Ethnic minorities' reactions to newcomers in East London: symbolic boundaries and convivial labor (2020)
Author: Susanne Wessendorf
In much public discourse on immigrants in Western Europe, perceptions towards newcomers are discussed in relation to what white national majorities think. However, today, new migrants often move into places which are already settled by previous migrants. This article investigates the local experiences, perceptions, and attitudes towards newcomers among long-established ethnic minorities in an area which they have made their home, and where they predominate not just in numbers but also by way of shops, religious sites, school population, and so on. Based on ethnographic fieldwork in East London (UK), it looks at long-established ethnic minority residents' attitudes towards newcomers from Eastern Europe, and how these are shaped by their own histories of exclusion. By bringing together theories on symbolic boundary making with the concept of convivial labor, it shows how experiences of stigmatization impact on perceptions of white newcomers, and how these perceptions are characterized by a combination of empathy and resentment.
From workers to capitalists in less than two generations: the Chinese urban elite (2019)
Authors: Li Yang, Filip Novokmet, and Branko Milanovic.
The transformation of China from a poor and egalitarian country to an upper middle-income country with the level of income inequality greater than in the United States has been the subject of innumerable publications. The Chinese transformation is a unique event in world economic history: never have so many people over such a relatively short period of time increased their [...]
Visualizing Belief in Meritocracy, 1930–2010 (2018)
Author: Jonathan J. B. Mijs
In this figure I describe the long trend in popular belief in meritocracy across the Western world between 1930 and 2010. Studying trends in attitudes is limited by the paucity of survey data that can be compared across countries and over time. Here, I show how to complement survey waves with cohort-level data. Repeated surveys draw on a representative sample of the population to describe the typical beliefs held by citizens in a given country and period. Leveraging the fact that citizens surveyed in a given year were born in different time-periods allows for a comparison of beliefs across birth cohorts. The latter overlaps with the former, but considerably extends the time period covered by the data. Taken together, the two measures give a “triangulated” longitudinal record of popular belief in meritocracy. I find that in most countries, popular belief in meritocracy is (much) stronger for more recent periods and cohorts.
Inequality Is a Problem of Inference: How People Solve the Social Puzzle of Unequal Outcomes (2018)
Author: Jonathan J. B. Mijs
A new wave of scholarship recognizes the importance of people’s understanding of inequality that underlies their political convictions, civic values, and policy views. Much less is known, however, about the sources of people’s different beliefs. I argue that scholarship is hampered by a lack of consensus regarding the conceptualization and measurement of inequality beliefs, in the absence of an organizing theory. To fill this gap, in this paper, I develop a framework for studying the social basis of people’s explanations for inequality. I propose that people observe unequal outcomes and must infer the invisible forces that brought these about, be they meritocratic or structural in nature. In making inferences about the causes of inequality, people draw on lessons from past experience and information about the world, both of which are biased and limited by their background, social networks, and the environments they have been exposed to. Looking at inequality beliefs through this lens allows for an investigation into the kinds of experiences and environments that are particularly salient in shaping people’s inferential accounts of inequality. Specifically, I make a case for investigating how socializing institutions such as schools and neighborhoods are “inferential spaces” that shape how children and young adults come to learn about their unequal society and their own place in it. I conclude by proposing testable hypotheses and implications for research.
The Shifting Politics of Inequality and the Class Ceiling (2017)
Authors: Mike Savage and Sam Friedman
Keywords: class, class analysis, narrative, inequality
Britain's class landscape has changed: it is more polarised at the extremes and messier in the middle. The distinction between middle and working class is less clear-cut. The elite is able to set political agendas and entrench their own privilege. The left needs a clear narrative showing how privilege leads to gross unfairness - and effective policies to tackle the 'class ceiling' so entrenched in our society.
Social Mobility, the Class Pay Gap and Intergenerational Worklessness: New Insights from The Labour Force Survey(2017)
Authors: Daniel Laurison, Sam Friedman and Lindsey Macmillan
Keywords: class pay gap, social mobility
Summary: Social mobility remains at the very top of the political agenda. Yet the UK has traditionally lacked a data source extensive enough to pinpoint exactly where to target policy interventions intended to improve social mobility. This report capitalises on new socio-economic background questions within the UK Labour Force Survey (LFS) to provide the most comprehensive analysis of social mobility to-date. Drawing on an unusually large sample of 64,566 we are able to move beyond the normal measures of national mobility rates to shine a light on a number of pressing but largely unexplored questions. In particular, we hone in on mobility in the top echelons of British society by examining the openness of the professions, and at the bottom by looking at intergenerational worklessness. We end with three proposals to improve this important data source to help us answer some key questions regarding social mobility.
