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No way back up from ratcheting down? A critique of the 'microclass' approach to the analysis of social mobility
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, The Swedish Institute for Social Research (SOFI).
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, The Swedish Institute for Social Research (SOFI). Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology.
2012 (English)In: Acta Sociologica, ISSN 0001-6993, E-ISSN 1502-3869, Vol. 55, no 3, 211-229 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

'Microclasses', detailed occupational groups, have recently been suggested as being the basis of research in social stratification; occupations represent 'real' social groups in contrast to the purely 'nominal' categories of either 'big class' schemata or socio-economic status scales. The microclass approach in social mobility research has been applied in a recent paper, the authors claiming to show that a strong propensity exists for intergenerational occupational inheritance, and that such inheritance is the dominant factor in social reproduction and limits equality of opportunity. We model a larger version of the same Swedish dataset as used by these authors. We show: (i) that while with many occupational groups a marked degree of intergenerational inheritance occurs among men, such inheritance is far less apparent among women, and, for both men and women, accounts for less than half of the total association in the occupational mobility table; (ii) that the microclass approach does not deal in a theoretically consistent way with the remaining associational underlying patterns of occupational mobility, since appeal is made to the theoretically alien idea of 'socio-economic closeness'; and (iii) that a standard class approach, modified to account for occupational inheritance, can provide a more integrated understanding of patterns of immobility and mobility alike. We also give reasons for doubting whether it will prove possible to establish a theoretically consistent microclass approach to explaining intergenerational mobility propensities. Finally, on the basis of our empirical results and of the relevant philosophical literature, we argue that the microclass approach is unlikely to be helpful in addressing normative questions of equality of opportunity.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2012. Vol. 55, no 3, 211-229 p.
Keyword [en]
equality of opportunity, intergenerational mobility, microclass, social class, Sweden
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-78647DOI: 10.1177/0001699312447633ISI: 000306910500001OAI: diva2:542435
Available from: 2012-08-01 Created: 2012-08-01 Last updated: 2012-12-11Bibliographically approved

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Erikson, RobertHällsten, Martin
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