis of communism), as can ethnicity (e.g. the former apartheid regime in South Africa) and religion.

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