The Paradox of Land Reform, Inequality and Local Development in Colombia (2017)
Authors: Jean-Paul Faguet, Fabio Sánchez and Marta-Juanita Villaveces
Keywords: Land reform, inequality, development, latifundia, poverty, Colombia
Summary: Over two centuries, Colombia transferred vast quantities of land, mainly to landless peasants. And yet Colombia retains one of the highest concentrations of land ownership in the world. Why? This paper shows that land reform's effects are highly bimodal. Most of Colombia's 1100+ municipalities lack a landed elite. Here, rural properties grew larger, land inequality and dispersion fell, and development indicators improved. But in municipalities where such an elite does exist and landholding is highly concentrated, such positive effects are counteracted, resulting in smaller rural properties, greater dispersion, and lower levels of development.
An Intensifying and Elite City: New Geographies of Social Class and Inequality in Contemporary London (2017)
Authors: Niall Cunningham
Keywords: social class, London, census, cultural capital, Great British Class Survey, elites
Summary: This paper contributes to the debate on London’s social class structure at the start of the twenty-first century. That debate has focussed on the use of census metrics to argue the case for whether or not the capital has become more or less middle class in composition between 2001 and 2011. The authors contend that the definition of the middle class has become confused in the course of this debate and is of less critical importance for an understanding of the city’s contemporary class structure than is a focus on London’s elite. They make use of data from the BBC’s Great British Class Survey (GBCS) to shed light on the social, cultural and economic resources of this group, in addition to their spatial location. They then return to the census data for 2001 and 2011 and posit that belying the image of stability in London’s class structure these data suggest clear and localised patterns of intensification in class geographies across the capital, an intensification characterised by a growing cleavage between inner and outer London.
The Class Pay Gap in Higher Professional and Managerial Occupations (2016)
Authors: Daniel Laurison, Sam Friedman
Keywords: class pay gap, social mobility, class ceiling, class origin
Summary: This article demonstrates how class origin shapes earnings in higher professional and managerial employment. Taking advantage of newly released data in Britain’s Labour Force Survey, the authors examine the relative openness of different high-status occupations and the earnings of the upwardly mobile within them. In terms of access, we find a distinction between traditional professions, such as law, medicine, and finance, which are dominated by the children of higher managers and professionals, and more technical occupations, such as engineering and IT, that recruit more widely. Moreover, even when people who are from working-class backgrounds are successful in entering high-status occupations, they earn 17 percent less, on average, than individuals from privileged backgrounds.
‘Like Skydiving without a Parachute’: How Class Origin Shapes Occupational Trajectories in British Acting (2016)
Authors: Daniel Laurison, Sam Friedman, Dave O’Brien
Keywords: acting, class origin, class pay gap, cultural and creative industries, cultural capital, social mobility
Summary: There is currently widespread concern that access to, and success within, the British acting profession is increasingly dominated by those from privileged class origins. This article seeks to empirically interrogate this claim using data on actors from the Great British Class Survey (N = 404) and 47 qualitative interviews. The authors demonstrate the profound occupational advantages afforded to actors who can draw upon familial economic resources, legitimate embodied markers of class origin (such as Received Pronunciation) and a favourable typecasting.
Stratified Failure: Educational Stratification and Students’ Attributions of Their Mathematics Performance in 24 Countries (2016)
Author: Jonathan J. B. Mijs
Keywords: educational stratification, lay attribution, mertiocracy, inequality, PISA
Summary: Country rankings based on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) invite politicians and specialists to speculate about the reasons their countries did well or failed to do well. Rarely, however, do we hear from the students on whose performance these rankings are based. This omission is unfortunate for two reasons. First, research suggests that how students explain their academic performance has important consequences for their future achievements. Second, prior studies show that students’ attributions of success and failure in education can develop into explanations for social inequalities in adulthood. This article draws on PISA 2012 data on 128,110 secondary school students in 24 countries to explore how educational stratification shapes students’ explanations of their academic performance. I find that students in mixed-ability groups tend to attribute their mathematics performance to their teachers and to (bad) luck, whereas vocational- and academic-track students are more likely to blame themselves for not doing well. These differences between mixed-ability group students and tracked students are more pronounced in school systems where tracking is more extensive. I conclude by discussing how these findings speak to the broader impact of educational stratification on students’ psychology and cognition and the legitimation of inequalities.
