Social status

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Social status: At the Sunday promenade concert in Hanover , only the nanny (on the far left of the picture with a view of the photographer) wore no headgear ;
Postcard No. 8753 from Louis Glaser

In sociology as in social psychology, social status refers to the social valuation based on social origin or social position within a social structure.

Social structure is to be understood as a network of interrelated status positions, which are rated differently "high" by the individual status holders and their opponents in a hierarchy , i.e. are rated according to different criteria or status dimensions: power , influence , income , assets , prestige and the like Criteria. The status groups classified in this way (also called social classes ) form the system of social stratification of a society . Social psychology also uses these terms for smaller social units such as social groups and organizations .

Social status in the social process

In general, a distinction is made between societies that have highly differentiated social subdivisions and flowing status transitions and so-called class societies . In the course of the transition from corporate to industrial forms of society , traditional differentiations of status were weakened in Western Europe. On the one hand, this led to greater social mobility, but also to more status insecurity and greater need for adjustment and orientation.

The importance of the acquired status increases compared to the ascribed status (e.g. loss of power of the nobility ). In other societies, such as B. the Indian caste system , the ascribed status is still of considerable importance. Even in western industrial society, however, it is not the case that status is acquired solely through performance, but rather that certain competencies, symbols and relationships associated with the status of the parents are passed on to the children. Sociological studies have shown that the occupation is of central importance for status differentiation in Western societies today. In Germany, for example, the professions of doctor and professor are particularly highly regarded.

Social status and structure

The stratification theory describes the hierarchical differentiation of a society through social status. Status expresses the rank, prestige, social esteem , authority and power that a person has in society. Each position has certain privileges, skills, rights, and duties associated with it; it can be differentiated in terms of various socially relevant characteristics such as ethnicity , occupation , income, education .

The term “ status crystallization” or “status consistency” is used when the status characteristics are highly correlated with one another , for example when B. a high income is associated with a high level of education. Of “status discrepancy” or status inconsistency , if not (e.g. the homeless who dropped out of secondary school as a lottery millionaire, or the impoverished academic).

According to Pierre Bourdieu , social status results from the various types of capital such as social capital , economic capital , cultural capital and ends in symbolic capital . Status differences are externally demonstrated and consolidated by symbols . The taste in art, the eating habits or the car that an individual (social actor) drives can be an expression of his or her social status. In everyday language, the car is a typical status symbol . Such symbols are not only external, but also linked to a certain habitus , i.e. attitudes, skills, distinction , lifestyle and habits of the individuals .

For C. Wright Mills , "status panic" is a typical white collar problem. As his status claims become increasingly precarious or acutely frustrated by socio-economic development, according to this thesis, the American employee is made receptive to authoritarian political offers.

In the reference group theory , the hypothesis which says "state security" (Anthony Richmond): the hostility and negative stereotypes of a group member against members of an outgroup ( out-group ) are due to the perceived uncertainty of one's status in the in-group ( in-group ) and the experienced rejection in this one.

In terms of content, a distinction can be made between the acquired status (“achieved status”) and the ascribed status (“ascribed status”). The acquired status describes the position achieved through performance or skills, regardless of social origin, the ascribed status denotes the position ascribed to the individual independently of it, e.g. B. based on age or gender. The acquired status is worked out , while the ascribed status is quasi inherited ; it comes from outside and is not determined by one's own activities.

In the role theory by Ralph Linton is "social status" means the same with the social position that a player in a - relatively firm - is assigned a social context (for example, as a teacher in the school, as a mother in the nuclear family.). Social expectations and role claims are associated with these positions .

The hypothesis of "status integration" (JP Gibbs / Walter T. Martin) states: The extent of role conflict correlates negatively with the degree to which in a society knowledge of all the statuses of a certain member of society with the exception of a single status, the nature of the latter can be accurately predicted. If this is possible, the status integration is high; if not, it is low.

Social status as a feature of discrimination

Social status can be a feature of discrimination . In various constitutions and anti-discrimination laws, social status is listed as a prohibited discrimination feature. A distinction is made between social origin and social position . Discrimination based on social status is called classism.

Life chances are distributed unequally through social status . A higher social status is accompanied by better education, health and higher income.

Social status is a forbidden discrimination feature in § 2 of the State Anti-Discrimination Act of the State of Berlin .

Status differentiation in empirical social research

Both quantitative and qualitative empirical research approaches are used to investigate status differentiation . In addition to “objectively” given variables such as income and occupation, self-assessments of one's own status as well as a “higher-than” and “lower-than” are collected. Another field of research deals with the relationship between social status and certain attitudes to life, habits and the respective milieu .


Individual evidence

  1. ^ Gerhard Lenski : Power and Privilege. A Theory of Social Stratification. McGraw-Hill New York London Sydney 1966. p. 74.
  2. C. Wright Mills: People in the office: A contribution to the sociology of employees (translated by Bernt Engelmann, foreword by Heinz Maus), Cologne-Deutz: Bund Verlag 1955.