What Is a Master Status in Sociology?

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In sociology, master status refers to a primary or core social position that supersedes all other statuses making up a person’s identity and personality. This master status influences nearly every decision and action a person makes in their daily life. For many people, their occupation, level of education or commitment to an organization is their master status. There are also other master statuses such race, nationality and sex.

Like many aspects to social interaction and social science, master status is subjective and varies from person to person. Where one person has a lifelong commitment to their place of employment, others may not be as serious. Some people reach the highest levels of education to enjoy the moniker “doctor,” while others do the same simply for the love of knowledge.

When it comes to race, nationality and sex, these master statuses are part of nearly everyone’s daily life. Even if a person attempts to ignore these statuses, societies tend to send reminders that these status do exist. A person does not often enter the wrong restroom, leave their country of origin or find themselves unaware of their ethnic background. This is because society, one way or another, ultimately lets a person know who they are.