The burden of acting wise: sanctioned success and ambivalence about hard work at an elite school in the Netherlands (2016)
Authors: Jonathan J.B. Mijs, Bowen Paulle
Keywords: oppositional culture, acting white, acting wise, elite schools, educational tracking, the Netherlands
Sam and his classmates despise ‘nerds’: they say working hard in school makes a student unpopular, and that they purposefully do only the minimum to pass. Research suggests that such ‘oppositional’ attitudes are prevalent among working class students and/or ethnoracial minorities. Like most of his classmates, however, Sam is white, hails from a privileged background, and attends a selective school in the Netherlands. Deeply ambivalent about working hard and ‘acting wise’, Sam and the others constituting his adolescent society are thoroughly caught up in peer dynamics which sanction success and promote mediocrity. We link these anti-school peer dynamics to the institutional configuration of education in the Netherlands, characterized by rigid tracking at the end of primary school and non-selective universities: state structures and policies contribute to these privileged students’ rationale for ‘taking it easy’ and doing poorly in school.
Neoliberalism and Symbolic Boundaries in Europe: Global Diffusion, Local Context, Regional Variation (2016)
Authors: Jonathan J. B. Mijs, Elyas Bakhtiari, Michèle Lamont
Keywords: Europe, inequality, neoliberalism, symbolic boundaries
Studies suggest that the rise of neoliberalism accompanies a foregrounding of individual responsibility and a weakening of community. The authors provide a theoretical agenda for studying the interactions between the global diffusion of neoliberal policies and ideologies, on the one side, and cultural repertoires and boundary configurations, on the other, in the context of local, national, and regional variation. Exploiting variation in the rate of adoption of neoliberal policies across European societies, the authors show how levels of neoliberal penetration covary with the way citizens draw symbolic boundaries along the lines of ethnoreligious otherness and moral deservingness.
Horizontal inequality, status optimization, and interethnic marriage in a conflict-affected society (Working Paper 2016)
Author: Omar Shahabudin McDoom
Keywords: horizontal inequality, ethnic conflict, social status, ranked groups, intermarriage, Philippines
Although several theories of interethnic conflict emphasize ties across group boundaries as conducive to ethnic coexistence, little is known about how such ties are formed. Given their integrative potential, I examine the establishment of cross-ethnic marital ties in a deeply divided society and ask what drives individuals to defy powerful social norms and sanctions and to choose life-partners from across the divide. I theorize such choices as the outcome of a struggle between social forces and individual autonomy in society. I identify two channels through which social forces weaken and individual autonomy increases to allow ethnic group members to establish ties independently of group pressures: elite autonomy and status equalization. I find, first, that as an individual’s educational status increases, and second, as between-group inequality declines, individuals enjoy greater freedom in the choice of their social ties. However, I also find that in an ethnically ranked society this enhanced autonomy is exercised by members of high-ranked and low-ranked groups differently. Members from high-ranked groups become more likely to inmarry; low-ranked group members to outmarry. I suggest a status-optimization logic lies behind this divergent behaviour. Ethnic elites from high-ranked groups cannot improve their status through outmarriage and their coethnics, threatened by the rising status of the lower-ranked group, seek to maintain the distinctiveness of their status superiority through inmarriage. In contrast, as their own individual status or their group’s relative status improves, members of low-ranked groups take advantage of the opportunity to upmarry into the higher-ranked group. I establish these findings in the context of Mindanao, a conflict-affected society in the Philippines, using a combination of census micro-data on over two million marriages and in-depth interview data with inmarried and outmarried couples.
Reductions in the United Kingdom's Government Housing Benefit and Symptoms of Depression in Low-Income Households
Authors: Aaron Reeves, Amy Clair, Martin McKee and David Stuckler
Keywords: depression, housing, mental health, natural experiment
Housing security is an important determinant of mental health. This paper uses a quasinatural experiment to evaluate this association, comparing the prevalence of mental ill health in the United Kingdom before and after the government's April 2011 reduction in financial support for low-income persons who rent private-sector housing. It concludes that reducing housing support to low-income persons in the private rental sector increased the prevalence of depressive symptoms in the United Kingdom.
Entry to elite positions and the stratification of higher education in Britain (2015)
Authors: Paul Wakeling and Mike Savage
Keywords: class, elite, education, higher education, institutional stratification, social class, inequality
This paper uses the Great British Class Survey (GBCS) to examine association between social background, university attended and social position for over 85,000 graduates. This unique dataset allows the researchers to look beyond the clear labour market experiences of graduates investigated in previous studies and to examine the outcome of attending particular institutions.
