SOC 360 B: Introduction To Social Stratification

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Meeting Time: 
MW 1:30pm - 2:50pm
PAA A114
Bettina Sonnenberg

Syllabus Description:

Course Description

Every human society develops a system of social stratification, based on a combination of ascribed and achieved characteristics, with most obvious examples being race, gender, and social class. These and other characteristics determine people’s position in the social stratification system and, in turn, reflect privileges and restrictions in accessing desired but limited resources. The extent to which people’s position in the stratification system determines their life chances, including income, education, family life, and health, depends - amongst other things – on the system of social inequality, and, most importantly, on the concentration of privileges combined with an open or closed stratification system.

The system of social stratification varies across time and across countries. In this course, we will look at the foundation, emergence, reproduction, and consequences of social stratification and social inequality. The course will draw on different sociological theories and a variety of empirical studies to provide insight into the system of social stratification in America today and recent developments.


The aims of this course are to address the following questions

  • What is social stratification? How can we conceptualize social stratification? And what are characteristics used to “stratify” a society?
  • What constitutes an elite and social class? What theories of elites and social class do we have? And has class disappeared?
  • How has inequality and poverty changed in the US?
  • What role has race played as a category in the social stratification in the US? How does racial stratification affect African Americans as well as other races in the US today?
  • How has stratification based on gender changed over the last 150 years? To what extent is society still gender-stratified today? And what are mechanisms via which gender continues to play a role?
  • What are consequences of social stratification for people’s lives above and beyond work, income and wealth?
  • What is the legitimation and ideology upon which social inequality was and is perceived as “fair” or “just” in the past and today?


Major Assignments and Exams

(A) Four Discussion Papers

Discussion papers provide a discussion of theoretical arguments and/or review of empirical evidence based on the course readings assigned for that topic. You are expected to engage sincerely with the arguments and demonstrate your knowledge of the literature.

Discussion papers should be 3 pages long (double-space, empty space does not count). The due dates for the discussion papers and specifics about the format are provided below. Only the three (3) best papers will count for your final grade.

If you are happy with only submitting three discussion papers, you are not required to submit a fourth one.


(B) Midterm

The midterm consists of a multiple-choice exam and open answer questions that will cover material provided in the assigned readings as well as material discussed up to the midterm.


(C) Final Examination

The final exam consists of a multiple-choice exam and open answer questions that will cover material provided in the assigned readings as well as material discussed in class over the entire quarter.


(D) Participation

You are expected to actively participate in lectures and sections. This includes questions about the literature, engaging in discussions, smaller assignments, and quizzes. Out of all graded quizzes and in-class assignments, the two least good will not count for your grade (i.e., you can miss two without it affecting your grade).


Grading Procedure

Course grades will be based on your class participation, your discussion papers, the midterm and your final exam. The majority of your grade comes from your written assignments (90%) and the remainder reflects your active participation in smaller assignments and discussions in class and quizzes (10%):


30%     Three discussion papers (best 3 count, 10% each)

20%     Midterm    

40%     Final examination

10%     Participation (e.g., in-class assignments and quizzes)


Important Dates

Discussion Paper #1              Sunday, January 24th, 2016 by 6pm on Canvas

Discussion Paper #2              Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016 by 6pm on Canvas

Discussion Paper #3              Sunday, February 28th, 2016 by 6pm on Canvas

Discussion Paper #4              Tuesday, March 8th, 2016 by 6pm on Canvas


All written assignments have to be submitted electronically on Canvas by 6 pm the day before lecture.  


Midterm                  Monday, February 8th  in class
Final Exam             
Monday, March 14th, 2016, 2.30-4.20pm, PAA A114


Required Readings

The majority of the readings for this class are taken form Grusky’s Social Stratification: Class, Race, and Gender in Sociological Perspective (Fourth Edition). You are required to purchase this book. It is available at the UW bookstore. Note, however, that you can find used copies online for cheaper as well as
rent options. Also, the third edition overlaps substantially with the fourth edition, so you may want to buy the third edition and just copy a selection of newly added chapters from the most recent edition.

