Sociology Index


Social status is the position of a person or group, within the society. Social status can be earned by own achievement, known as achieved status status. One can also be placed in the stratification system by their inherited position, known as ascribed status. The most important status for an individual is known as master status. 'Status' is a position in a social structure regulated by norms and usually ranked according to power and prestige. Status differs from class in that it is a measure of a person's social standing or social honour in a community. Individuals who share the same social class may have very divergent status. For example, people's status is affected by ethnic origin, gender and age as well as their level of recognition in the community. Specific behaviors associated with social stigma can also affect social status.

How Is Social Status Determined?

Some perspectives on status emphasize its fixed and fluid aspects. Ascribed statuses are fixed for an individual at birth, while achieved status is determined by social rewards an individual acquires during his or her lifetime as a result of his or her ability and perseverance. Examples of ascribed status include caste, race, and beauty among others. Meanwhile, achieved statuses are akin to one's educational credentials or occupation. The term Master Status has been used to describe the status most important for determining a person's position in a given context. Statuses based on inborn characteristics, such as ethnicity, are called ascribed statuses, while statuses that individuals gained through their own efforts are called achieved statuses.


Nobel Laureate economist, John Harsanyi, said that “apart from economic payoffs, social status seems to be the most important incentive and motivating force of social behavior.” Most sociologists use both the concepts of class and status to describe the systems of social stratification (the way individuals are ranked in various hierarchies of income, wealth, authority and power) found in societies. Social status is evolutionary as opposed to formed out of culture. The higher someone’s social status the greater access to people and resources they have. Social status hierarchy depends on the environment people are in, the groups they are a part of and the game being played.

Social mobility is more frequent in societies where achievement rather than ascription is the primary basis for social status. A role has been described as the active component of status. The individual, placed within a status in a social structure, performs their role in a way shaped by normative expectations. While status is statistically related to class it is common for individuals to have inconsistent class and status locations.