Subfield Exam: Immigration and Stratification Theory

Inequality, Social Mobility and Labor

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4 Inequality, Social Mobility and Labor

Date: 09.19.2011

Title: Inequality Of Opportunity In Comparative Perspective: Recent Research on Educational Attainment and Social Mobility

Author: Richard Breen and Jan O Jonsson

Source: ARS 2005; 31:223-243

Category and Keyword: educational inequality, comparative studies, intergenerational inheritance, social reproduction


  • Show that stratification research has moved beyond merely descriptive analyses. // Our aim here is to review research relating to inequality of opportunity, and we concentrate on studies that focus on the social origin of individuals (most often indicated by parental occupational status or education).


  • Distinction in the area: inequality of opportunity (person’s chances to get ahead should not be limited by ascribed characteristics; ) and inequality of condition (distribution of differential rewards and living conditions).

  • Social Origins are studied from three frameworks: 1) prestige scales 2) socioeconomic indices (SEI) 3) social class typologies;

  • Educational Inequality: Change Over Time and Differences Between Countries

    • Prior to 1990s: linear regression of years of education on social origin.

    • Began now: logit models of transition propensities at successive levels of the educational system, revealing the “pure” association between origin characteristics and educational attainment. (E.G. book by Shavit & Blossfeld, titled Persistent Inequality.

    • Three hypotheses not supported (modernization, reproduction or socialist transformation); Why? Stability in origin effects on educational transitions.

    • NEXT: to assess country differences in the degree of inequality of opportunity. A) Müller & Karle (1993) and B) Jonsson et al (1996) who found associations between class origin and educational attainment declined across cohorts in Sweden and Germany but not in England, and that inequality was clearly greatest in Germany, with Sweden being somewhat more equal than England.

  • Micro-Level and Institutional Explanations of Educational Inequality

    • 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 (Breen & Goldthorpe 1997).

      • In these models the choices pupils and their parents make are determined by expected benefits, costs, and probability of success for different educational alternatives.

      • The fact that social origin is more strongly associated with educational attainment at younger ages (e.g., Breen & Jonsson 2000, Mare 1993, Shavit & Blossfeld 1993) implies that comprehensive school reform in which the earliest decision point is postponed reduces inequality of educational opportunity.

      • Studies support the view that there are additional effects of social context on educational attainment, beyond the school, such as growing up in a poor neighborhood, thus boosting the influence of social origin (Erikson 1994 …) (effected by endogeneity problems, i.e. parents motivation)

  • Social Mobility

  • The traditional measure of a society’s openness is the degree to which the attain- ment of social position is associated with social origin.

  • Erikson & Goldthorpe 1992: (comparing countries) Their interpretation was that the unequal distribution of resources and power so permeates the social structure as to lead to a general and unchanging level of inequality of opportunity.

  • Others

  • Which Are the Most Rigid and the Most Open Countries?

  • Studies of father-to-son (and sometimes -daughter) income mobility as well as sibling correlations of income show the United States to be noticeably more rigid than the countries with which it has been compared (mostly the Nordic countries). In the United States and England, father- to-son elasticities are about 0.45; they are between 0.13 and 0.28 in Sweden and Finland, and 0.34 in Germany (Solon 2002).

  • How Can We Explain Change and Inter-Country Differences in Social Fluidity?

  • Sieben & de Graaf (2001), analyzing brothers’ correlations from six countries, find mixed support for the hypotheses that more socialist seats in parliament and modernization are associated with more equality of opportunity.

  • Several analyses have pointed to the importance of the educational system as the driving force behind changes in social fluidity and differences between countries.

    • But as more people attain higher levels of education, the origin-destination association at these higher levels might strengthen (as shown by Vallet 2004), thus offsetting the compositional effect.

  • Whereas differences in societal characteristics such as modernization, inequality of condition, or the school system are often discussed as causes of international differences in social fluidity, variations in family structure are not. (But it may be in U.S.)

