Social hierarchy (also referred to as social stratification) denotes the rank ordering and the accordant power, prestige, and life chances of people who are similarly categorized along some dimension of social difference (e.g., social class, race, and gender). These stratified and inequitable social divisions are relatively stable and are reproduced over time because people's life experiences and social opportunities depend on their social category and the ranks of different social categories are historically resistant to change.

This entry explores the relationship between one's position on the social hierarchy and academic achievement. A variety of theories attempt to explain the powerful influence of family background, race, and gender on school success as well as the seeming intractability of social hierarchies. This entry discusses the historical and current ...

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