Introduction - Social Stratification

MCAT Behavioral Sciences Review - Kaplan Test Prep 2021–2022

Social Stratification

Chapter Profile


The content in this chapter should be relevant to about 9% of all questions about the behavioral sciences on the MCAT.

This chapter covers material from the following AAMC content categories:

8B: Social thinking

8C: Social interactions

10A: Social inequality

The wonderfully witty Oscar Wilde once said, “Work is the curse of the drinking classes.” While this quote is intended to be humorous, it does speak to the stereotypical characteristics associated with socioeconomic class. Some Americans think that class and social stratification are nonissues in our society. Unlike earlier feudal societies, most Americans are not royals or gentry, possessing inherited titles, land, or palaces; we’re often considered to be a much more equality-oriented society, in keeping with our constitutional ideals. Yet how do we explain such differences in wealth, power, and privilege as a Manhattan lawyer driving a shiny Porsche past a homeless person rooting through a trashcan? Such scenes make it hard to ignore the uneven distributions of material wealth and the overall social inequality in the United States.

To understand social inequalities in America and how such disparities impact health and healthcare services, we will examine several aspects of social stratification in terms of class, status, and social capital and how these intersect with race, gender, and age. We will also focus on patterns of social mobility and how poverty and location play major roles in health and illness. Later, we will connect how race, gender, and socioeconomic inequalities impact health profiles and access to quality healthcare.