master status

(noun) The primary identifying status of an individual that shapes an individual’s interactions and relationships with others and dominates all other statuses.

Example: An individual’s age, ethnicity, gender, or occupation.

Audio Pronunciation: (mas·ter stat·us)

Download Audio Pronunciation: master status.mp3

Usage Notes:

  • Plural: master statuses
  • An individual’s master status is situational; an individual’s ethnicity or gender is not a master status within a group of people with the same ethnicity or gender but it is when that individual is a minority in a group.
  • Master statuses shape an individual’s social identity, role expectations and performances, and impact a person’s experience with inequality and oppression.
  • Masters statuses are often ascribed statuses.
  • Master status used in a sentence: Sociologists are fascinated by master statuses as determinates of social mobility.

Related Quotations:

  • “[R]ace, sex, social class, sexual orientation, and disability are currently the primary axes of difference in American society—they are also what social scientists call master statuses” (Rosenblum and Travis 2012:2).

Additional Information:

Related Terms: 



Rosenblum, Karen Elaine, and Toni-Michelle Travis. 2012. The Meaning of Difference: American Constructions of Race, Sex and Gender, Social Class, Sexual Orientation, and Disability. New York: McGraw-Hill.