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Overlapping and Cross-Cutting Social Differences

Social differences refer to situations where people are discriminated on the basis of social, economic and racial inequality. In other words, one class, group or culture is given preference over another on the basis of their social, economic, cultural or racial inequality. Social differences tend to create social divisions or divide a society into various groups or classes. Social differences can be of two types: overlapping social differences and cross-cutting social differences! Let us see how they differ from each other!

Overlapping Social Differences:

The social differences that overlap other social differences are called overlapping differences. It is a combination of many social differences in which one social difference causes the other social differences. A particular social difference becomes more powerful than the other differences due to this people may feel more connected to one group and isolated towards other groups, e.g. The difference between the white and black people (skin colour) became a social division in the US as black people were usually poor, homeless and unemployed. Similarly, in India, Dalit (lower caste) are usually ignored by the upper castes and they tend to be poor, homeless, landless etc. Thus, generally, people perceive they belong to a particular race, community, language and are different from others in the society and thus a difference is created between them and others that lead to an economic difference.

Cross-Cutting Social Differences:

Cross-cutting social differences are the social differences in which one social difference is nullified by another social difference. In other words, social differences cut one another. The groups that share a common interest on one issue may be on different sides on another issue. For example, the Netherlands and Northern Ireland are predominantly Christian countries but they are divided between Protestants and Catholics. In this type of social differences, there are less chances of conflict between different groups of people as they maybe on the opposite sides on an issue but may be on same side on a different issue.

Based on the above information, some of the key differences between overlapping social difference and cross-cutting social difference are as follows:

Overlapping social difference Cross-cutting social difference
The social differences overlap other social differences. Social differences cut one another.
One social difference is reinforced by another social difference. One social difference is not reinforced by another social difference.
It may result in deep social divisions, disintegration and conflicts. It promotes unity, encourages diversity and is easier to accommodate.
The groups or social divisions do not share a common interest on any issue. The groups may share a common interest on an issue even being on different sides on another issue.
Example: the racial difference between dark people and white people becomes a social division in the US as people with dark complexion usually stay unemployed, poor and homeless due to their skin colour. Example: Northern Ireland & Netherlands both are mainly Christians but divided between Catholics and Protestants.
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