ACCORDING to the American Dream, you can be anything you want as long as you have the desire and the ability. A long-standing function of sociologists has been to show that the reality is not the same as the ideal, that life chances are severely affected by socioeconomic origins. More recently, however, quantitative analysis has tended to create the impression that the United States is close to its ideal.
The shift toward quantitative methodology and optimistic assessment of mobility began near the height of the War on Poverty with the work of Blau and Duncan ( 1965, 1967). They revolutionized the study of mobility by assembling a large national sample and by introducing novel statistical techniques. Their data and methods led to the impression, most strongly evident in the work of Jencks ( 1972), that socioeconomic origins are not very consequential.
Blau and Duncan's data, which are reanalyzed in this study, are from the Survey of Occupational Changes in a Generation, or more briefly, the OCG sample. The OCG sample consists of all men aged 20 to 64 in the civilian, noninstitutional population who were selected for the March 1962 Current Population Survey by the U. S. Census Bureau and who returned a supplementary questionnaire. The questionnaire included questions on occupation and education of father when respondent was 16 years old. The OCG sample is large (20,700 men) and designed to be representative of the U. S. as a whole. It is regarded as "the first comprehensively designed inquiry into social mobility in the United States" ( Heller, 1969:313). Until recently, it