Picture from book

Social class

In this lesson, we will examine the stratification phenomenon that occurs in all human societies, our own included. Despite rhetorical claims about equality of opportunity for all, America is a profoundly hierarchical society, with the benefits and rewards of living here unequally distributed among its people. A sociological perspective on stratification will increase your understanding in several essential ways. First, it will help you recognize inequities in places you may have overlooked, such as your own town, neighborhood, or school. Second, it will help you consider how social divisions and hierarchies of privilege and disadvantage appear across many of our institutions; access to health care, the justice system, employment, and housing are all governed by structures of inequality. Third, it should enable you to identify your place in these social arrangements and see how your position (or your family’s position) in certain hierarchies has shaped your life chances. Finally, a knowledge of stratification may help you play a role in changing systems of inequality.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this lesson, you will be able to:
• Understand systems of social mobility and stratification.
• Describe social classes in the United States.
• Differentiate theoretical perspectives on social stratification.
• Apply appropriate research methods to understanding food insecurity.


Be sure to hand these in before the deadline


Textbook cover

Discuss (Thursday during class):

Generation Wealth

Image from film

Lauren Greenfield examines materialism, celebrity culture, and social status and reflects on the desire to be wealthy at any cost. This visual history of the growing obsession with wealth uses first-person interviews in Los Angeles, Moscow, Dubai, China and around the world to bear witness to the global boom-and-bust economy and document its complicated… flixster

We will use the documentary film Generation Wealth as an opportunity to explore the sociology of class. We will watch it together during class.

  • We have access to the film through the UNC library, but it also on Amazon. Access through UNC is not available using the Safari browser. You have to use Chrome, Firefox or Edge).

  • We will skip the first part of the film and start at 21:12, when Lauren Greenfield says, “These two are from the bag party.”

  • Login to the course Slack by 9:45am and say hi to your group!


If you have any questions at all about what you are supposed to do on this lesson, please remember I am here to help. Reach out any time so I can support your success.

Lesson Keywords

• Social stratification
• social inequality
• caste system
• apartheid
• Social class
• socioeconomic status (SES)
• intersectionality
• The U.S. Social Class Ladder
• Status Inconsistency
• Feudal System
• Wealth
• Prestige
• Cultural capital
• Social Reproduction
• everyday class consciousness
• Social mobility
• Closed System
• Open System
• Intergenerational mobility
• Intragenerational mobility
• Structural mobility
• Relative and absolute deprivation
• Federal poverty line
• Culture of poverty
• Residential segregation
• Disenfranchisement
• digital divide

The least you need to know

Theoretical perspectives on social class

Table 1 from Chapter 7 in the textbook