Class and Stratification Analysis: Volume 30


Table of contents

(20 chapters)
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List of Reviewers

Pages xi-xii
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Pages xv-xx
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The three papers in this section include theoretical and conceptual discussions, such as the definition of social class, how social mechanisms can be elaborated and tested, and a discussion on occupational segregation by cognitive ability.

Economic inequality in contemporary advanced societies is strongly tied to the variation in wages across occupations. We examine the extent to which this variation is captured by social class and occupational prestige and ask how the associations between class, prestige, and wages can be explained. On the basis of data from 11 countries in the European Social Survey (ESS) 2004, we find (a) that class and prestige account for a very large proportion of the occupational variation in wages; (b) that the tight links between class, prestige, and wages are strongly associated with the skill requirements of jobs but only weakly tied to other positional traits, including authority, autonomy, and scarcity; and (c) that these findings are highly similar in all countries examined. We conclude that the rank order of positions in the labor market is a social constant driven by efficiency requirements of work organizations rather than by the exercise of power. This iron law of labor market inequality clearly contradicts major class theoretical models, including Wright's and Goldthorpe's. In addition to empirically refuting contemporary class theory, we offer a number of more conceptual arguments to the same effect. At a macro level, however, power relations arguably affect the rate of economic inequality by determining the reward distance between positions in the constant rank order, as indicated by the large cross-national variation in wage dispersion.

In their authoritative literature review, Breen and Jonsson (2005) claim that ‘one of the most significant trends in the study of inequalities in educational attainment in the past decade has been the resurgence of rational-choice models focusing on educational decision making’. The starting point of the present contribution is that these models have largely ignored the explanatory relevance of social interactions. To remedy this shortcoming, this paper introduces a micro-founded formal model of the macro-level structure of educational inequality, which frames educational choices as the result of both subjective ability/benefit evaluations and peer-group pressures. As acknowledged by Durlauf (2002, 2006) and Akerlof (1997), however, while the social psychology and ethnographic literature provides abundant empirical evidence of the explanatory relevance of social interactions, statistical evidence on their causal effect is still flawed by identification and selection bias problems. To assess the relative explanatory contribution of the micro-level and network-based mechanisms hypothesised, the paper opts for agent-based computational simulations. In particular, the technique is used to deduce the macro-level consequences of each mechanism (sequentially introduced) and to test these consequences against French aggregate individual-level survey data. The paper's main result is that ability and subjective perceptions of education benefits, no matter how intensely differentiated across agent groups, are not sufficient on their own to generate the actual stratification of educational choices across educational backgrounds existing in France at the beginning of the twenty-first century. By computational counterfactual manipulations, the paper proves that network-based interdependencies among educational choices are instead necessary, and that they contribute, over and above the differentiation of ability and of benefit perceptions, to the genesis of educational stratification by amplifying the segregation of the educational choices that agents make on the basis of purely private ability/benefit calculations.

There is a popular psychometric thesis suggesting that people with different levels of cognitive ability end up in different occupations because some occupations require greater intelligence than others for successful performance. To examine several central claims of the psychometric thesis, this study uses two kinds of data for analysis: one is cross-sectional and occupation-level data from various sources dated as early as World War I and the other is longitudinal and individual-level data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 Cohort (NLSY79) and the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study (WLS) in the United States. Findings of this study suggest that occupational segregation by cognitive ability is much less intensive than that suggested by the psychometric theory, and there is no evidence of a trend of increasing cognitive partitioning by occupation over time.

Social mobility research starts conventionally from the children's generation and looks at group-specific individual life chances. However, an immediate interpretation of these results as measures of social reproduction is often misleading. This paper demonstrates the usefulness of a related but alternative approach which looks at intergenerational links from the perspective of the parents’ generation. It asks about the consequences of social inequality in this generation for the following generation(s). This includes questions of how the parental origin context is formed, whether there are any children at all and when they were born as well as the aspect of these children's relative chances of attaining particular social positions. As an empirical example, the paper describes patterns of educational reproduction in (West) Germany during the mid- and late 20th century. Simulations allow assessing the relative importance of various partial processes of social reproduction. A large proportion of the observed levels of educational reproduction can be attributed to family-related processes such as union formation. Drawing together analyses from various areas, the paper combines questions of social mobility research with a demographic perspective and broadens the analytical basis of inequality research for systematic comparative research.

We analyse the labour market position of the second-generation minority ethnic groups in Britain and the United States in 1990 and 2000 on the basis of micro-data from the two most recent censuses of the population. We find that they were making progress, although some groups were still facing considerable disadvantages. The second-generation men were doing better in the United States than in Britain at both time points but the gaps were being narrowed. The second-generation women in Britain lagged behind their American counterparts in the first period, but they were doing equally well in the two countries in 2001. The overall pattern is one of small but notable progress and shows somewhat greater support for the revised straight-line theory than for the segmented assimilation theory.

To compare France and Germany, we will take a new approach to the discussion on lifestyles and social stratification. Instead of anchoring our definition of social stratification in predefined concepts, such as social class and status, we will empirically explore the latent patterns of social stratification and lifestyles. Our strategy allows us to investigate whether social stratification is best measured by one, two, or more dimensions; and then to map the associated patterns of lifestyles onto this/these dimension(s).

As indicators of social stratification, we use education, household income, and occupational status; and to measure lifestyles, we use data from two surveys on lifestyles and cultural consumption (Media og kulturforbruksundersøkelsen 2004, Norway; and module Pratiques culturelles et sportives, Enquête Permanente sur les Conditions de Vie 2003, France). We limit our analysis to occupationally active respondents, 20–64 years of age.

