Family Role (e.g. Son, Daughter, Aunt, Uncle)
20 Examples of Ascribed Status
John Spacey, updated on January 22, 2024
Ascribed status is social status that is neither earned nor chosen. This includes anything that influences how you are perceived that is beyond your control. In practice, some types of ascribed status can be changed and are partially under your control. For example, nationality is considered ascribed status but people can change their nationality by immigrating. The following are common types of ascribed status.
Ascribed Status vs Achieved StatusAchieved status is anything that influences how you are perceived that is within your control. For example, your income or educational achievements are achieved status.
Grey AreasThe delineation between ascribed and achieved status is often a grey area. For example, physical beauty can greatly influence how you are perceived and is a type of social status. Beauty is often considered natural as some individuals are born with features that are considered aesthetically appealing by a culture. However, some individuals who are considered unusually attractive feel that they achieved this status with efforts such as personal presence, fashion, personal care, beauty routines and lifestyle choices.
DiscriminationTreating people differently based on factors that they can't change is often considered discrimination. There are exceptions based on practical realities. For example, a national pension that is offered based on your age wouldn't be considered discrimination because this is based on the practical reality that people often need more support in old age. As an example of discrimination, schools in Japan often require all students to have black hair such that students with other hair colors are admonished and essentially required to dye their hair. This was discontinued recently in some school districts, including Tokyo, but students with non-black hair are still commonly required to submit proof of their natural hair color -- a process that is still discriminatory.
OverviewAscribed status are circumstances beyond an individual's control that impact their perceived status in a social or cultural context. This includes things you are born with such as ethnicity and things that can change with time such as age.
SummaryThe factors that contribute to ascribed status are cultural. For example, hair color may be meaningless to one culture but viewed as an element of your social identity and status in another.Next: Achieved Status
More about social status:
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ReferencesKiyoshi Takenaka, Tokyo high schools ask students to certify hair colour not altered, Reuters, Feb 2021.
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