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Absolute poverty

A minimum level of subsistence that no family should be expected to live below.

Achieved status

A social position that a person attains largely through his or her own efforts.

Ascribed status

A social position assigned to a peson by society without regard for the person's unique talents or characteristics.


Karl Marx's term for the capitalist class, comprising the owners of the means of production.


An economic system in which the means of production are held largely in private hands and the main incentive for economic activity is the accumulation of profits.


A hereditary rank, usually religiously dictated, that tends to be fixed and immobile.


A group of people who have a similar level of wealth and income.

Class consciousness

In Karl Marx's view, a subjective awareness held by members of a class regarding their common vested interests and need for collective political action to bring about social change.

Class system

A social ranking based primarily on economic position in which achieved characteristics can influence social mobility.

Closed system

A social system in which there is little or no possiblity of individual social mobility.

Corporate welfare

Tax breaks, direct payments, and grants that government makes to corporations.

Digital divide

The relative lack of access to the latest technologies among low-income groups. racial and ethnic minorities, rural residents, and the citizens of developing countries.

Dominant ideology

A set of cultural beliefs and practices that helps to maintain powerful social, economic, and political interests.

Estate system

A system of stratification unde which peasants were required to work land leased to them by nobles in exchange for military protection and other services. Also known as feudalism.


The reputation that a specific person has earned within an occupation.

False consciousness

A term used by Karl Marx to describe an attitude held by members of a class that does not accurately reflect their objective position.

Horizontal mobility

The movement of an individual from one social position to another of the same rank.


Salaries and wages.

Intergenerational mobility

Changes in the social position of children relative to their parents.

Intragenerational mobility

Changes in social position within a person's adult life.

Life chances

The opportunities people have to provide themselves with material goods, positive living conditions, and the favorable life experiences.

Objective method

A technique for measuring social class that assigns individuals to classes on the basis of criteria such as occupation, eduation, income, and place of residence.

Open system

A social system in which the position of each individual is influenced by his or her achieved status.


The ability to exercise one's will over others.


The respect and admiration that an occupation holds in a society.


Karl Marx's term for the working class in a capitalist society.

Relative property

A floating standard of deprivation by which people at the bottom of a society, whatever their lifestyles, are judged to be disadvantaged in comparison with the nation as a whole.


A system of enforced servitude in which some people are owned by other people.

Social inequality

A condition in which members of society have different amounts of wealth, prestige, or power.

Social mobility

Movement of individuals or groups from one position in a society's stratification system to another.

Socioeconomic status

A measure of social class that is based on income, education, and occupation.

Status group

People who have the same prestige or lifestyle, independent of their class positions.


A structured ranking of entire groups of people that perpetuates unequal economic rewards and power in a society.


The long-term poor wo lack training and skills

Vertical mobility

The movement of an individual from one social position to another of a different rank.


An inclusive term encompassing all of a person's material assets, including land, stocks, and other types of property.

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