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Social stratification can be described as the “layering of society” according to social class or other attribute.  Stratification is typically based on income, property, wealth, gender, or race.  This pathfinder will focus on the economic aspects of stratification in America, although other aspects of the field will be covered by many of these sources.  In the United States the issue of social stratification and inequality is of particular importance because of the widening gap between the rich and poor in society.  The United States has the largest wealth disparity of any industrialized nation in the world, and this disparity is growing larger every year. 

The issue of equality is always of great importance in any democratic society.  The need for examination into the reasons behind America’s growing inequality is great, particularly when considering the recent downturn of the American economy.  The Russian philosopher Mikhail Bakunin once wrote that “freedom, without the opportunity to achieve it, is but a ghost.”  In order for every American to truly have equal opportunity, and thus an equal right to freedom, it is essential for the gaps that divide us economically to be sharply narrowed or eliminated.          


This pathfinder is designed primarily for high school and undergraduate college students interested in the fields of social stratification, inequality, social class, and wealth distribution.  Many of the sources are focused specifically on social stratification; however, in some cases information on the topic comes from more general sources within the field of sociology.  All of the sources listed can be obtained at in the stacks or the reference section of Davis Library at U.N.C. 

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