What Are Social Divisions?

In sociology, social divisions are categories such as class, race, gender and geographic location, that indicate differences in lifestyle and experience. Social divisions are closely tied with social inequality, because these divisions often indicate the degree to which people can access resources and opportunities.

Social divisions stem from the concept that society is divided between the powerful and the powerless. There are potentially hundreds of social divisions, but the largest is class. Access to education, employment and healthcare is different for lower-class members of society. Income inequality affects a myriad of statistics, from violent crime rates to stress-related illnesses. There are many subcategories under the umbrella of the class division.

Sociologists study the impact of further social divisions due to race, gender, marital status, health or rural location to decipher the impact of these categories on daily life. Some divisions have a stronger impact on an individual’s place in society than others, and the way society views and processes these divisions can change and evolve over time.

Social divisions also affect political representation and participation. The government has the power to disenfranchise or empower certain groups in society through changing policies. Divisions between the rich and poor, old and young, and majority and minority racial groups can manifest in the public opinion of many political issues.