The Consequences of Systemic Social Stratification: A Deep Dive

Social stratification, defined as the division of people into different classes based on their social and economic status, is a pervasive phenomenon in all societies. While some degree of social inequality is a natural part of any society, systemic social stratification-the systematic and institutionalized inequality present in certain societies-has devastating consequences for both individuals and societies as a whole.

This article will delve deeper into the consequences of systemic social stratification, examining how it impacts various aspects of life, from health outcomes to intergenerational mobility.

Health Consequences of Social Stratification

One of the most immediate consequences of social stratification is a profound disparity in health outcomes between different socio-economic groups. Studies have shown that people from lower socio-economic backgrounds suffer from higher rates of illness, disability, and mortality compared to their wealthier peers.

The reasons behind these health disparities are complex and multifaceted. Poorer people often live in more polluted environments and work in more dangerous and physically demanding jobs, leading to increased rates of respiratory diseases, cancers, and repetitive strain injuries. They also often lack access to healthy food options and safe neighborhoods to exercise in, leading to higher rates of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.

Moreover, lower-income individuals often face greater stressors in their daily lives, such as job insecurity and financial instability, which can lead to negative health outcomes such as anxiety and depression. These stressors also exacerbate pre-existing chronic conditions such as hypertension and asthma.

Education and Intergenerational Mobility

Another crucial aspect of social stratification is the role it plays in education and intergenerational mobility. Education is one of the most important routes out of poverty, providing individuals with the skills needed to access better-paying jobs and higher levels of social and economic status.

See also  Structural Functional Theory according to Robert K. Merton

However, despite being a long-standing driving force of social mobility, education has become increasingly stratified in recent years. There is growing evidence that children from lower socio-economic backgrounds are less likely to have access to high-quality education, leading to lower levels of academic achievement and reduced opportunities to move up the social and economic ladder.

This lack of access to quality education creates a vicious cycle of poverty that is passed down from one generation to the next, creating intergenerational disparities that can persist for decades. Education inequity is a major impediment to social and economic progress, depriving communities and societies of the benefits of a well-educated and skilled workforce.

Political Consequences of Social Stratification

Social stratification can also have profound political consequences. As inequality grows, democratic institutions become increasingly vulnerable to being undermined by powerful interests, leading to an erosion of trust in government and political institutions.

Moreover, systemic social stratification often leads to the creation of societal divisions along socio-economic lines. These divisions can be exploited by political opportunists to sow discord and gain political power, leading to the creation of more polarized and divided societies.

In many cases, these political dynamics can create a vicious cycle, with unequal societies becoming more unequal over time as those who hold power use that power to maintain and entrench their own privileges.

Environmental Consequences

Finally, social stratification also has significant environmental consequences. Wealthy individuals often consume more resources and generate more waste than their poorer peers, leading to increased carbon emissions and environmental degradation. This dynamic can have especially serious consequences when it comes to global issues such as climate change, where the impacts of high levels of carbon emissions will be felt most acutely by those who are least able to adapt to changing conditions.

See also  Black Lives Matter: The Ongoing Fight for Racial Justice

Moreover, wealthier individuals and interest groups often have the power to block efforts to address environmental degradation and climate change, using their political influence to protect their own interests at the expense of the wider society.


Social stratification, when institutionalized and systemic, has major consequences for individuals and societies. From health outcomes to educational opportunities and political stability, systemic social stratification perpetuates inequality and slows social and economic progress.

The good news is that there are steps that can be taken to break this cycle of inequality. By investing in more equitable societies that prioritize access to quality education, healthcare, and basic needs such as housing and food, we can begin to reduce inequality and create a more sustainable and just world.

Moreover, by raising awareness and shedding light on the impacts of social stratification, we can help empower communities and individuals to demand change and work towards creating more equitable societies that benefit everyone, not just a privileged few.