In the words of Tilly (1998, 10): “Exploitation and opportunity hoarding favor the installation of categorical inequality, while emulation and adap- tation generalize

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C HAPTER 1 H OW S TRATIFICATION W ORKS A ll human societies have a social structure that divides people into categories based on a combination of achieved and as- cribed traits. Achieved characteristics are those acquired in the course of living, whereas ascribed characteristics are set at birth. The categories defined within a social structure may be nominal or graduated—that is, they may assign labels to people on the basis of shared qualitative attributes, or they may rank people along some quantitative continuum (see Blau 1977). Ascribed social categories include nominal groupings such as gender, in which people are la- beled male or female on the basis of inherited physical traits (ulti- mately, the possession of one versus two X chromosomes), as well as graduated categories such as age, in which people are classified according to the amount of time elapsed since birth. Achieved sta- tuses may also be nominal—being a member of a fraternal lodge such as the Moose or Elks—or graduated—being a member of an income class. Stratification refers to the unequal distribution of people across social categories that are characterized by differential access to scarce resources. The resources may be material, such as income and wealth; they may be symbolic, such as prestige and social standing; or they may be emotional, such as love, affection, and, of course, sex. The term “stratification” comes from the Latin stratum , which in the geological sense refers to an identifiable layer of sedi- ment or material in the ground. Over time, changing environmen- tal conditions produce identifiable layers within the earth’s crust, 1

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known as strata, which are distinctive in composition and can be associated temporally with different geological eras. In an analo- gous manner, societies may be conceptualized as having social strata, different layers that are distinctive in composition and char- acterized by more or less access to material, symbolic, and emo- tional resources. Stratification systems order people vertically in a social structure characterized by a distinct top and bottom. The distance from the top to the bottom of any society is indicated by the size of the gap in access to resources between those in the uppermost and lower- most social categories. As the distance between the top and the bot- tom of a social structure increases, and as the distribution of people across social categories shifts toward the extremes, a society is said to become more stratified—literally having more socially defined layers with more people distributed among them at greater dis- tances from one another. The degree of social stratification is often measured in terms of inequality, which assesses the degree of vari- ability in the dispersion of people among ranked social categories. Human societies differ greatly with respect to their degree of so- cial inequality. In general, small foraging societies in which people hunt and gather for a living tend to be quite egalitarian (Kelly 1995). Social categories are defined mainly on the basis of gender, age, and kinship, categorical perceptions that appear to be hard- wired into human social cognition (Macrae and Bodenhausen 2000). Among hunters and gatherers there is little inequality in ac- cess to material resources. The stratification that does exist is mainly expressed as unequal access to symbolic or emotional re- sources. Among men, prestige and sexual access derive not simply from skill at hunting and successful food provision but also from generosity and sharing within the group. Selfishness and hoarding are discouraged through a variety of informal leveling mechanisms that involve ridicule, shaming, and humor, which are often en- forced through prescribed rituals (Gamble 1999). The most common form of stratification in foraging societies oc- curs on the basis of gender. Stratification between males and fe- males derives primarily from the amount of time that men spend alone together, typically on a hunt, and is thus determined by local Categorically Unequal 2

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ecology (Massey 2005a). Societies where men spend large amounts of time away from women hunting large game tend to be more gen- der-stratified. During the time they are away on their own, males reinforce male predispositions and tendencies to become more ag- gressive and domineering (Macoby 1998). At the same time, fe- males left by themselves reinforce female predispositions and ten- dencies to become more caring and nurturing. The end result is a divergence in gender-specific attitudes and behaviors that works to the detriment of females once the two sexes reunite (Macoby 1998; Sanday 1981). Compared with foraging societies built around the hunting of large mammals, societies that rely on aquatic resources, gathering and scavenging, or the pursuit of small game tend to be much lower in gender inequality. Sedentary agrarian societies are more stratified than foraging so- cieties (Sjoberg 1960). The domestication of plants and animals around ten thousand years ago enabled farmers to produce more food than they themselves consumed, and thus a very small num- ber of people could stop toiling each day to procure the calories needed for survival. Instead, these fortunate few pursued other, non-food-producing activities such as trade, manufacturing, poli- tics, religion, and soldiering (Chant and Goodman 1999). Given a pre-industrial agrarian technology, the food surplus was necessarily meager, and to support even a small class of non-food- producing specialists, crops had to be collected over a large area and assembled at a fixed location for redistribution to people who had no direct role in their cultivation; these fixed locations were the first cities (Chandler and Fox 1974). Since peasant households do not willingly hand over the fruits of their labor to others, social structures came into existence to effect and legitimate the confisca- tion, leading to the formation of ruling and working classes in ad- dition to peasant farmers (Sjoberg 1960). Noble and priestly fami- lies based in cities enjoyed favored access to material, symbolic, and emotional resources; workers, tradesmen, and artisans made do with whatever the ruling classes granted them; and peasants were heavily taxed to support both sets of urban dwellers. Although the distance between the top and bottom rungs of so- ciety was large compared with foraging societies and mobility be- How Stratification Works 3

