Basic Sociological Concepts All societies are structured around relatively stable patterns that establish how social interaction will be carried out. One of the most important social structures that organizes social interaction is status-a category or position a person occupies that is a significant determinant of how she or he will be defined and treated. We acquire statuses by achievement, through our own efforts, or by ascription, being born into them or attaining them involuntarily at some other point in the life cycle. We occupy a number of statuses simultaneously, referred to as a status set, such as mother, daughter, attorney, patient, employee, and passenger. Compared to achieved statuses occurring later in life, ascribed statuses immediately impact virtually every aspect of our lives. The most important ascribed statuses are gender, race, and social class. Because a status is simply a position within a social system, it should not be confused with rank or prestige. There are high-prestige statuses as well as low-prestige statuses. In the United States, for example, a physician occupies a status ranked higher in prestige than a secretary. All societies categorize members by status and then rank these statuses in some fashion, thereby creating a system of social stratification. People whose status sets are comprised of low-ranked ascribed statuses more than high-ranked achieved statuses are near the bottom of the social stratification system and are vulnerable to social stigma, prejudice, and discrimination. To date, there is no known society in which the status of female is consistently ranked higher than that of male.