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Social Stratification

and Social Mobility

Caribbean Studies

To understand plantation society and its impact on

Caribbean social stratification.
Examine education as a tool for new class formation.
Examine factors that lead to social mobility.
Identify causes of social stratification in the
Why study social stratification?

Society should present equal opportunities for all but

this is not the case.
Inequalities exist in all areas of life for example,
access to healthcare, educational facilities, housing,
incomes and economic power.
Thus we have to question if these inequalities are a
result of stratification.
What is social stratification?

The condition of being arrange within a social strata

or classes within a group.
Arranging the members of a society into a pattern of
superior and inferior ranks.
What are some of the ways in which the Caribbean is
What are the causes of social
Ways in which society was stratified

Money Inheritance
These ways are linked to factors such as wealth, power and
Key terms in the study of
Social Status; ascribed and achieved status
Life Chances
What do you understand from those terms?
Social Status

Used as representation of the social dimension of

Different amounts of prestige or respect given to
different positions in a group or society by other
members of that group or society
Status involves peoples social standing
May also relate to pedigree of your parents
Ascribed and Achieved Status

Status may be ascribed or achieved.

Ascribed Status:
i. Determined by birth and cannot be changed for e.g.
race, place or family.
ii. Pre-industrial societies were characterized by ascribed
iii.Ascribed status has less influence in modern society
Achieved status

Status that individuals achieve through their own

efforts for e.g. educational attainment at the highest
levels, skills acquisition, promotion or a successful
Status in modern society are based on merit earned
through talent, ability, ambition, and hard work.
These attributes determine a persons status.

Degree to which individuals or groups can impose

their will on others with or without their consent.
(Haralambos & Holborn.)
Sometimes involve the direct use of force.
Refers to the influence one has in the community.
One does not always have to have wealth and status
to have power.

Value of a stock of resource sat a particular time.

Main forms of wealth are physical possessions such as
cars, houses, bank deposits, shares, pensions etc.
Accumulated through life time acquisition or through
Wealth has an impact on peoples life chances in the
stratification system.

The amount of esteem or honour associated with

social position, quality of individuals and styles of
It contains all the factors that make other positions
better than others.
For e.g. ones occupation; prestige is determined by
income, location, levels of education and
occupational position.
Life chances

The opportunities opened to individuals to attain

those things defined as desirable and to avoid the
For e.g. the ability to obtain a good education, proper
housing, vacations, and to avoid life events such as
employment and homelessness.
Stratification Systems

How was the Caribbean Stratified?
Slavery and the Plantation System

Slavery was a relatively closed system

One person was at the disposal of another.
Key features of slavery

The correlation between skin colour and class has

become a truism (an undoubted or self-evident truth)
in the Caribbean.
White (with admixtures of Middle Eastern and
Chinese) equals upper class. Mulatto or brown is
middle class, while the African and East Indians
majority occupied the base of the social class
Negative effects of the plantation
Social stratification has been embedded in the
Caribbean psyche.
The experience of the plantation life has sought to
socialize Caribbean people that leadership must be
autocratic and pay scant regard to social justice.
Much of the struggles in many Caribbean countries
today are to create a just society after over 150 years
of emancipation.
Impact of the plantation system
on colour?
In the Caribbean whatever the mixture, the dominant
aspiration is to be white. Many men still prefer to date
women who are brown or white. browning syndrome
Some women and men, on the other hand are bleaching
their entire bodies to become less black, or more brown.
They are of the opinion that appearing less black will
make them more socially acceptable to men particularly.
In a society with less cultural diversity the feeling of low
self-esteem based on colour would not have been so
Stratification today

Society is stratified along a class system.

Upper Class

Middle Class

The Upper Class

Often people with inherited wealth. Includes some

of the oldest families, with many of them being titled
Does no productive work but instead have others
work for them and receives or relies on money from
inheritance and investments.
Middle Class

Two strata: upper middle and lower middle.

