MCAT Content / Discrimination / How Power Prestige And Class Facilitate Discrimination

How Power, Prestige, and Class Facilitate Discrimination

Topic: Discrimination

Power, social class, and prestige all influence and facilitate discrimination against different groups.

Prejudice is an unjustified or incorrect attitude (usually negative) towards an individual based solely on the individual’s membership of a social group while discrimination is the behavior or actions, usually negative, towards an individual or group of people. For example, a person may hold prejudiced views against a certain gender and discriminate against them by refusing to hire someone of that gender. Power, social class, and prestige can facilitate discrimination against racial groups, social groups, gender groups, etc.

Power is behind a large part of discrimination in the modern world through economic and political methods. Many scholars adopt the definition developed by German sociologist Max Weber, who said that power is the ability to exercise one’s will over others (Weber 1922). Power affects more than personal relationships; it shapes larger dynamics like social groups, professional organizations, and governments. Discrimination is ultimately based on power relationships between a dominant group and subordinate (or marginalized) group. An individual in a powerful social position can generally inflict more damage on the quality of life and opportunities available to a person in a less powerful position. This power differential is apparent in many situations including access to medical care, educational opportunities, and more.

In the United States, a person’s social class has far-reaching consequences as socioeconomic status (SES) is tied to particular opportunities and resources. Social class refers to the grouping of individuals in a stratified hierarchy based on wealth, income, education, occupation, and social network (though other factors are sometimes considered). One’s position in the social class hierarchy may impact, for example, health, family life, education, religious affiliation, political participation, and experience with the criminal justice system. Social class can facilitate inequality through prejudice and class discrimination. Also known as classism, it includes individual attitudes, behaviors, systems of policies, and practices that are set up to benefit the upper class at the expense of the lower class including healthcare inequities, disparities in the judicial system, lack of social mobility.

Prestige refers to the reputation or esteem associated with one’s position in society. A person can earn prestige by his or her own achievements, which is known as achieved status, or they can be placed in the stratification system by their inherited position, which is called ascribed status.  Occupations like physicians or lawyers tend to have more prestige associated with them than occupations like bartender or janitor. Jobs with higher occupational prestige or status tend to pay more and are often viewed as those that require higher skills and qualifications or higher-level jobs. Consequently, an individual’s prestige is closely tied to their social class – the higher the prestige of an individual (through their occupation or, sometimes, their family name), the higher their social class.

Prestige is a strong element in social mobility. On the one hand, choosing certain occupations or attending certain schools can influence a person’s level of prestige. While these opportunities are not equally available to everyone, one’s choices can, at least to a limited extent, increase or decrease one’s prestige, and lead to social mobility. On the other hand, certain elements of prestige are fixed; family name, place of birth, parents’ occupations, etc., are unchangeable parts of prestige that cause social stratification. Consequently, prestige can facilitate discrimination as access to prestige can vary depending on social status; those who enjoy a higher social status and greater privilege may have the means to pursue high prestige opportunities while those who have low SES will not. This leads to continued social stratification, or an unequal social system.

 

Practice Questions


Khan Academy

 

MCAT Official Prep (AAMC)

Practice Exam 2 P/S Section Question 28


Key Points

• Prejudice is an unjustified or incorrect attitude (usually negative) towards an individual based solely on the individual’s membership of a social group while discrimination is the behavior or actions, usually negative, towards an individual or group of people.

• Discrimination is facilitated in society by power, prestige and social class. All are vehicles to enable individuals to discriminate against groups of individuals based on social class, race or gender.

• Discrimination can be based on power relationships between a dominant group and subordinate (or marginalized) group. An individual in a powerful social position can generally inflict more damage on the quality of life and opportunities available to a person in a less powerful position.

• Social class can facilitate inequality through prejudice and class discrimination. Also known as classism, it includes individual attitudes, behaviors, systems of policies, and practices that are set up to benefit the upper class at the expense of the lower class including healthcare inequities, disparities in the judicial system, lack of social mobility.

• Prestige can facilitate discrimination as access to prestige can vary depending on social status; those who enjoy a higher social status and greater privilege may have the means to pursue high prestige opportunities while those who have low SES will not.


Key Terms

Discrimination: The prejudicial treatment of an individual based on his or her membership, or perceived membership, in a certain group or category.

Prejudice: A positive or negative evaluation of another person based on their perceived group membership (e.g., race, class, or gender).

Stereotype: A conventional opinion, or image of a group of people or things based on second-hand information.

Prestige: The level of respect assigned to a profession or role in society.

Social class: The perceived class in a hierarchy that an individual belongs to based on wealth, education, and background.

Dominate group: A social group with power, privileges, and social status that controls the value system and rewards in a particular society.

Subordinate group: Also called the minority or marginalized group as they have less power or control than the dominant group even if the dominant group is not the majority of the population

Social Class: Groupings of individuals in a hierarchy, usually based on wealth, educational attainment, occupation, income, and membership in a subculture or social network.

Class Discrimination/Classism: Prejudice or discrimination on the basis of social class.

Achieved status: A social position that a person can acquire on the basis of merit; it is a position that is earned or chosen. It reflects personal skills, abilities, and efforts.

Ascribed status: The social status a person is assigned at birth or assumed involuntarily later in life. It is a position that is neither earned nor chosen but assigned.

Privilege: A special, unearned advantage or entitlement, used to one’s own benefit or to the detriment of others. These groups can be advantaged based on social class, age, disability, ethnic or racial category, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and religion.

Social stratification: Refers to a society’s categorization of its people into rankings of socioeconomic tiers based on factors like wealth, income, race, education, and power.



Billing Information
We had trouble validating your card. It's possible your card provider is preventing us from charging the card. Please contact your card provider or customer support.
{{ cardForm.errors.get('number') }}
{{ registerForm.errors.get('zip') }}
{{ registerForm.errors.get('coupon') }}
Tax: {{ taxAmount(selectedPlan) | currency spark.currencySymbol }}

Total Price Including Tax: {{ priceWithTax(selectedPlan) | currency spark.currencySymbol }} / {{ selectedPlan.interval | capitalize }}