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Having difficulty in reflecting on this topic, examine critically the correlation between social mobility and social stratification?


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Social class is an incredibly complex concept.  Many people assume that it is primarily defined by socioeconomic status.  However, while wealth or the lack thereof may play some role in determining social class, it is not the only determinant.  Other factors in addition to class can help determine social stratification.  In the United States, this concept can often be looked at new money versus old money.  If these delineations are preset, is social mobility even possible? 

To really understand this issue, it is important to look at the concept of social class and stratification.  Social class implies that there are different classes of people in society, and that these groups are somehow identifiable, both to members in the class and members outside of the class.  Social class would be somewhat meaningless is class differences did not lead to some sort of differential treatment, whether positive or negative, by others.  Social class is so closely associated with socioeconomic class that the two are often conflated, but social class also helps determine access to certain resources in society that are designed to help reinforce the concepts of class and limit social mobility.

One of the things that many people admire about the United States is that as “the land of opportunity” it has traditionally provided a way for people to move from lower socioeconomic classes to higher socioeconomic classes, and, because the country is relatively young, that has often come with other trappings of what it means to be upper class, such as admission to Ivy League schools or restricted social clubs.  However, there is evidence that social mobility may be more of an illusion than a reality in modern-day America, with a smaller percentage of people in lower socioeconomic groups being upwardly mobile than at other points in time.  Interestingly, in other places around the globe, where social mobility was once more difficult, stratifications may be eroding, at least between the lower, middle, and upper-middle classes.

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