The Invisible Walls of Social Stratification: How It Shapes Our Lives

The Invisible Walls of Social Stratification: How It Shapes Our Lives

Social stratification refers to the categorization of individuals into various groups based on their socioeconomic backgrounds such as wealth, occupation, social status, and education, among others. It continues to play a significant role in shaping our lives, and despite attempts to minimize its effects, it is still pervasive in modern society. The idea of social stratification is not new, and so far, there have been various theories that attempt to explain how it works. In this article, we will examine the invisible walls of social stratification and how they continue to shape our lives.

Historical Context

The idea of social stratification dates back to ancient civilizations from Egypt to Mesopotamia. In feudal Europe, a person’s social status was linked to their place of birth, and one’s occupation was determined by their birth status. This social stratification continued into the Enlightenment period, where the idea of meritocracy emerged, where one’s achievements were considered the primary factor in determining their social status. This idea, however, failed to eliminate the notion of social stratification.

Social stratification became more significant during the Industrial Revolution, where people’s wealth derived from their industrial pursuits. The rise of capitalism paved the way for the growth of the middle class, and with it, a new stratification between the working-class and the middle class emerged. The emergence of the welfare state and other social policies attempted to minimize the gap between the rich and the poor. However, the most significant barrier in eliminating social stratification comes from the cultural and individual factors that perpetuate inequality.

Social Classes and How They Shape Our Lives

The social class framework is an essential determinant of an individual’s life chances, from access to resources such as health care, education, and job opportunities. In the United States, the social class framework is divided into six categories, namely the upper class, upper-middle class, middle class, lower-middle class, working class, and the lower class. Each of these categories is based on factors such as occupation, income, and education.

The upper class consists of those individuals who have access to significant wealth either through inheritance or entrepreneurship. They have access to exclusive institutions such as Ivy League institutions and exclusive clubs. They also tend to have more control over political and economic decision-making, which can have consequences for the rest of society.

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The upper-middle class is composed of highly-educated individuals and financially comfortable professionals such as doctors, lawyers, and engineers. They have access to resources such as private schools and better healthcare. The working-class, on the other hand, consists of manual laborers such as factory workers, service workers, and clerical workers. They tend to have less formal education and make up a significant proportion of the workforce.

The lower class, in contrast, is composed of people who live below the poverty line and tend to have limited access to basic resources such as healthcare, education, and housing. They tend to be concentrated in urban areas with high levels of crime and poverty.

Social stratification has a significant impact on people’s lives, especially regarding their life chances. Educational opportunities and job opportunities tend to be restricted to individuals belonging to specific social classes, while healthcare resources tend to be allocated mostly to individuals who can afford them. Social stratification, therefore, reinforces the inequalities that exist in society and creates invisible walls that continue to shape our lives.

How Social Stratification Manifests Itself In Our Lives

There are several ways in which social stratification manifests itself in our lives, and some of these include;

1. Education

Education is one of the significant determinants of an individual’s socioeconomic status. It provides the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in the workforce and gain access to higher paying jobs. However, access to education remains a significant barrier for people from low-income backgrounds due to the cost of tuition and the quality of education they receive. Students who attend private schools tend to have a better chance of success in their careers and tend to come from affluent families. As such, the education system tends to reinforce the inequalities that exist in society.

2. Employment Opportunities

The job market is another area where social stratification manifests itself. Individuals belonging to a specific social class tend to have better access to employment opportunities than others. This is because some jobs require certain skill sets that may only be found among individuals from specific social classes. For instance, an individual from a low-income background may not have the same access to internships or job connections as someone from a higher social class, which can limit their ability to find a job or advance in their careers.

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3. Healthcare

Social stratification also manifests itself in the healthcare system. Individuals from affluent backgrounds tend to have better access to healthcare than those from low-income backgrounds. This is because healthcare resources are often allocated based on one’s ability to pay for them. Low-income individuals may not have access to quality healthcare or preventive services, which can limit their ability to maintain good health.

4. Housing

Housing is another area where social stratification manifest itself. Affluent individuals tend to live in better neighborhoods with access to amenities such as schools, healthcare facilities, and recreational facilities. This is in contrast to low-income individuals who might find themselves living in poor neighborhoods characterized by high levels of crime and poverty. These neighborhoods often lack basic services such as healthcare facilities and quality schools, which can be detrimental to the residents’ lives.


Social stratification has been with us for centuries, and despite attempts by various governments to minimize its effects, it is still pervasive in modern society. Its effects manifest themselves in education, employment, healthcare, and housing, among others. The invisible walls of social stratification continue to shape our lives by reinforcing inequalities that exist in society. As such, there is a need for policies that promote social inclusion and bridge the gap between the rich and the poor. It is only through such efforts that we can hope to create a fairer and more just society, where everyone has an equal chance of success.