Sociology Index

Master Status

Master status is status that overrides all others in perceived importance. The term master status was coined by Everett Hughes. The master status, whether ascribed status or achieved status, overshadows all other social positions of the status.

Master status is significant for social identity. Race or ethnicity, sexual orientation and religion are some stand out examples of master status. Whatever other personal or social qualities the individual possesses they are judged primarily by master status attribute.

Master status is the primary identifying characteristic of an individual. Becker (1963) describes how certain rule-breakers come to accept the label of "deviant" as their master status. The rule breaker that identifies with the deviant label as their master status becomes an outsider and is denied the means of carrying on with their everyday lives (Becker 1963).

The master status is the role to which one most relates the view of oneself (Becker 1963). Criminal is an example of a master status that determines the community's identification of an individual. A master status can also arise from other achieved or ascribed roles.

Modern family or modernized family traditionalism? Master status and gender order in Switzerland - Ren� Levy, Universit� de Lausanne, Eric Widmer, Universit�s de Gen�ve et de Lausanne, Jean Kellerhals, Universit� de Gen�ve
Abstract: A recent study of intra-couple dynamics in Switzerland shows the existence of a large array of couples’ internal structures of regulation, but with a persistent core of traditionalism. The concept of master status is used to interpret the fact that major changes point less towards clear-cut egalitarian, which could be an alternative to traditional gender structures, than towards a traditionally biased synthesis that could be paradoxically called modernized family traditionalism.

".. to define master status as meaning the dominance of one status area over the others in an individual’s participation profile, and to apply this definition to the complementarity of sex-specific master-statuses of the partners in a couple. We leave open, for the time being, the question of the reasons responsible for this dominance, but then at the same time underline its importance. Our findings point exactly in this direction: the female master status area is the family, employment is subsidiary to it; the male master status area is employment, the family is subsidiary to it.

Gang Membership and Criminal Processing: A Test of the "Master Status" Concept
Journal: Justice Quarterly Volume:14 Issue:3 Dated:(September 1997) Pages:407-427
T D Miethe ; R C McCorkle - Sponsoring Agency: US Dept of Justice, National Institute of Justice, United States
Annotation: Data from 370 criminal defendants who were processed in an urban court in Clark County (Nev.) in 1993 were used to determine whether gang membership represents a master status that influenced both charging and sentencing decisions.
Abstract: Clark County included the city of Las Vegas. The research reviewed formal efforts to confront the gang problem in this jurisdiction and developed a theoretical basis for considering gang membership as a master status. The research next derived hypotheses from this master-status characterization of gang membership and estimated statistical models to determine whether different factors were used in processing and adjudicating gang and nongang members. Results provided some support for the characterization of gang membership as a master status. In keeping with the master status characterization, sentencing decisions for gang members were far less likely than for nongang members to be affected by other offender and offense characteristics.