Educated and skilled
Comprises the elite, managerial and professionals, the
White collar workers in business, the service sector
and industry.
Lower or Working Class

Unskilled, manual workers e.g. factory workers, Called

blue collar workers.
Earning a low a wage with minimal levels of education.
People who are skilled, semi-skilled, non-professionals.
Some tradesmen earn more than a white-collar worker
but not the prestige.
The Underclass

Those who belong to the lowest stratum

Some may be employed for the most part but they live
below the poverty line, not active in the labour force.
Includes, the homeless, mentally challenged
Task for discussion

To what extent has the Social Stratification in

Caribbean Society changed since the Slavery and the
plantation system?

Look back on the plantation pyramid.

Why is there still competition between the groups?

How is this evident? Why is this so until today?
Changes in Society

Society is no longer based on an ascribed status of

race and colour.
Society is meritocratic.
Blacks still dominate the lower classes
Whites have moved down
There is the possibility for social mobility
Are there any other changes? DISCUSS
Look back at your grandparents occupation, then look at
your parents occupation.
How has their status change?
Have they achieved social mobility?
What factors account for their mobility?
Do you see yourself achieving a higher social mobility
than your two previous generations?
How do you plan to accomplish this?
What factors then accounts for social mobility?
Caribbean Social Stratification

The Caribbean society is stratified three main strata

which in turn affects upward social mobility:
And EDUCATION has become a basis for new
class formation and upward mobility.
Social Mobility
The concept used to describe movement up or down the
social hierarchy between levels of the social stratification
For e.g. if a person from a poor background becomes a
doctor or a lawyer he has achieved upward social mobility.
Social mobility only occurs in an open society, one with
opportunities such as access to higher education. (Close
society: one where mobility is severely restricted)
The patterns of movement of individuals between groups
is also studied. The two ways are vertical and horizontal
Vertical mobility

Movement up or down the social hierarchy.

Persons with gains in income and status are upwardly
mobile those in the other direction are downwardly
Lateral or Horizontal Mobility

Movement across the social hierarchy through

geographical movement.
For example if one moves form one town to another
to take up a job in the same position Although you
are located in a new town the job has not changed
therefore your on the hierarachy has not changed.
Types of mobility
Intragenerational mobility:
Mobility within a single generation.
Measured by comparing the occupational status of an individual
at different points along his life cycle usually two or three
Intergenerational mobility:
Social mobility between generations
Measured by comparing the occupational status of children
with their parents e.g. if a child of unskilled parents becomes a
doctor etc. he is seen as socially mobile.
Social Mobility today

In close systems of stratification social mobility was

not possible (slavery). However, in modern society
membership in a social class is open and depends on
what one has achieved
Society is meritocratic and is now one where can
advance based on what one has achieved.
What are some of the ways that one can achieve social
mobility today? Discuss
Ways of achieving social mobility

Higher education which will provide you with a well
paying job.
Inherited family wealth.(Intergenerational mobility)
Luck, talent. e.g entertainers and athletes winning the
Education as the new basis for class
Most popular route to mobility for the majority of people
Education is more accessible to all in modern societies.
Education is seen as the only way out for the lower class.
Education is entirely responsible for the new class formations
e.g. the intelligentsia and the workforce in business, technology.
It has also created new occupational types and sub-types
resulting in many new white and blue collar jobs.
Though secondary and post secondary education it provides
Education as the new basis for class
Education, it provides access to opportunities and
opens up a path for upward social mobility for lower
income earners.
This helps many to move form to skilled workers and
move from the working class into the middle-class.
Money wealth and income remain the main criteria
that stratify society into social groups.
Education as the new basis for class
Social mobility is possible and education has helped
many to achieve it.
However, there are still inequalities in society that are
entrenched which has caused some groups status to
remain the same.

What is the meaning of the following words

Middle class
Working class
Upper class
Summary Continued.

Explain the difference between ascribed and achieved

Account for any differences that has occurred in the
social structure of Caribbean society from the
plantation era to the present.
Describe the main ways in which society is stratified.

REID, Ruel (2002) Caribbean Studies CAPE.

Mohammed, J. (2007) Cape Caribbean studies;
an interdisciplinary. Oxford: Macmillan.
The Caribbean Identity Crisis - A study of
Jamaican Culture and Society." Tuesday Sept.
26, 2006
Sociology for the Caribbean: UWI Distance