Social stratification in American Society is not clearly defined or determined; nevertheless social scientist has developed a socio -economic stratification of the American society. Americans believe in a three class society: rich, poor and middle class and most Americans consider themselves as middle class. In reality the American society is more diverse and incongruent and there is an extensive difference among people. The basic determinants that make social class are wealth, education, income and occupation. Some sociologists have divided the American society in six distinct categories including: rich or the upper class, upper middle class, lower middle class, lower class and poor and under class.
It is believed that the people who belong to the same social class share the similar social positions, similar ways of thinking and life styles; others oppose this idea and believe that we can not generalize characteristic of the people to one another. Social class creates a hierarchy and identity for the people of each class.
One of the indications of the social class in America is income in terms of either individual or household and is one of the most important indicators of social class. Those families who have two income earners are in a better position. Per capita income which means the amount of money allocated to each individual member is also anther important determinant in social stratification. It can be said the families who have fewer members are in a better position.
Another indication in social stratification is education which has a relation with the occupation and income. Higher education itself needs money and paying tuition, so it is clear that most of the time the families who are better off can afford a better education for their children: they can pay for better schools and private schools, colleges and universities. As the result there is an interrelation between money and education.
One of the most prominent features of social class is culture: people of the same social class tend to have similar ways of behavior; though this behavior and culture is not some thing fix and changes with social mobility: people who move upward or downward in their social stratification will acquire the behavior of that social group. But there is diversity inside the same social group as well. One of the important terms in American culture and literature is the concept of "Class Ascendancy": based on this concept each successive generation will have a higher standard of living than its predecessors. Another important characteristic of American social class is achieved status rather than described statues; it means that regardless of his or her original statues, one can become rich and successful and climb the social ladder. But in reality this idealistic view can not be completely true: many people of color are still suffering the racial prejudices and as a result they can not have the proper education and a good occupation which is perhaps the most important class component. These people have lower income and the cycle will continue to the later generations. Despite the existing injustice and inequalities, America is considered land of opportunity, the land which its streets are paved with gold. Thought this belief is exaggerated, Americans have improved their economic situation with their hard working and persistence.