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Social Status: Definition, Types & Examples

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  • 0:01 Definition and Example
  • 1:07 Achieved Status and…
  • 2:11 Master Status
  • 2:45 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.

In this lesson, we'll be looking at social status. Learn more about the different types of social statuses, including achieved, ascribed, and master status, and test your knowledge with a quiz.

Definition and Example

Social status refers to a position one holds in a society or group. But what does that really mean?

Mike is a 36-year-old American male. He was born to very wealthy parents who owned several businesses, including a successful law firm. Though both of Mike's parents studied law and international business, Mike always knew that he'd be a surgeon. Shortly after his 32nd birthday, Mike completed his residency and became a practicing surgeon. A year later, Mike married his long-term girlfriend, and they welcomed a set of identical twin girls. Mike is held in high esteem by his community, but the ones who are most proud of Mike are his parents.

Mike has several social statuses, including father, husband, surgeon, male, American, and son. Just like Mike, we all occupy several social statuses at once. Some social statuses are more prestigious than others. For example, doctors are generally more respected and held at a higher regard than criminals. Now let's examine the different types of social statuses by looking deeper at Mike's many statuses.

Achieved Status

An achieved status is a position one holds in society based on one's choices or merit. Achieved status is largely determined by one's abilities, skills, and life choices. Mike's achieved statuses include being a surgeon and husband. There are certain criteria that must be met in order to obtain an achieved status. In order to become a husband, Mike first had to get married. In order to become a surgeon, Mike had to graduate from college, graduate from medical school, complete a residency, and complete an internship.

To obtain the achieved status of a surgeon, it takes several years of schooling and lots of hard work and effort.
Doctor

Ascribed Status

An ascribed status is a position that one holds in a society that is obtained involuntarily or by merely being born. Mike's ascribed statuses include being born to wealthy parents and being born a male. Mike did not choose to be male, American, or have rich parents; all three were products of his birth. Mike's daughters were born identical twins. He had no control over this. So, being the father of identical twins is an ascribed status.

Mike
twin girls

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