  • Methods and Data

  • 1970s: log-linear and log-multiplicative models

  • 1990s: “log-multiplicative layer effect model” (Erikson & Goldthorpe 1992, Xie 1992)

  • Now: The 1990s witnessed improvements in access to reliable data, many of which are summarized in the comparative volumes cited above (e.g., Breen 2004).

  • Developments and Challenges

  • Among the most robust findings of stratification research are that origin effects are stronger at earlier than later educational transitions; that education me- diates a substantial part of the association between origins and destinations; that women display more social fluidity than men; and that the pattern of social fluidity is overwhelmingly shaped by inheritance, hierarchy, and sector effects (distinguish- ing, in particular, farm from nonfarm sectors), although the relative importance of each of these has been debated (see the December 1992 issue of the European Sociological Review).

4 Inequality, Social Mobility and Labor

Date: 09.30.2011

Title: Segmented Assimilation: issues, Controversies, and Recent Research on the New Second Generation // Chapter 10

Author: Min Zhou

Source: Book, 1999; in The Handbook of International Migration by Hirschman, Kasinitz & DeWind

Category and Keyword: Segmented Assimilation, Second Generation, Immigration, Theories, Migration


  • The authors examine the issues and controversies surrounding the development of the segmented assimilation theory and review the state of recent empirical research relevant to this theoretical approach. This examines patterns of adaptation (assimilation).

Findings: (from Portes and Zhou 1993) (below known as “segmented assimilation”)

1) Like of old, there is growing acculturation and parallel integration into the white middle-class

2) A second leads straight into the opposite direction to permanent poverty and assimilation into the underclass

3) A third associates rapid economic advancement with deliberate preservation of the immigrant community’s values and tight solidarity.


  • Classical Assimilation Theories: Predict assimilation is a function of length of US residence and succeeding generations.

  • 1928 / Park: among others, argue that migration leads to the situation of the “marginal man”: the immigrant is pulled in the direction of the host culture but drawn back by the culture of his or her origin. Park emphasizes the natural process that leads t the reduction of social and cultural heterogeneity (abandon old ways and melt into mainstream, i.e. via social forces and impersonal (biotic) forces.)

  • 1945 / Warner, L. (and Srole, L.): ADDS structural constraints // They highlight the potency of such institutional factors as social class, phenotypical ranking, and racial and ethnic sub-systems in determining the rate of assimilation (also by residential and occupational mobility). Tough for minority groups to immigrate. Why? Their subordination based on ascribed characteristics.

=interaction effects between internal group characteristics and external institutional factors

  • 1964 / Gordon, Milton: ADDS complexity // Immigrants begin their adaptation to their new country through cultural assimilation, or acculturation. This does not automatically lead to further assimilation (i.e. large-scale entrance into the institutions of host or intermarriage). Acculturation may continue indefinitely. (Need structural assimilation for other forms of assimilation to occur.) (ME: interesting Segway into transnational M)

    • Assimilation means losing ones old cultural habits (Warner).

  • 1985 / Alba: MEASURING assimilation: social mobility trends across generations – rates of intermarriage, educational attainment, job skills, length of stay, English proficiency, level of exposure to American culture.


  • 1988 / Rumbaut and Ima (among others): the longer the US residence, the more maladaptive the outcomes, whether measured in terms of school performance, aspirations, or behavior (across immigrant groups);

  • 1963 / Becker // Goffman: Intergenerational mobility – educational and occupational mobility not passed on.

  • 1985 / Hirschman and Flacon: Educational outcomes are influenced by 1) education of parents (higher educated immigrant parents’ children fared better than 4th or 5th generations of Americans, no mater religious-ethnic background, similarity being all are from lower educated strata);

= this will continue as long as immigrants move into poorer neighborhoods rather than middle-class neighborhoods.

  • 1992 / Gans: Three possibilities – 1) education-driven mobility, 2) succession-driven mobility, and 3) niche improvement. Means: e.g. Darker skinned immigrants face more difficulties, don’t want to work at immigrant mom/dad’s wages and don't get hired otherwise, i.e. lack of social capital.

