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Estate System

Stratification based on large landholdings by a small number of people in an agricultural society. Characterized by limited mobility and stratification is politically based. This system is founded in feudal Europe and the American South before the Civil War

Caste System

Stratification based on religion and characterized by the absence of social mobility. This system is found in India and positions are ascribed.

Class System

Stratification based on economics and characterized by loose mobility. This system is found in the US and other industrialized nations.


The working class; those who own no means of productions of their own and so are reduced to selling their labor power in order to live


The ruling class; the modern capitalists who are the employers of wage labor. They own the means of production.

Contradictory Class Locations

Managers, supervisors, and other people who fall between the Bourgeoisie and the Proletariat.

Upper Class

Those at the top of the stratification system. In the US, about 1% of the population

Middle Class

Those with nonmanual jobs that pay significantly over the poverty line


A system of stratification where status and mobility are based on individual attributes and ability.

Social Mobility

A change of position within a stratification system

Horizontal Mobility

The occupational movement of individuals of groups with social class. Ex: A former police officer who shifts careers to become a security consultant.

Vertical Mobility

The movement between different class statuses. This type is less likely to occur than horizontal mobility. Ex: A police officer marries the CEO of a large corporation.

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