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tween classes was minimal, the total amount of inequality was con- strained by the small size of the food surplus produced with a pre- industrial technology (Massey 2005a). In the world of agrarian ur- banism, which prevailed from 8000 B . C . to around 1800 A . D ., no more than 5 percent of the inhabitants within any society ever lived in cities, and among urban dwellers only a tiny fraction belonged to the ruling elite. The typical member of a pre-industrial agrarian so- ciety was an illiterate peasant whose access to resources was the same as that of most of the rest of the population. Despite the exis- tence of privileged classes, total inequality was actually quite mod- est by contemporary standards. Beginning around 1800, however, the industrial revolution breached the technological cap that had limited inequality for mil- lennia. Mechanization enabled a dramatic increase in agricultural productivity so that for the first time fewer than 5 percent of hu- mans could produce enough food for everyone else (Berry 1973). Industrial societies urbanized, and the vast majority of people came to inhabit cities and work in non-agricultural occupations. As the share of workers employed in manufacturing and services grew, the number and range of occupations expanded rapidly to produce new social forms of differentiation. In the United States, for exam- ple, the variance in the distribution of people across occupational categories increased by a factor of four between 1850 and 1950 (Massey 2005a). Industrialization also enabled an unprecedented increase in ma- terial well-being, dramatically widening the absolute distance be- tween the top and the bottom of human social structures. Between 1850 and 1950, the total value of goods and services produced in the global economy rose from $939 trillion to $5,336 trillion (Maddison 2003), and the largest private fortune in the United States rose from $1 million to $1.6 billion (Phillips 2002). This increased distance be- tween the top and bottom of the social hierarchy and the prolifera- tion of categories in between made possible a new burst of stratifi- cation and inequality that lasted well into the twentieth century (Williamson 1980). In the United States the restructuring of the political economy in the wake of the Great Depression and the Second World War com- Categorically Unequal 4

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pressed the distribution of earnings and substantially reduced lev- els of inequality, beginning in the 1930s (Goldin and Margo 1992). From 1945 to 1975, under structural arrangements implemented during the New Deal, poverty rates steadily fell, median incomes consistently rose, and inequality progressively dropped as a rising economic tide lifted all boats (see Burtless and Smeeding 2001; Danziger and Gottschalk 1995; Freeman 2001; Levy 1998; Smeed- ing, O’Higgins, and Rainwater 1990). During the 1970s, however, a new post-industrial economy arose, one based on the creation of knowledge and manipulation of infor- mation rather than the production of goods and services or the cul- tivation of food (Devine and Waters 2004; Svallfors 2005). Once again occupational differentiation increased and the distance be- tween the top and the bottom of the social hierarchy grew. Whereas the largest private fortune in the United States stood at $3.6 billion in 1968, by 1999 it had reached $85 billion, raising the distance be- tween the top and bottom of the social structure by a factor of 24 in just thirty years (Phillips 2002). Likewise, from 1975 to 2000 wealth inequality increased by 11 percent while income inequality rose by 23 percent (Keister 2000; Massey 2005a). At century’s end, the rich- est 1 percent of Americans controlled 40 percent of the nation’s total wealth. Categorical Inequality Despite the radical transformation of human societies over time— from foraging societies through agrarian urbanism into industrial urbanism and on to our current post-industrial world—the funda- mental mechanisms producing stratification have not changed much. Although the number and range of categories in the social structure may have risen dramatically, and the stock of material re- sources may have accumulated to new heights, the basic means by which people are granted more or less access to scarce material, emotional, and symbolic resources have remained remarkably sim- ilar through the ages. Indeed, all stratification processes boil down to a combination of two simple but powerful mechanisms: the allo- cation of people to social categories, and the institutionalization of How Stratification Works 5