  • 1999 / Perlmann and Waldinger: = second generation revolt; includes these exogenous factors and endogenous factors like pre-immigration class standing;

  • 1992 / Zhou: SKILLED IMMIGRANTS: their children excel beyond being “atypical” i.e. take most science prizes and are often at the top of their classes.

Defense of Classical Theories, Modifications: (= process of Acculturation)

  • 1992 / Gans: Advanced a bumpy-line approach to defend classical assimilation.

    • Children receive powerful influences; (schools, media, etc.)

    • develop higher expectations than their parents

    • may not be able to fulfill parents dreams or their socialized beliefs

    • bumps develop by host society or children themselves

    • Nevertheless, on the road to “non-ethnic” America

    • “Delayed acculturation” explains problems with darker skinned migrants.

  • 1999 and 2003 / Alba and Nee: Enthusiastic defenders of classical assimilation;

    • Worked in past, will work now – but not as fast because

      • high rate of mass immigration prevents host to integrate migrants

      • stratification in the kinds of jobs has taken away several rungs of the mobility ladder for lower skilled migrants/children to climb up

      • political and ideological structure of multiculturalism has slowed assimilation down

=overtime they will assimilate into American middle class through intermarriage, residential integration and occupational mobility
Alternative Theories:

Multicultural Theorists: (= selective Americanization)

  • 1973 / Handlin: Forcefully rejects the assimilation assumption of a unified core.

    • Society is a heterogeneous collection of ethnic & racial minority groups and European Americans.

    • 1976 / Greeley: pre-migration cultural attributes should not necessarily be absorbed into culture; they are reinvented and reshaped by interaction with host society.

  • = way to treat members of ethnic minority groups as a part of the American population rather than as foreigners or outsiders and presenting ethnic or immigrant cultures as integral segments of American society.

  • CANNOT ANSWER: question of 2nd generation revolt; OR how they construct their own acculturation.

  • PROBLEMATIC: maintaining a distinctive ethnicity can both help and hinder the social mobility of ethnic groups members. (Perlmann & Waldinger 1999 find that Mexicans have less social mobility than Chinese & Koreans);

Structural Perspective:

  • ADDS more explanation to the complexities

  • = offers a framework for understanding the difference in the social adaptation of ethnic minority groups in terms of the advantages and disadvantages inherent to social structures.

  • American society: a stratified system of social inequality;

  • 1994 / Zhou & Kamo: minorities are systematically limited to access of social resources

    • What matters is what stratum of American society absorbs the new immigrant.

  • These theories have considerable plausibility: takes into account the effects of structural constraints. It’s constructed to predict macroprocesses and general patterns of social mobility; It is insufficient to explain the varied and disparate outcomes of a given process or pattern for diverse ethnic groups – (i.e. diverse socio-economic levels in a given group);

Segmented Assimilation Theory (middle-range theory)

  • focuses on why different patterns of adaptation emerge among contemporary immigrants and on how these patterns necessarily lead to the destinies of convergence or divergence.

  • The theory attempts to explain what determines the segment of American society into which a particular immigrant group may assimilate.

    • Individual factors

      • 1) Education 2) aspiration 3) English-language ability 4) place of birth 5)age on arrival 6) length of residence in US.

    • Contextual (or structural) factors

      • 1) racial status 2) family socioeconomic background 3) place of residence

=unlike Classical Assimilation, each set above is of MINIMAL importance; what is important is the INTERACTION between these two sets;
Conceptualization of the interaction effects (of Segmented Assimilation Theory):

  • New contexts for immigrants of today (2000) than earlier (1900)

  • Inequality:

    • Inequality gap grew from 1980 to 2000

    • Gap closed from period when European migration began

    • Research on inequality: Top 5% wage earners increased wages; bottom 20% decreased; 80% of American workers saw real hourly wages decrease (1980s);

    • welfare prevented starvation

    • 1996 welfare reform bill hurts legal immigrants and others (ME: 2010 census shows Hispanic children as the largest group of children in poverty by absolute numbers – consequence?)

