The United States is often described as a melting pot, a mass of people who have “melted” together and are essentially the same as one another. Some sociologists, however, prefer to think of America as a kaleidoscope, with a tremendous variety of people coming together to create a field of colors, rich with each individual’s gender, race, religion, job, education, interests, and ethnic backgrounds.

This may sound like an idyllic, harmonious situation. But in the United States, as in societies around the world, people’s differences not only result in a more diverse society but also lead to differences in the way they are treated, the opportunities available to them, how much money they earn, and the degree to which others respect them. These differences create layers, or strata, in society. How stratification occurs and the effects it has on people are major concerns of sociologists.

Popular pages: Social Stratification and Inequality