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practices that allocate resources unequally across these categories. Together, these two social processes produce what Charles Tilly (1998) calls “categorical inequality”—a pattern of social stratifica- tion that is remarkably “durable” in the sense that it is reproduced across time and between generations. The Basic Mechanisms of Stratification Given socially defined categories and people being distributed among them, inequality is generated and perpetuated by two basic mechanisms: exploitation and opportunity hoarding (Tilly 1998). Exploitation occurs when people in one social group expropriate a resource produced by members of another social group and pre- vent them from realizing the full value of their effort in producing it. Opportunity hoarding occurs when one social group restricts ac- cess to a scarce resource, either through outright denial or by exer- cising monopoly control that requires out-group members to pay rent in return for access. Either way, opportunity hoarding is en- abled through a socially defined process of exclusion . The most extreme form of categorical inequality ever invented by human beings is slavery, wherein the labor of one socially de- fined group is expropriated in its entirety by another, whose mem- bers simultaneously and drastically restrict the access of the en- slaved to material, symbolic, and emotional resources. The Jim Crow social system that replaced slavery in the American South af- ter 1876 used sharecropping as a new institutional means of ex- ploitation and carrying out exclusion and opportunity hoarding (Foner 1988). Until quite recently, racial stratification in the south- ern United States was extreme and social mobility for African Americans was limited. Within any social structure, exploitation and opportunity hoard- ing are, in turn, reinforced by two other social processes that work over time to institutionalize categorical distinctions and lock them into place (Tilly 1998). The first is emulation , whereby one group of people copies a set of social distinctions and interrelationships from another group or transfers the distinctions and interrelationships Categorically Unequal 6

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environments of great size, density, and heterogeneity, and the eco- logical settings that individuals find themselves adapting to—psy- chologically, socially, culturally, and physiologically—vary greatly depending on whether the individuals are rich or poor, light or dark, male or female. In a very real way, stratification begins psychologically with the creation of cognitive boundaries that allocate people to social cate- gories. Before categorical inequality can be implemented socially, categories must be created cognitively to classify people conceptu- ally based on some set of achieved and ascribed characteristics. The roots of social stratification thus lie ultimately in the cognitive con- struction of boundaries to make social distinctions, a task that comes naturally to human beings, who are mentally hardwired to engage in categorical thought (Fiske 2004). Indeed, recent work shows that human intelligence works more through pattern recog- nition and inductive generalization than deductive logic or mathe- matical optimization (Dawes 1998). In contrast to the software and hardware of a digital computer, which work together to make deci- sions using a strict Boolean logic, the “wetware” of the human brain is messy, inconsistent, and often quite “illogical” in a strictly deductive sense (Dawes and Hastie 2001; Kahneman and Tversky 1973, 1979). Instead, human “rationality” has been shaped by evo- lution to depart in characteristic ways from strict adherence to the principles of logic and probability that are assumed by most ra- tional choice models (Dawes 1998; Kahneman and Tversky 2000). Our natural capacity for categorical thought evolved in this fash- ion because the human brain is an energy sink. Constituting just 2 percent of the body’s weight, the brain uses 20 percent of its total energy (Donald 1991). In the course of thousands of years of evolu- tion, therefore, human beings evolved ingrained mental shortcuts to conserve cognitive resources. Operating with deductive rigor to consider all possible combinations, permutations, and contingen- cies before making a decision is possible for a powerful electronic computer contemplating a single problem, but if the brain were to adopt such an approach to decide the myriad of choices that human beings face in daily life, humans would waste a lot of scarce energy pondering routine situations and everyday actions that have little Categorically Unequal 8

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effect on survival. Most decisions made by humans are not perfect or optimal in any real sense; they are just “good enough” to get by and live another day, yielding the human practice of “satisficing” rather than optimizing (Simon 1981). For this reason, human beings function mentally as “cognitive misers.” They take a variety of characteristic mental shortcuts and use simple rules of thumb and shorthands to make everyday judg- ments (Fiske and Taylor 1991). As organisms, we tend to “satisfice” rather than optimize (Newell and Simon 1972), and we are wired cognitively to construct general categories about the world in which we live and then to use them to classify and evaluate the stimuli we encounter. These conceptual categories are collectively known as schemas . They represent cognitive structures that serve to interconnect a set of stimuli, their various attributes, and the rela- tionships between them (Fiske 2004). Since human memory is finite and cannot be expanded, if the brain is to remember more things it must combine or “chunk” bits of information into larger conceptual categories (schemas), using common properties to classify a much larger number of people, ob- jects, and experiences into a small number of readily identifiable categories for recall. Ultimately schemas are nothing more than well-established neural pathways that have been created through the repeated firing of particular constellations of synapses, leading to the formation of an integrated assembly of neurons that function together according to a specific sequence along specific routes to produce a consistent mental representation (LeDoux 2002). People use schemas to evaluate themselves and the social roles, social groups, social events, and individuals they encounter, a process known as social cognition (Fiske 2004). The categories into which they divide up the world may change over time and evolve with experience, but among mature human beings they always ex- ist and people always fall back on them when they interpret objects, events, people, and situations (Fiske 2004), and they are especially reliant on categorical judgments under conditions of threat or un- certainty. Human beings are psychologically programmed to cate- gorize the people they encounter and to use these categorizations to make social judgments. How Stratification Works 9

