Social stratification is a means by which people are classified into categories that are ranked on a scale of social worth. There are many ways in which people are stratified. The system of stratification can be determined by means of criteria which the social worthiness of individuals are judged and discriminations made, such as the classifications of gender, ethnicity, race, religion, age, and generation. These vary, in part, on the basis of a society's stratification order (i.e., caste, class, or mixed) and its cultural history (i.e., the legacy of slavery on race relations in the United States). And the "rewards" of successful social stratification come in a number of forms: power, wealth, social power, prestige in the eyes of others, self-esteem and sense of personal efficacy, the number and welfare of one's descendants, and one's satisfaction and happiness with life.
The world classifies people into categories in the course of social interaction.
Two other major kinds of criteria are used as the basis for classification are ascribed and achieved characteristics. Ascribed characteristics are those that are attributed to a person at birth, such as skin color, sex, or hair color, or distinctiveness that they possess through no fault of their own, such as a talent for something or religion. Achieved characteristics are those that are acquired through a combination of choice, effort and/or ability. People must act a certain way to acquire these characteristics. For example, achieved characteristics can be marital status, level of education, or income.
Stratification systems also can be "open" or "closed", meaning that in a certain place advancement or opportunities in stratification can vary. The caste system is the extreme example of a "closed" system where people are ranked on the basis of traits over which they have no control. This system is considered "closed"...