What is Ascribed Status – Definition, Meaning and Examples

Ascribed Status

People born into wealthy families, rich and famous families and political leader families are said to be people born with silver spoons because they do not have to take it out to survive at any point in their lives.

Let us continue with our today’s topic, an Ascribed status which means the status given to us or something that is assigned by birth. Before getting into the term Ascribed let us have a brief look on the word Status.

What is Status? 

Status is part of the social satisfaction of society that classifies people according to the credibility, prestige, education and marketing of their skills. It is a social position one holds in a group, organization or society. Each status comes with a set of roles and expectations of how one behaves.

Ascribed Status – An Overview 

The anthropologist, Ralph Linton, has coined the definition for Ascribed Status.

According to Linton, “The ascribed status  is assigned to an individual without reference to their innate differences or abilities.” His approach provides a deviation from the view that Ascribe status is fixed throughout the individual life. Specified status is the social status that a person is assigned at birth or involuntarily assumed later in life. There are no prerequisites for acquiring this.

Determining factors

Factors that determine ascribed status are – 

1. Gender

2. Kinship

3. Birth

4. Appearance 

5. Caste

6. Age

7. Inherited wealth 

8. Ethnicity

9. Religion 

 This is beyond one’s control as they are placed upon the individual. When I talk about gender, it is ascribed to everyone because we do not have to choose. Kinship is a family affair or other close relationship. An example of kinship is the relationship between two brothers. Other factors such as birth, appearance, age are inherited.  All have a fixed position regardless of rank and power. Their sources are Customs, Traditions, Values, Nomes etc. 


Some of the statements below will explain my points more clearly –

 1. I am a black person. (It talks about race/ethnicity)

 2. I am a young girl. (It talks about the age of the person)

 3. I am 5.6′. (It talks about the height of the person)

Depending on the family whether an individual is born to a political or social or economic situation or to a group that one hasn’t personally accomplished, that one gains from being born into folk with more resources than others in terms of wealth.

If I talk about caste, Perhaps the most obvious manifestation of status groups is found in India’s caste system. Hindu villages usually consist of members of several small endogamous groups (sub-groups) based on traditional occupations, arranged from Brahmins to untouchables.

Discrimination based on Ascribed Status (Indian overview)

Inequality on the basis of religion, race, gender or regionality with any person is called discrimination.

The caste system in India is very old. According to this system, people are divided into different castes. Different functions are prescribed for each caste person. For example, a person born in the lower caste is made only to clean garbage and remove dead animals from the village. Even after reading and writing or being qualified people could not change their status in society.

Many times many people are not given jobs because of a particular religion.  Due to religion, people are not allowed to visit certain public places (especially places of worship).

If I talk about gender discrimination, in some villages, girls are not allowed to study after fifth or sixth grade. Most girls are not allowed to do any employment after studies but are forced to marry. In many families, boys wear western clothes but girls are not allowed to wear western clothes.

Can Ascribed status be irreversible

Religion is generally regarded as an ascribed status, but for those individuals who choose one religion as an adult, or convert to another religion, their religion is an achieved status. Moreover, when a person undergoes a process of sex change or gender change by which a person or animal changes sex –  that is,  female sexual characteristics are altered by male and vice versa.

An example of a reversible reversal status is citizenship status.


Ascribed status or accepted status plays an important role in societies because it can provide a defined and equitable identity to members of the social structure. No matter where an individual’s ascribed status may place him/her on social hierarchy, each has roles and expectations that are directly linked to each certain position and thus confer a social identity.

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