status, achieved

Any social position held by an individual as a result of his or her personal accomplishments in open formal or market competition with others. The position of (for example) university professor, doctor, or auto-mechanic is usually gained via competitive examination, followed by successful entry into the job-market. It is conventional to contrast achieved status with ascribed status. The latter refers to those social positions to which a person is allocated either by birth or by family background and which cannot (if at all) be altered according to individual accomplishments. Examples would include status ascribed on the basis of race, ethnicity, or gender.
The distinction between achievement and ascription is heuristic and by no means absolute. Arguably, for example, an individual's social class standing might be an achieved or an ascribed status-depending on whether the researcher chooses to define class in terms of occupational attainment or family background. Similarly, some apparently achievement-based outcomes (including examination performance and occupational attainment themselves), can at least in part reflect ascriptive mechanisms-such as gender discrimination or race prejudice. See also meritocracy.

Dictionary of sociology. 2013.

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