    • poverty concentrated in urban areas; thus uneven landscape and institutional discrimination and segregation exacerbate social and economic processes of minority concentration in low-income communities (Massey and Denton 1993);

    • increase in female heads of households (greater poverty)

    • Neighborhoods have shrinking opportunities, i.e. education for youth, and thus greater desperation

    • Lowered chances for mobility create frustration and pessimism for all American young people (especially those at bottom);

  • Class and “Color:

    • 1997 / Oropesa and Landale: (using 1990 census); poverty rates of immigrant children: 21%, 24%, 27% and 41% for non-Latino Euro-Americans, non-Latino African Americans, Asian Americans, Latino Americans.

    • Poverty drops for 1st and 1.5 generations for all groups;

    • Again drops for 2nd generations, but less equally with greater drops for non-Latino Euro-Americans

    • 3rd generation only Asian Americans improved; one class dropped to 40% (26% more than previous generation) = non-Latino African Americans.

    • 1978 / Wilson: whereas Wilson argued that contemporary racial inequality is rather a matter of social class rather than race;

      • segmented theorists place more emphasis on continuing racial discrimination

    • 1993 / Portes and Zhou: Adversarial subcultures are developed by those trapped in inner-city ghettos.

The Ethnic Factor: Advantages and Disadvantages:

  • Lower income Chinese integrated into community, and therefore succeeded in upward mobility (Ogbu 1989); Also found parental pressure to stay close to one’s community and avoid Americanization (Punjabi Indians); Or Vietnamese (Rumbaut & Ima 1988);

  • 1996 / Portes & Rumbaut: Controlling for socioeconomic status, length of US residence and homework hours; these factors STILL did not take away ethnicity effect.

  • 1991 / Suárez-Orozco, Marcelo: Mexican Americans reacting to their exclusion and subordination with resentment, regarded efforts toward academic achievement as “acting white,” and constructed an identity in resistance to the dominant majority white society (psychological survival).

Immigrant Cultures Versus Leveling Pressures:

  • Neighborhood and peer-groups settings – effecting contemporary immigrants;

  • Ethnic networks are conceptualized as a form of social capital that influences children’s adaptation through support as well as control.

= This original culture may be seen as hindering the adaptation of members of the ethnic group (assimilationist perspective) or as promoting this adaptation (the multiculturalist perspective). (207)

  • Groups (i.e. Asians) may select from their culture, habits that are acceptable to mainstream America, and downplay habits not acceptable.

  • The clash between the parents’ social world and the children’s is the most commonly cited problem of intergenerational relations in immigrant communities.

  • E.G. 1996 ch7 / Portes & Rumbaut: Generational consonance versus dissonance;

    • When contextual factors are unfavorable …consonant acculturation enables immigrant children to lean on the material or moral resources available in the family and the immigrant community; it thus increases the probability of upward assimilation. By contrast, dissonant acculturation severs ties between children and their adult social world, deprives children of family or community resources, and leads them further and further away form parental expectations.

Social Capital: Networks of Support and Control:

  • Point: How is it possible to ensure that immigrants and their offspring maintain their cultural values and work habits and learn the skills for socioeconomic advancement? Or what enables immigrant families and their children to withstand the leveling pressures from the inner city? The key is to examine the networks of social relations – namely, how individual families are related t one another in the ethnic community and how immigrant children are involved in these networks.

    • Shared Obligations

    • Social supports

    • Social controls

    • = The outcomes of adaptation, therefore, depend on how immigrant children fit in their own ethnic community, or in their local environment if such an ethnic community is absent, and how their ethnic community or the local environment fits in the larger American society. In the case of the Vietnamese, being part of a Vietnamese network appears to offer a better route to upward mobility than being Americanized into the underprivileged local environment—or for that matter into the native-born mainstream youth subcultures.

