No way back up from ratcheting down?: A critique of the 'microclass' approach to the analysis of social mobility
2012 (English)Report (Other academic)
‘Microclasses’, detailed occupational groups, have recently been suggested as the basis ofresearch in social stratification; occupations represent ‘real’ social groups in contrast to thepurely ‘nominal’ categories of either ‘big class’ schemata or socioeconomic status scales. In arecent paper, Jonsson et al. apply the microclass approach in social mobility research. Theyclaim to show that a strong propensity exists for intergenerational occupational inheritance, andthat such inheritance is the dominant factor in social reproduction and limits equality ofopportunity. We model the same large-scale Swedish dataset as is used by these authors. Weshow (i) that while with many occupational groups a marked degree of intergenerationalinheritance occurs among men, such inheritance is far less apparent among women, and, forboth men and women, accounts for less than half of the total association in the occupationalmobility table; (ii) that the microclass approach does not deal in a theoretically consistent waywith the remaining association underlying patterns of occupational mobility since appeal is madeto the theoretically alien idea of ‘socioeconomic closeness’; and (iii) that a standard classapproach, modified to account for occupational inheritance, can provide a more integratedunderstanding of patterns of immobility and mobility alike. We also give reasons for doubting ifit will prove possible to establish a theoretically consistent microclass approach to explainingintergenerational mobility propensities. Finally, on the basis of our empirical results and of therelevant philosophical literature, we argue that the microclass approach is unlikely to be helpfulin addressing normative questions of equality of opportunity.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Swedish Institute for Social Research, ISSN 0283-8222 ; 6/2012
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-75009OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-75009DiVA: diva2:513641