What Is Social Placement?

In sociology, social placement is the idea that children inherit the social identity of their parents at birth. Social placement reflects the role of the family unit in social inequity. It is exceedingly difficult for children to transcend parental traits such as race, religion and class.

Social placement contributes to ethnic homogeneity because most children are heavily socialized within their own ethnicity and eventually marry people like themselves. It also contributes to the class system of a capitalist society. Children who are born poor because their parents are poor have limited access to education, resources and opportunities. Children who are born wealthy are likely to stay wealthy because wealth is typically inherited through generations.

When children enter school, education can play an important role in social placement. Teachers identify bright and motivated students early on, and these students are better educated and prepared for their future. If a child is thought to be intelligent, education can supersede race and class and allow for the opportunity to achieve a different social placement.

The opportunity to improve social standing through education is also an important function of society. But many argue that social placement in early education is heavily flawed. Economic downturn, the high cost of higher education and fluctuations in government policies can give social placement at birth an even greater ability to predict a child’s future.