A copy of the textbook is also available at Odegaard Library over Course Reserve.

All readings listed for a particular day on your syllabus must be completed prior to class. You must bring physical copies of all readings to class with you. Make sure to leave every class with an idea about how and where to obtain the readings for the following class.


Course Policies

Participation and In-class Assignments

You are expected to actively engage and participate in class discussion and quizzes. Some small assignments and active participation will be graded.


Format Requirements for Discussion Papers

12pt Times New Roman, double-spaced, 1” (2.54cm) margins. Make sure your assignments/papers meet the required length and are free of grammatical, formatting and spelling errors. Failure to meet these expectations may result in a lowered final grade.


Late Work and Extensions

All deadlines for papers and assignments are firm. If your assignment/paper is late, there will be an abatement of 15% for every 24 hours beginning 1 minute after the assignment was due. For example, if you hand in an assignment 36 hours late, you have an abatement of 30%.

There will be no individual extensions, except in cases of medical or family emergency or religious observance. If you are unable to meet a deadline due to such an emergency, please contact me as soon as possible so that we may work out an alternative schedule of due dates and times.


Online Resources

Course materials including the syllabus, instructions for the written assignments, slides, important announcements, and additional readings will be available on Canvas.


Availability, response, and feedback policy

Please allow up to 72 hours for a response to emails and questions. Also, please allow up to 10 days to receive feedback on your papers.

Please use our office hours if you have any questions. We will also try to accommodate you and find other times if the scheduled office hours conflict with other courses or work schedules.



Winter Quarter Syllabus - Week by Week


Week 1 – January 4th & 6th

Monday – Introduction and Course Overview

Wednesday - Functions and Dysfunctions of Inequality

  • Reading assignment:

    • Davis, Kingsley & Wilbert E. Moore. 2014 [1944]. “Some Principles of Stratification” (28-30)
    • Tumin, Melvin M. 2014 [1953]. “Some Principles of Stratification: A Critical Analysis (31-38)
    • Fischer, Claude S et al. 2014 [1996]. “Inequality by Design” (39-42)


Week 2 – January 11th & 13th

Monday – Inequality in a Comparative Perspective

  • Reading assignment:

    • Grusky, David B. & Katherine R. Weisshaar. 2014. “A Compressed History of Inequality” (44-52)
    • Esping-Andersen, Gøsta and John Myles. 2014 [2008]. “Changing Forms of Inequality” (52-58)

Wednesday – Power Elite & the Ruling Class

  • Reading assignment:

    • Mills, C. Wright. 2014 [1956]. “The Power Elite” (282-292)
    • Mosca, Gaetano. 2014 [1939]. “On the Ruling Class” (276-282)


Week 3 – January 18th and 20th

Monday – HOLIDAY

Wednesday – The Structure of Inequality – Marx and Weber

  • Reading assignment:

    • Marx, Karl 2014 [1963]. “Classes in Capitalism and Pre-Capitalism” (131-141)
    • Dahrendorf, Ralf. 2014 [1959]. “Class and Class Structure in Industrial Society” (143-149)
    • Weber, Max. 2014 [1947]. “Status Groups and Classes” (175-178)
    • Weber, Max. 2014 [1978]. “Open and closed positions” (179-182)


Week 4 – January 25th and 27th

Monday - Stratification and the Labor Market (Topic of DP #1)

  • Reading assignment:

    • Piore, Michael J. 2014 [1970]. “The Dual Labor Market” (629-632)
    • Sorensen, Aage B. and Arne L. Kalleberg. 2014 [1981] “An Outline of a Theory of the Matching of Persons to Jobs.” (632-640)
    • Kalleberg, Arne L. 2014 [2012]. “The Rise of Precarious Work” (640-645)

Wednesday - Income Inequality

  • Reading assignment:

    • Atkinson, Anthony B. et al. 2014 [2011]. “Top Incomes in the Long Run of History” (59-73)


Week 5 – February 1st & 3rd

Monday – Poverty, and the Working Poor

  • Reading assignment:

    • Danziger, Sheldon et al. 2014 [2012]. “Poverty and the Great Recession” (357-364).
    • Ehrenreich, Barbara 2014 [1999]: “Nickel and Dimed” (330-338).