We would expect our findings to differ somewhat between the two countries; but given that social stratification is a pervasive element of all modern societies, we would also expect to find common empirical patterns that may be of relevance to the way we conceptualize lifestyles and social stratification.

On the theoretical level, this chapter examines the mechanisms through which cultural and financial capital affects educational outcomes in different institutional contexts. On the methodological level, the central question in this chapter is how to resolve concerns in comparative analyses of educational attainment, such as variations in enrolment rates and study program duration across institutional settings. On the empirical level, the chapter asks whether family background predicts educational attainment in similar ways in two diametrically opposed welfare states: the United States and Norway. Differences in dropout from higher education were compared using nationally representative longitudinal data from the United States and Norway and event history and multilevel modelling techniques. The chapter also makes use of the standardized sheaf coefficient to summarize central background variables for more direct comparison of effect sizes. The findings show that whereas parents’ education level has strikingly similar effects on students’ dropout probabilities in the two countries, the effect of parents’ income varies substantially according to the institutional context. The chapter concludes that in comparative analyses of inequality in education the value of different types of family resources must be understood in light of the concrete, practical constraints of the national institutional contexts.

The purpose of this chapter is to reveal explanations for completing upper secondary education. Focus is on the mechanisms that drive attainment of upper secondary education. I analyze the relative contributions of different factors measured by the relative increases in the log likelihood function. I also investigate the importance of characteristics other than the traditional variables, such as fathers’ and mothers’ occupations, their education, and household income, often applied in studies of educational attainment. I used a recent 1984 cohort database with information about educational completion and an informative set of measurements on noncognitive capacities, parental cultural capital, cultural capital, reading score, several school-related variables, and a rich set of family background variables. Attainment of upper secondary education was analyzed by a multinomial logit model, showing that characteristics other than the traditional variables all have significant importance. The analysis clearly depicted that the social position and educational levels of both parents remain important in determining whether the child embarks on completing an upper secondary education. Additionally, noncognitive dispositions show to be very important in explaining educational attainment, even when controlling for family background and refined cultural capital variables. Therefore, society should direct more efforts towards establishing children's cognitive and noncognitive skills and their ability to focus on schoolwork along with building their beliefs. Parents should be involved in a more content-sensitive sense when raising their children.

In an examination of class inequality in education in the Republic of Ireland over the period from the late 1990s to the mid 2000s, this chapter reveals class inequality in educational outcomes within social groups as well as across social groups, and places particular attention on the non-manual group. Within this group, a clear distinction can be made between those classified as having an ‘intermediate non-manual’ position and those classified as holding an ‘other (lower) non-manual’ position in terms of their educational performance at secondary education and subsequent access to higher education, which persists over the period. This finding has been revealed by disaggregating the non-manual group into the ‘intermediate non-manual’ and ‘other (lower) non-manual’ groups, a practice that has not been used by analysts in the past in the Irish context. In this chapter, we engage with theories of class which offer a framework for understanding educational inequality and in particular, why members of the same social class groups experience different educational outcomes.

In the literature on the relationship between class of origin and educational attainment, the typical conclusion is that class inequality was stable over the last century, and the attempts at egalitarian reform thus proven ineffective. The conclusion turns out to depend on the choice of statistical measure, in this case loglinear measures of association. Also linear measures of association give similar results. If instead, measures of inequality are used, the contrasting conclusion of a strong reduction in the class bias in recruitment to higher education emerges.

As the provision of higher education has increased over time, the trends in the results of these three measures differ. It is argued that it is measures of inequality that capture inequality in the allocation of higher education or bias in the allocation mechanisms. The argument in favor of using loglinear measures has been the special property of “margin insensitivity” attributed to them. It has also been suggested that they capture bias in the allocation mechanism, which may develop in a way different from the trend in the inequality of the allocation outcome. It is argued that neither claim is tenable.

Since the early 1990s there has been a growing body of research on intergenerational income elasticities and correlations. One of the most prominent findings is that these associations are much higher in the United States (and the United Kingdom) than in Canada, Australia and many European countries. This finding is often interpreted as America being much less fair than other industrialized societies since the reproduction of economic inequalities is substantially stronger. This chapter questions these conclusions on the following grounds: (i) inconsistencies with other outcomes, such as socio-economic inequalities in student achievement, educational attainment, occupation attainment and the patterning of intergenerational occupational mobility, (ii) family income having weaker effects on educational attainment (which has substantial effects on earnings and income) than other parental characteristics and (iii) methodological issues such as estimates based on the concept of ‘permanent income’ and the use of instrumental variables. Even if the consensus estimate of 0.4 for the intergenerational correlation in the United States is accepted, it may not mean that the United States is unusually unfair due to larger regional differences in labour market returns and/or stronger associations between parents’ and their children's ability, ability and education attainment, and education and earnings.

The International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) is a tool for harmonising education-related information. It covers almost all countries in the world and is centrally maintained and documented by UNESCO Institute for Statistics. ISCED is commonly used in official statistics and surveys (e.g. by OECD and Eurostat), but it is also increasingly used for the measurement of educational attainment in academic cross-national surveys. ISCED has been revised between 2008 and 2011, and the new version was adopted by the UNESCO General Conference in November 2011. This research note describes ISCED 2011 and the most important changes as compared to the previous version, ISCED 1997, with a special focus on educational attainment. A brief discussion of strengths and weaknesses of the classification as well as future challenges conclude the note.

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Comparative Social Research
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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