Sociology: Achieved Status Versus Ascribed Status

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Being a professional athlete is an achieved status. Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Status is a term that is used often in sociology. It is a very broad word that refers to one's position in a social system. Status refers to what a person is, such as child, parent, pupil, playmate, etc. Individuals usually have multiple statuses assigned to them at any given time. Status is important sociologically because it comes with a set of rights, obligations, behaviors, and duties that people of certain positions are expected to perform.

Achieved Status Versus Ascribed Status

There are two types of status: achieved status and ascribed status. An achieved status is one that is acquired on the basis of merit; it is a position that is earned or chosen and reflects a person's skills, abilities, and efforts. Being a professional athlete, for example, is an achieved status, as is being a lawyer, college professor, or criminal.

An ascribed status, on the other hand, is one that is beyond an individual's control. It is not earned, but rather something people are either born with or had no control over. Examples of ascribed status include sex and race. Children usually have more ascribed statuses than adults since they do not usually have a choice in most matters. A family's social status or socioeconomic status, for instance, would be an achieved status for adults, but an ascribed status for children. Homelessness might also be another example.

For adults, homelessness usually comes by way of achieving, or rather not achieving, something. For children, however, homelessness is not something they have any control over. They become as such by default of their parents' actions.      

The line between achieved status and ascribed status is not always black and white.

There are many statuses that can be considered a mixture of achievement and ascription. Take Paris Hilton, for example, who has an achieved status of being an actress. Many might argue that she would never have achieved the status of actress if she had not come from a wealthy family, an ascribed status of hers.  

Take a moment to reflect on your own statuses. What are all of your statuses, and which are ascribed and which are achieved?

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Your Citation
Crossman, Ashley. "Sociology: Achieved Status Versus Ascribed Status." ThoughtCo, Aug. 6, 2017, Crossman, Ashley. (2017, August 6). Sociology: Achieved Status Versus Ascribed Status. Retrieved from Crossman, Ashley. "Sociology: Achieved Status Versus Ascribed Status." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 22, 2018).