Wednesday – Who Gets Ahead: Social Mobility (Topic of DP #2)

  • Readings assignment: (in Canvas)

    • *Beller, Emily & Michael Hout 2006 “Intergenerational Social Mobility: The United States in Comparative” Perspective (19-36)
    • *Jackson, Michelle. 2013 [2014]. “Determined to Succeed”. (562-569).


Week 6 – February 8th & 10th

Monday – Midterm

Wednesday– Social Capital, Networks, and Attainment

  • Readings assignment:

    • Granovetter, Mark S. 1973 [2014]. “The Strength of Weak Ties”. (653-657).
    • Lin, Nan. 1999 [2014]. “Social Networks and Status Attainment”. (657-659).
    • Burt, Ronald S. 1997 [2014]. “Structural Holes” (659-663).


Week 7 – February 15th & 17th

Monday – HOLIDAY

Wednesday – Race and Racial Inequality

  • Readings assignment:

    • Wilson, William J. 2014 [1978]. “The Declining Significance of Race” (765-776)
    • Pager, Devah. 2014 [2003]. “Marked: Race, Crime, and Finding Work in an Era of Mass Incarceration” (757-764)


Week 8 – February 22nd & 24th

Monday – Gender Inequality

  • Readings assignment:

    • Blau, Francine. 2014 [2012]. “The Sources of Gender Pay Gap” (929-942)
    • Jackson, Robert. 2014 [1998]. “Destined for Equality” (101-109).

Wednesday – Consequences of Inequality I

  • Readings assignment:

    • *Bourdieu, Pierre. 1986. “The Forms of Capital” (280-291)
    • Lareau, Annette. 2014 [2003]. “Invisible Inequality. Social Class, Race, and Family Life” (1013-1022)


Week 9 – February 29th & March 2nd

Monday – Consequences of Inequality II (Topic of DP #3)

  • Reading assignment:

    • *Capriano, Richard et al. 2008. “Social Inequality and Health. Future Directions for the Fundamental Cause Explanation” (232-263)
    • Siegrist, Johannes & Michael Marmot. 2014 [2004]. “Health Inequalities and the Psychosocial Environment - Two Scientific Challenges” (1046–1050)

Wednesday – Consequences of Inequality III

  • Readings assignment:

    • Frank, Thomas. 2004 [2014]. “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” (1035-1036)
    • Hout, Michael & Daniel Laurison. 2014. “The Realignment of U.S. Presidential Voting” (1037-1045)


Week 10 – March 7th & 9th

Monday – Equal Sharing Communities - Utopia?

  • Readings assignment:

    • *Abramitzky, Ran 2011. “Lessons from the Kibbutz on the Equality—Incentives Trade-off” (185-207)

Wednesday – Global Inequality (Topic of DP #4)

  • Readings assignment:

    • Stiglitz, Joseph E. 2014 [2002]: Globalism’s Discontent. (1132-1139).
    • Firebaugh, Glen. 2014 [2003]. The New Geography of Global Income Inequality. (1139-1150)


Catalog Description: 
Social class and social inequality in American society. Status, power, authority, and unequal opportunity are examined in depth, using material from other societies to provide a comparative and historical perspective. Sociological origins of recurrent conflicts involving race, sex, poverty, and political ideology.
GE Requirements: 
Diversity (DIV)
Individuals and Societies (I&S)
Last updated: 
October 17, 2016 - 12:53pm