Academic journal article Polish Sociological Review

The Effects of Social Origin and Formal Education on First Job in the Process of Transformation to Market Capitalism: A Cohort Analysis of Data from the Polish Panel Survey

Academic journal article Polish Sociological Review

The Effects of Social Origin and Formal Education on First Job in the Process of Transformation to Market Capitalism: A Cohort Analysis of Data from the Polish Panel Survey

Article excerpt

Introduction

Almost three decades after transition from state socialism to market capitalism of countries in Central and Eastern Europe there is no consistent picture of how this societal transformation has affected the permeability of their social structure. A few studies existing to date on social mobility in transition economies give mixed evidence on the dynamics of the level of social openness. Some find that openness is growing (Breen and Luijkx 2004; Mach 2004), whereas others find that it is falling (Bukodi and Goldthorpe 2010; Gerber and Hout 2004; Robert and Bukodi 2004; Saar 2009) or remains stable over time (Domański 2000; Domański, Mach and Przybysz 2008). A common methodological limitation of these studies is that they cover only a short post-transformation period and/ or use cross sectional data, which makes it hard to detect cohort differences. To provide new empirical evidence on the dynamics of social mobility in emerging market economies, in this article I use panel survey data from 1988 to 2013 to conduct a systematic cohort comparison of social mobility trends in Poland, one of the largest of all transition economies in Central and Eastern Europe that has undergone a very rapid transformation. The paper considers the effects of system change on social mobility over a longer time frame than has been done hitherto thus accounting for the process character of transformation to market capitalism. Next, the study applies a cohort rather than a period perspective in order to make changes in mobility more easily discernible. Lastly, inheritance of social advantage is measured utilizing three different scales that measure socioeconomic status (reflecting a general position in the social structure) and social prestige and material status (reflecting different dimensions of social stratification).

There are two theoretical propositions concerning the dynamics of social openness in transition societies: industrialization theory and "market versus meritocracy" thesis. Specifically, if we consider system transformation in 1989 as a beginning of a catch-up modernization process then we should expect to find rising educational effects on allocation of rewards in terms of social prestige, socio-economic status and earnings and a falling importance of social origin as a counterpart of this development (Treiman 1970). According to the second theoretical perspective social origin effects should rise under market capitalism as market economy offers more channels of intergenerational transmission of social advantage than a bureaucratic order of command economy (Bukodi and Goldthorpe 2010). This argument pertains also to the process of rolling back of the public sector in the course of transformation. The transition to market capitalism may have, therefore, rather resulted in a growing social closure. On top, an alternative source of change in social mobility patterns in many transition states may be a rapid expansion of tertiary education, which should decrease educational inequality but possibly also reduce the educational effect on occupational attainment in consequence of a falling signaling power of educational titles due to de-stratification of the educational system.

On the example of Poland, one of the largest post-socialist societies, the present article shows that neither industrialization theory nor the "market versus meritocracy" thesis is able to account for the development of social fluidity there. Instead, it offers support for a claim of basic stability in fluidity levels irrespective of changing institutional settings (Erikson and Goldthorpe 1993; Featherman, Jones and Hauser 1975; for counterevidence see Slomczynski and Krauze 1987). Furthermore, it offers support for signaling theory as the value of educational credentials decreases. The analyses apply the o.l.s. regression technique thus allowing for the usage of different measures of social origin depicting different dimensions of social stratification and their intergenerational reproduction (see also Hout 2015). …

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