Ascribed Status: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:01 Definition of Ascribed Status
  • 2:20 Examples of Ascribed Status
  • 2:38 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Yolanda Williams

Yolanda has taught college Psychology and Ethics, and has a doctorate of philosophy in counselor education and supervision.

Did you know that race and gender are both examples of ascribed status? Learn more about ascribed status from examples and test your knowledge with a quiz.

Definition of Ascribed Status

Ascribed status refers to a position one holds in a social system that one attains involuntarily or by birth. But what does that really mean?

Meet Phillip! Phillip is a 29-year-old male. He's the first-born son of a king and queen, and is therefore first in line for succession to the royal title. Due to their high place in society, Phillip grew up surrounded by wealth and privilege. On his 24th birthday, Phillip was eventually crowned as king. A year later, he married his wife and, by the time he reached his 29th birthday, they'd had three children.

Let's look at Phillip a little more closely. Phillip was born into a wealthy family, he was born a prince, and he was born a male. Phillip was also the first-born child. These are examples of ascribed statuses. Phillip did not choose to be a male any more than he chose to be a prince. Nor did he earn the title of prince or first born based on his skill or merit. Instead these were statuses given to him by virtue of his birth. Had Phillip been born to other parents, his ascribed status would have been completely different.

Since ascribed status is given to us when we are born and is often involuntary, they can be rigid and unchanging. For example, Phillip cannot change his birth parents. Nor can he change his parents' wealth or his family's high place in society. He also can't change the fact that he was born as a male.

Ascribed status is often compared to achieved status, which is a position one holds in a society that is based on one's choices or merit.

A musician is an achieved status that one earns by playing an instrument.

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