Intergenerational Occupational Mobility in the United States: A Segmentation Perspective

By Marshall I. Pomer | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SIX
CONCLUSIONS

THIS STUDY analyzed data on intergenerational mobility by applying several analytical techniques which embody a segmentation perspective. The results are reviewed in the first two sections of this chapter. The first section is concerned with the socioeconomic standing of broadly defined occupations; and the second section examines the magnitude of the impact of socioeconomic origins. A final section discusses further application of the techniques developed in this study.


Relative socioeconomic standing of occupations

It is a popular view that the American socioeconomic structure is characterized by a vast undifferentiated middle class. The data on intergenerational mobility contradict this view. The importance of the manual-nonmanual distinction is clearly apparent in the intergenerational mobility table discussed in chapter three. In particular, the probability of being in the top category is very low for persons with manual origins, while the probability of being a laborer is low for those with nonmanual origins.

If the American socioeconomic structure were well characterized by a vast middle class, we would expect relatively short "mobility distance" between occupations which differ on the basis of the manual-nonmanual distinction. The cluster analysis of the major census occupations presented in chapter four, which used a variety of definitions of mobility distance, consistently found a manual-nonmanual division in the occupational structure. On the basis of downward mobility or occupational prospects, the division is clearest. On the basis of social composition, it is ambiguous whether the clerical occupation belongs to the nonmanual cluster, whereas on the basis of

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