A social stratum is a way for a society to categorize its people based on certain characteristics such as social status, wealth, income, race, education, ethnicity, gender. Life chances, lifestyles, and prestige are affected. Those who belong to lower social strata experience emotional stress and depression due to unequal access to power, prestige, and wealth. Social Stratum is a level or class to which people are assigned according to their social status, education, or income.
The term ‘stratification’ is derived from geology, which refers to different layers of soil and rock on the earth’s surface as stratum and the same is true of society, which is arranged in strata as its people (or groups) are. The members of all societies hold positions that are higher or lower, superior or inferior, in relation to each other. Hence, a hierarchy is established in society based on factors such as function (work), economy (wealth), gender, caste/ethnicity, age, etc.
The modern concept of social stratification is typically defined in terms of three classes of society: upper class, middle class, and lower class; each class can be subdivided into upper stratum, middle stratum, and lower stratum. The formation of a social stratum can be based on kinship, clan, tribe, or caste, or upon all four.
People are usually classified by social stratum within complex states, polycentric societies, or feudal societies, which are characterized by tense socioeconomic relations between classes of nobility and classes of peasants. It remains a matter of debate whether or not hunter-gatherer, tribal, and band societies could be classified as stratified societies, or if social stratification began with agriculture and large-scale exchanges. Social stratification is based on inequalities of status among people. Therefore, the degree of social inequality determines a person’s social stratum. By way of social differentiation, the more social stratification there exists in a society, the greater its social complexity.
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