The term “stratification” refers to the act of separating into different divisions and layers. In science, stratification can refer to either a naturally occurring phenomena seen in geological forms or it can refers to features of social science where certain groups are separated through distribution of societal resources.
Generally speaking stratification means separation into strata, which can be either a figurative or literal set of separated levels and layers. A single bed or layer is called a stratum, with a series of stratum forming a strata.
In geological terms, stratification is the layering that occurs in most sedimentary rocks as well as igneous rocks formed on the Earth’s surface. These layers reflect the different types of materials that have been added to that area over the years and may be of any thickness, from a single inch to a full mile. The layers are separated horizontally within the rock.
In terms of social science, stratification refers to degrees to which various resources, such as wealth, status, prestige and privilege, are distributed across a society. Typically in social stratification the upper stratum, also called the upper class, have the most wealth, power and influence in the society while the lower strata have considerably less power, wealth and influence in that society. Social stratification often looks at how the resources of the society are distributed and how various groups, such as a recent immigrant population, may reach an equal standing with other segments of society.
In Other Sciences
As the term stratification itself refers only to separation into layers, any process by which there is a clear separation of one thing on the top of the other, such the way certain liquids rise above others, can be described as stratified. However since its usage in social and political science, stratification has taken a connotation of being ghettoized or exploited. Thus the term is typically limited to its original geological and more modern social science uses.