In societies which afford achieved status via effort, status attainment is the process by which a person manages to gain a given position within a stratification system.
Class determines the access different people have to resources and puts groups in different positions of privilege and disadvantage. ~ Margaret Anderson & Howard Taylor
Whereas a caste system has an inflexible ascribed status system, a class system offers some degree of achieved status. Modern capitalist societies are invariably class systems.
Ostensibly, class is a level in the hierarchy of social standing within a society. But class is not just an attribute of individuals. It is instead a characterizing feature of the society in which a class system exists.
Different classes in society not only live differently quantitatively, they live in different styles qualitatively. ~ Peter Berger
Invariably, economic well-being is a primary determinant of class, with occupation as a telling secondary factor. Occupations are achieved statuses. Higher-status occupations can be attained via education and social contacts.
Class social systems are by no means open-ended. Gender and racial prejudices and discrimination remain strong in every class-based society. Supposedly intelligent people are just as prejudiced as the dumber ones: they’re just better as disguising it. Further, the potential for achieved statuses is strongly correlated with parental wealth. So-called “self-made men” are mostly a myth perpetuated by promoters of capitalism.
Though “freedom” is hyped, social mobility in class systems is hampered throughout the world. Only a miniscule number of men, and even fewer women, have ever managed to climb out of an impoverished childhood to attain high class in adulthood. They are often celebrated as a fabled norm for the ambitious, and so fortify the ideology behind an inherent inequality which can never be morally justified.
A woman or a dark-skinned person in a society dominated by light-skinned folk climbing out of poverty to attain upper-class standing is a rarity indeed.
The family background that a child in inherits at birth may present such obstacles that he or she has little change of climbing very far – or it may provide such privileges that it makes it almost impossible to fall down the class ladder. ~ James Henslin
Friendships are influenced by class, arising more frequently within classes than across them. In caste systems such as India, friendships between disparate castes is unthinkable, as one in a higher caste would not risk being “polluted” by associating with an unclean creature below.
Assortative mating predominates in human societies, and is as strong in modern class systems as it has ever been. In the United States, the share of couples marrying who both had college degrees doubled from 1960 to 2005: from 25% to 48%.