Introduction to Theoretical Perspectives on Stratification

What you’ll learn to do: describe theoretical perspectives on stratification

In the foreground there are two basketball players. Stephen Curry is on the left and jumping into the air with the basketball in his hands. Marcin Gortat is on the right, facing away from the camera and his arms are in the air as he runs towards Stephen.

Figure 1. Stephen Curry and Marcin Gortat playing basketball. (Photo courtesy of Keith Allison/flickr)

While basketball is one of the highest-paying professional sports, there is stratification among teams and especially among players. For example, the Sacramento Kings hand out the lowest annual payroll, while the Golden State Warriors reportedly pay the highest. In 2018, Stephen Curry, a Golden State Warriors point guard, was the highest paid athlete in the NBA, earning around $34.7 million a year[1]. Within specific fields from all walks of life, layers are stratified and members are ranked.
Sociological theories can help us explain social phenomena such as different salaries within the same high status profession. Functionalists would examine the purpose of such high salaries, while conflict theorists would study the exorbitant salaries as an unfair distribution of money, and might also explore the role of economic pressures arising from corporate-sponsored arenas, network ratings, owners, and managers. Interactionist theorists might examine how name-recognition is symbolic and important for particular teams and cities, such as LeBron James’ recent move from his hometown of Cleveland to Los Angeles. Social stratification takes on new meanings when it is examined from these different sociological perspectives.

Contribute!

Did you have an idea for improving this content? We’d love your input.

Improve this pageLearn More


  1. Cork Gaines. (Jun. 5, 2018)."The 27 highest-paid players in the NBA for the 2017-18 season." Business Insider https://www.businessinsider.com/nba-highest-paid-players-2017-10 and "NBA Team Salaries." Basketball Insiders. http://www.basketballinsiders.com/nba-team-salaries-at-a-glance/