Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Sociology

Long-Term Intergenerational Mobility in Quebec (1851-1951): The Emergence of a New Social Fluidity Regime

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Sociology

Long-Term Intergenerational Mobility in Quebec (1851-1951): The Emergence of a New Social Fluidity Regime

Article excerpt

1. This paper was prepared with the financial help of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (grant #410-93-1400). It is a revised version of a paper presented at the XIIIth World Congress of Sociology of the International Sociological Association in Bielefeld (Germany, July 1994).

Michel de Seve and Gerard Bouchard

Abstract: Using data extracted from parish registers of the Saguenay Region in Quebec from 1842 to 1971, this study explores the usefulness of the Erikson and Goldthorpe "core model of social fluidity" to describe the historical evolution of relative mobility in a "frontier" region. The conclusions of this study are two-fold: 1) relative mobility has only changed in minor ways between 1842 and 1971, 2) in so far as it has changed, it had converged toward the core model of social fluidity observed in contemporary industrialized societies by Erikson and Goldthorpe.

Resume: A l'aide de donnees extraites des registres paroissiaux de la region du Saguenay au Quebec entre 1842 et 1971, cette etude examine la pertience du "modele fondamental de fluidite sociale" propose par Erikson et Goldthorpe pour decrire l'evolution historique de la mobilite relative dans une region en voie de developpement. Deux conclusions principales sont proposees: 1) la fluidite sociale a peu change entre 1842 et 1971, 2) en autant que celle-ci a change, elle a evolue vers le "modele fondamental de fluidite sociale" observe dans les societes industrielles contemporaines par Erikson et Goldthorpe.


Two main theses are currently discussed by analysts of intergenerational social mobility in a historical perspective:

- according to some authors (Erikson and Goldthorpe, 1992), not only contemporary industrial societies share a similar regime of relative mobility but this "fluidity regime" has mostly remained constant since the beginning of the XXth century,

- according to others (Ganzeboom, Luijkx and Treiman, 1989), intergenerational exchanges between social positions in these contemporary societies are increasingly easy, even after eliminating the effects of the evolution of the social positions' distribution.

Recent debates published in the European Sociological Review (vol. 8, no. 3, December 1992) show that statistical models reflecting these two conceptions explain approximately the same proportion of observed relative mobility in contemporary industrial societies (Jones, 1992). Unfortunately, as far as we know, historical data required to test both hypotheses are very rare. On the one hand, contemporary data used by Erikson and Goldthorpe (1992) or Ganzeboom, Luijkx and Treiman (1989) have been collected during the second part of the XXth Century and they can at best provide a picture of social mobility since the beginning of the XXth Century. On the other hand, recent analysis of historical data using sophisticated models as those of van Leeuwen and Maas (1996), Miles (1993) or Fukomoto and Grusky (1993) do not allow for firm conclusions concerning the changing or stable character of the fluidity regime during the XIXth Century: while the first two suggest that this regime has changed, the last one supports the hypothesis of a constant relative mobility regime.

In Quebec, there exists only one study having compared the occupational mobility over a relatively long time period: Garon-Audy (1979) has examined three cohorts of young married men between 1954 and 1974 and pointed to a weak equalization of mobility odds over time. Reanalysed by Beland (1987), these data seem rather to indicate a stability in the association between fathers' and sons' positions. It seems necessary to complement these two last studies for at least three reasons: 1) the occupations of both the sons and fathers used in these studies are observed at the beginning of their careers (son's occupation at his wedding and father's occupation at the birth of his son, usually both before the age of 30), 2) the categories used for classifying these occupations do not permit comparisons with studies of other societies and 3) the period in question (1954 to 1974) is relatively short and recent. …

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