Blackwell Companion to Sociology, The by Judith R. Blau

Blackwell Companion to Sociology, The by Judith R. Blau

Author:Judith R. Blau
Language: eng
Format: mobi, epub
Published: 0101-01-01T00:00:00+00:00

Part VI

Structures: Stratification,

Networks, and Firms


Occupations, Stratification, and


Donald J. Treiman


Social stratification refers to the unequal distribution of the rewards society has to offer and the resources individuals and families use to obtain such rewards.

Conceptually we can summarize both the rewards and resources under the

rubrics of power, privilege, and prestige; but, in practice, most research on social stratification is concerned with the distribution of, and relations among, education, occupational status, and income, both between generations and over the

life course of individuals. There are two reasons for this. First, it is difficult to directly study power, privilege, and prestige. Power is difficult to measure and its measurement is seldom attempted. The prestige of individuals depends on a

combination of personal characteristics and ``deference entitlements'' (objective status characteristics), but personal characteristics are salient only in the context of interpersonal relations; there is, however, a well developed tradition of

research on the prestige of occupations, which is reviewed below. Some aspects

of privilege, such as wealth and perquisites, also are difficult to study ± wealth because individuals often are reluctant to reveal their wealth, and perquisites

because they are difficult to compare across individuals, much less across societies or over time. Thus, students of stratification often settle for information on education, occupational status, and income, which can be readily gathered in

sample surveys and censuses and which can be used both to compare different

groups within a society and to make both cross-temporal and cross-national

comparisons. Second, in the modern world these three attributes are very power-

ful indicators of the life chances of individuals and families; singly and together, they substantially define the position of individuals and families in hierarchies of advantage, or ``socioeconomic status.''

The field of social stratification is concerned with three central questions:


Donald J. Treiman

1 What is the shape of distributions of education, occupation, income, and

other aspects of socioeconomic status in a population. For example, how

much income inequality is there, are most people relatively poor and a few

relatively rich, are most people in the middle of the income distribution, or

does it have some other shape?

2 What factors affect who gets ahead; that is, who acquires high education,

occupational status, and income? This question, in turn, can be divided

into two: (a) what determines to what extent and in what ways socio-

economic advantage is transmitted from generation to generation; (b)

what determines how some attributes are converted into others over the

life course ± for example, what is the relationship between education and

subsequent occupational status, what is the relationship between occupa-

tional status and income, how orderly are careers, and so on? Together,

these two questions constitute the study of ``status attainment'' or ``social


3 What are the correlates and consequences of position in the stratification

system? That is, to what extent and in what ways does socioeconomic

status affect the way people think and act: whether and how they vote,

how many children they have, how often they visit their relatives, how

tolerant they are of other kinds of people and different points of view,

what kinds of life styles they adopt, and so on?

All societies organized above the level of small


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