Introduction to elites from the 'problematic of the proletariat' to a class analysis of 'wealth elites (2015)
Author: Mike Savage
Keywords: wealth elites, class analysis, class, GBCS, inequality, proletariat
This introductory paper argues that it is vital to reorient class analysis away from its long term preoccupation with class boundaries in the middle levels of the class structure towards a focus on the class formation at the top.
The Unfulfillable Promise of Meritocracy: Three Lessons and Their Implications for Justice in Education (2015)
Author: Jonathan J. B. Mijs
Keywords: Meritocracy, Educational institutions, Educational policy, Social stratification
This paper draws on a literature in sociology, psychology and economics that has extensively documented the unfulfilled promise of meritocracy in education. I argue that the lesson learned from this literature is threefold: (1) educational institutions in practice significantly distort the ideal meritocratic process; (2) opportunities for merit are themselves determined by non-meritocratic factors; (3) any definition of merit must favor some groups in society while putting others at a disadvantage. Taken together, these conclusions give reason to understand meritocracy not just as an unfulfilled promise, but as an unfulfillable promise. Having problematized meritocracy as an ideal worth striving for, I argue that the pervasiveness of meritocratic policies in education threatens to crowd out as principles of justice, need and equality. As such, it may pose a barrier rather than a route to equality of opportunity. Furthermore, meritocratic discourse legitimates societal inequalities as justly deserved such as when misfortune is understood as personal failure. The paper concludes by setting a research agenda that asks how citizens come to hold meritocratic beliefs; addresses the persistence of (unintended) meritocratic imperfections in schools; analyzes the construction of a legitimizing discourse in educational policy; and investigates how education selects and labels winners and losers.
Understanding Inequalities: Stratification and Difference (2011)
Author: Lucinda Platt
Keywords: inequalities, stratification, life course, difference
Bringing together the latest empirical evidence with a discussion of sociological debates surrounding inequality, this book explores a broad range of inequalities in people’s lives. As well as treating the core sociological topics of class, ethnicity and gender, it examines how inequalities are experienced across a variety of settings, including education, health, geography and housing, income and wealth, and how they cumulate across the life course.
Achievement Inequality and the Institutional Structure of Educational Systems: A Comparative Perspective (2010)
Authors: Herman G. Van de Werfhorst, Jonathan J.B. Mijs
Keywords: tracking, stratification, standardization, PISA, TIMSS
We review the comparative literature on the impact of national-level educational institutions on inequality in student achievement. We focus on two types of institutions that characterize the educational system of a country: the system of school-type differentiation (between-school tracking) and the level of standardization (e.g., with regard to central examinations and school autonomy). Two types of inequality are examined: inequality in terms of dispersion of student test scores and inequality of opportunity by social background and race/ethnicity. We conclude from this literature, which mostly uses PISA, TIMSS, and/or PIRLS data, that inequalities are magnified by national-level tracking institutions and that standardization decreases inequality. Methodological issues are discussed, and possible avenues for further research are suggested.
Meritocracy or Plutocracy? Finding Explanations for the Educational Disadvantages of Moroccan Immigrants Living in the Netherlands (2009)
Author: Jonathan Mijs
Keywords: educational inequality, tracking, segregation, immigration, The Netherlands, meritocracy
Moroccan immigrants in the Netherlands have, throughout the last decades, been relatively unsuccessful in both schooling and job attainment. Although later generations of immigrants are doing better than those of their parents (and grandparents), young Moroccan men tend to do worse than both native Dutch and other immigrant groups (especially those from Surinam and the Netherlands Antilles). Educational failure and high (youth) unemployment rates are seen as explanatory variables for their disproportionate dominance in the Netherlands’s crime statistics. This fact especially underlines the importance of an empirical investigation in the causes of, and policy resolutions for, Moroccan immigrants’ position within the Dutch educational system. In this paper a theoretical approach is formulated which integrates elements of the competing traditions of Human Capital Theory and Cultural Reproduction Theory into one theoretical framework. It is shown how social locations account for initial differences in educational opportunity, which tend to be reinforced through peer pressure in schools and neighborhoods, and through specific institutional characteristics of the Dutch educational system, namely, tracking and school segregation. It is only by taking into account these three factors that we can come to a comprehensive understanding of immigrants’ educational disadvantages. Furthermore, it is argued that such an understanding has profound consequences for questions of meritocracy and plutocracy relating to the educational system and to how we perceive the Moroccan immigrant position in Dutch society.