      • James Coleman’s concept of Social Capital

        • is a system of relationships that promotes advantageous outcomes for participants in the system.

        • participation in social relationship and acceptance of group norms and values are interrelated: the more individuals associate with a particular group, the greater their normative conformity to the behavioral standards and expectations prescribed by the group.

        • Segway: The ethnic context also serves as n important mechanism for social control …for this reason, the concept of social capital can be treated as a version of Durkheim’s theory of social integration.

      • Durkheim’s concept of normative integration

        • he maintains that individual behavior should be seen as the product of the degree of integration of individuals in their society.

  • Problems: family and ethnic ties tend to deteriorate with longer duration of US residence;

  • and, strong cultural identities and social ties (source of social capital) may sometimes be insufficient because of racial or class disadvantages.

4 Inequality, Social Mobility and Labor

Date: 09.19.2011

Title: Why Education Matters

Author: Paul W. Kingston, Ryan Hubbard, Brent Lapp, Paul Schroeder, & Julia Wilson

Source: Sociology of Education, V76, No1; 2003 53-70

Category and Keyword: educational inequality, socio-economic index, social reproduction


  • Identifying the extent to which education links to social status and economic status.


  • To what extent does education have apparent social consequences because it certifies or is, at least, linked to particular economic backgrounds?

  • To what extent do educational effects reflect the allocative role of schooling in the labor market?

  • Variables: commitments to civil liberties, attitudes toward gender equality, endowments of social capital, participation in elite culture, and civic knowledge.

  • Non-economic Outcomes

    • Socialization: 1) Education fosters social participation and life as well as cognitive and non-cognitive ability (causal direction?) 2) Human capital theory.

    • Allocation: 1) Education can be a valuable credential, creating opportunities for the group that has a particular degree in that education is considered as low-cost signals of unmeasured productivity (Spencer, 1974)

    • The Cognitive Effect: 1) The obvious issue is the extent to which education is socially consequential because it develops cognitive ability. 2) The reason why cognitive ability is related to such diverse matters as tolerance, parenting behavior, and marital stability is unclear. In part, basic intellectual competencies could directly shape behavior by increasing a person's ability to make good judgments about how social processes operate, to perceive the connection between actions and outcomes, and the like.

    • The Class Connection: while schooling affects location within the occupational hierarchy, distinctive experiences within this hierarchy may be what is critical in shaping interests, outlooks, and social behavior.

    • DVs: Civil liberties; gender equality; social capital, cultural capital; Civic Knowledge;


  • We compare the bivariate correlations between years of education (a continuous measure) and attainment of a degree (a categorical measure) and each dependent variable.

    • DVs: Dependent variables: civil liberties, gender equality, social capital, cultural capital, environmental knowledge, newspaper reading;

    • IVs: years of education, educational credentials (high school, college, graduate), cognitive ability (Wordsum)

    • Controls: sex, race, parents’ SES, parents’ education, occupation prestige, age, household income

    • OLS used // with 7 models

  • Table 4: Bivariate and Net Effects (Standardized Coefficients) of Education Variables in Multivariate OLS Regression Models for Six Outcomes

  • Results: The largely linear relationships in the models do not make the case for any particular socialization explanation, but they are more consistent with a general socialization argument than an allocation argument.

    • The more educated (1) are more supportive of civil liberties, a difference totally accounted for by their greater cognitive ability and higher SES

    • 2) Have greater environmental knowledge, a difference modestly accounted for by their greater cognitive ability and higher SES

    • 3) tend to read newspapers more often, a matter that our models cannot account for at all

    • Class is independently related to adult cultural capital, but education and cognitive ability are as well, and, indeed, education is more strongly so, and the impact of cognitive ability at least matches any indicator of class

    • Education often significantly shapes the texture of our social lives for reasons other than that the more educated have greater cognitive ability and enjoy socially advantaged lives.

  • LIMITATIONS: To explore the socialization perspective further, what is needed are details about individuals' experiences in schools.

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