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Means of Social Inequality

Part of the Sociology For Dummies Cheat Sheet

“All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others,” say the pigs in George Orwell’s Animal Farm. One of the central topics studied by sociologists is social inequality, and they think very carefully about the many ways that people in societies are divided. These are the most important means of social inequality, and they all interact with each other to determine each individual’s place in society.

  • Income and wealth: Some people have more money than others.

  • Occupation: People work at different kinds of jobs.

  • Innate ability: People are born with innate differences, from appearance to brainpower.

  • Motivation: For various reasons, some people try harder at certain tasks than others do.

  • Connections: People have different — and differently sized — social circles.

  • Credentials: Official credentials like academic degrees and professional certifications are possessed by some people and not others.

  • Specialized knowledge: Each individual has a particular set of skills and experiences, which differ from others.

  • Race/sex/caste discrimination: In all societies, there is widespread discrimination against certain groups of people based on their physical characteristics or the families they were born into.

  • Age discrimination: In all societies, people are, to some extent, treated differently based on how old they are.

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