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Social schemas do not exist simply as neutral mental representa- tions, however; they are typically associated with emotional va- lences. The human brain is composed of two parallel processors that, while interconnected, function independently (Carter 1998; Konner 2002; Panksepp 1998). The emotional brain is rooted in a set of neural structures that are common to all mammals and are known collectively as the limbic system, whereas the rational brain is centered in the prefrontal cortex and other areas of the neocortex (Damasio 1994, 1999). The two portions of the brain, labeled system 1 and system 2 by Daniel Kahneman (2003), are neurally intercon- nected, but the number and speed of the connections running from the limbic system to the neocortex are greater than the reverse, so that emotional memories stored in the limbic system, which are typically unconscious or implicit, greatly affect how human beings make use of categories that exist within the rational, conscious brain (LeDoux 1996; Zajonc 1998). Emotions stored in the limbic system may be positive or nega- tive, but when they are associated with particular classes of people or objects they contribute to prejudice , which is a predetermined emotional orientation toward individuals or objects (Fiske 2004). A prejudicial orientation for or against some social group thus con- tains both conscious and unconscious components (Bargh 1996, 1997). On the one hand, people may be principled racists who con- sciously believe that African Americans are inferior and thus ra- tionally seek to subordinate them, consistent with their explicit be- liefs. On the other hand, a person may quite sincerely believe in equal opportunity and racial justice and yet harbor unconscious anti-black sentiments and associations that were created through some process of conditioning (such as the repeated visual pairing of violent crime scenes with black perpetrators on television), even though this prejudice may be inconsistent with the person’s explicit beliefs. All human beings, whether they think of themselves as preju- diced or not, hold in their heads schemas that classify people into categories based on age, gender, race, and ethnicity (Stangor et al. 1992; Taylor et al. 1978). They cannot help it. It is part of the human condition, and these schemas generally include implicit memories Categorically Unequal 10

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that yield subconscious dispositions toward people and objects, leading to stereotypes (Fiske 1998). Moreover, although stereotypi- cal notions are always present, people are more likely to fall back on them in making judgments when they feel challenged, face un- certainty, or experience sensory overload (Bodenhausen and Licht- enstein 1987; Bodenhausen and Wyer 1985). In making stereotypical judgments about others, human beings appear to evaluate people along two basic psychological dimen- sions: warmth and competence (Fiske et al. 2002). Warmth is how likable and approachable a person is. We are attracted to people we view as high on the warmth dimension, and we seek to interact and spend time with them. We find people who are low on the warmth dimension to be off-putting, and we generally avoid them and seek to minimize the number and range of our social contacts with them; we don’t like them and find them “cold.” In addition to these sub- jective feelings of attraction and liking, we also evaluate people in terms of competence and efficacy—their ability to act in a purpose- ful manner to get things done. We may or may not like people who are highly competent, but we generally respect them and admire their ability to achieve. These two dimensions of social perception come together in the stereotype content model , which argues that human social cognition and stereotyping involve the cognitive placement of groups and in- dividuals in a two-dimensional social space defined by the intersec- tion of independent axes of warmth and competence (Fiske et al. 2002). As shown in figure 1.1, the social space for stereotyping has four quadrants. The top-right quadrant contains people within the person’s own group, along with members of groups perceived to be similar to one’s own. Naturally, we think of members of our own social group as warm and competent and, hence, approachable and worthy of respect. The relevant emotion associated with in-group social perceptions is esteem or pride. The intersection of the two dimensions yields three distinct kinds of out-groups, however, which vary in terms of approacha- bility and respect. The bottom-right quadrant contains those groups that are viewed socially as competent but not warm. They are respected but not liked, and the relevant emotion that people How Stratification Works 11

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