Davis-Moore Hypothesis

… a core concept in Socioeconomic and Political Context and Atlas105

Concept description

The Davis-Moore Hypothesis, proposed in 1945 by Kingsley Davis and Wilbert Moore, is an influential sociological theory for the phenomenon and necessity of social stratification and inequality including class differences as necessary for the functioning of society.

Robert Hauhart (2003) described the hypothesis:

“As Davis and Moore saw it, social stratification was compelled by ‘the requirement faced by any society of placing and motivating individuals in the social structure.’ Thus, they believed that any society must ‘somehow distribute its members in social positions and induce them to perform the duties of these positions,’ and further believed it was quite important for society to determine who gets into which position. In their view, every society must therefore develop rewards that the society can use as inducements to fill and motivate performance within social positions, and further have ‘some way’ of distributing these rewards ‘differentially’ according to social position.

“According to Davis and Moore it is thus natural that high skilled jobs receive a higher compensation than low skilled jobs, despite the necessity of the performance of both for the functioning of society.

“Although professional work on the theory has largely ceased since the late 1980s, the Davis-Moore theory remains perhaps the single most widely cited paper in American introductory sociology and stratification textbooks and constitutes ‘required reading’ in hundreds, if not thousands, of undergraduate and graduate courses throughout the United States.”

The theory remains controversial, partly because it does not address intergenerational wealth or social capital which can entrench income inequality.

Atlas topic, subject, and course

Income Inequality and Poverty (core topic) in Socioeconomic and Political Context and Atlas105.


Robert C. Hauhart (2003), The Davis–Moore Theory of Stratification: The Life Course of a Socially Constructed Classic, The American Sociologist 34(4). 5-24. December 2003. (pp. 5-9 cited), at https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12108-003-1013-y, accessed 12 December 2018.

Page created by: Alec Wreford and Ian Clark, last modified on 12 December 2018.

Image: Ally-Webdesign, at https://www.google.com/search?q=Davis-Moore+Hypothesis&rls=com.microsoft:en-CA:IE-Address&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiMuL3O1ZvfAhWHL3wKHbtYCr0Q_AUIDigB&biw=1233&bih=782#imgrc=j8EO0ltPOWfiOM:&spf=1544665022053, accessed 12 December 2018.