Social Stratification Research Seminar – 2013

September saw the 2013 edition of the long-running Social Stratification Research Seminar, at the University of Cambridge. As discussed in an earlier blog, this is an event which has been running annually since 1968 and brings together researchers with diverse interests in the area of stratification. The event always has an international scope and, this year, included presenters from Italy, Canada, the Netherlands and Sweden alongside many UK-based researchers.

A nice feature of this year’s seminar was the wealth of data sources discussed, with presentations utilising nine UK social surveys, two European multi-country surveys, Canadian data and utilising the range of sources available through the Minnesota Population Centre. A theme running through many of the papers was that empirical findings from survey datasets did not support the rhetoric commonly claimed by politicians and social commentators, with a number of speakers making the point that popular view was not supported by the evidence.

In keeping with the spirit of open access, below follows a description of all 15 papers presented. These are my comments and reflections of the papers and any misrepresentations are mine. As always, please correspond with the authors of the presentations if you’re interested in their research, rather than allowing my appraisal of their papers to reflect their work.

Roxanne Connelly opened the seminar with her paper ‘The Micro-Meritocracy: The distribution of ‘merit’ throughout ‘big’ class, ‘micro’ class and gradational representations of the social structure’. Connelly examined the relationship between occupation, parental occupation and cognitive ability using the 1970 British Cohort Study, utilising newly released fine-grained occupational data. These unit groups were converted to microclass and compared with big class and CAMSIS effects.

Cinzia Meraviglia, Deborah de Luca and Harry Ganzeboom discussed the construction of the ICAM scale in their paper, ‘Social distance, status and prestige: Towards a unique measure?’. Meraviglia used data on household income and cultural consumption from the European Social Survey to provide sensitivity analyses of the ICAM (international CAMSIS) scale, ISEI and national CAMSIS schemes. She argued that despite the theoretical rationales for stratification schemes differing they essentially pick up the same underlying effects and therefore the selection of the occupational measure is more trivial than the literature suggests. The principal message of the presentation was that if different scales are achieving broadly similar results we should rethink the theoretical contribution each measure attempts to convey.

Yaojun Li and Anthony Heath discussed The social mobility of ethnic minorities in Britain (1992-2011): changes over time and across generations. Using data from the General Household Survey, British Household Panel Survey (BHPS) and Understanding Society they explored the social mobility outcomes for members of minority ethnic group, broken down by generation of migration. They argued the patterns of migration differed to that suggested by the tabloid press with an over-representation of salariat workers. Overall, they found that social mobility is declining by slow degrees for all ethnic groups, although at differing rates by ethnicity, gender and migratory status.

Marina Shapira presented ‘Do you speak your grandma’s language? Intergenerational communication and attainment of immigrant children in Western countries of immigration’. Shapira used PISA data to explore the educational attainment of immigrant children across Europe, examining the languages spoken in the home and migration status. She argued there was much variation between countries, and types of country studied, finding much difference in attainment levels between native and immigrant schoolchildren, largely with a small but important difference between the 1st and 2nd generation immigrants. The relationship between living with grandparents and attainment appeared to interact with migration status and languages spoken.

Included with the first day was a strand from the ESRC-funded project ‘Is Britain Pulling Apart?’. The first paper in this strand was Paul Lambert Dave Griffiths, Richard Zijdeman and Erik Bihagen’sSocial distance of family and friends: Socio-economic and socio-demographic patterns‘. Lambert provided correspondence analysis and associational models on a range of variables from both the BHPS and from national censuses over time from IPUMS-I data. He argued that it is possible to differentiate between the effects of stratification and other socio-economic and socio-demographical effects through using such methods. He ended by suggesting the data shows that Britain isn’t pulling apart and that internationally the data doesn’t suggest society is as complex and ever-changing as sometimes suggested.

Vernon GaylePaul Lambert, Dave Griffiths and Mark Tranmer presented ‘Measuring the influence of others: Exploring social connections in contemporary Britain‘. Gayle argued that survey analyses frequently miss out intra-household connections which can appear in panel studies, exploring the differing types of ties which can be found within homes. It was argued that incorporating household ties can provide strong improvements to models and it cannot be known a priori which types of connections, or means of measuring them, is most appropriate without performing a sensitivity analysis of the potential methods.

Mark Tranmer discussed ‘Methods for the analysis of social distance patterns and trends’. Tranmer argued that ignoring a level in statistical analyses can be consequential and applied this logic to occupational analysis. He modelled the difference in CAMSIS scores between husbands and wives, using the BHPS, between 1992 and 2008. His initial findings suggest the difference in stratification positions between couples were increasing, but warned further analysis is required into these trends.

Dave Griffiths and Paul Lambert presented ‘Domains of social distance’, which looked at various methods for measuring levels of social interactions between groups. The preliminary and exploratory analysis utilised Understanding Society to construct networks of social groups more likely to interact and used methods such as QAP regression and E-I Index analysis to test levels of cohesion in contemporary Britain.

The second day saw presentations from researchers representing institutions in Canada, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the UK, providing both analyses of those countries and international comparisons.

The first Friday presentation was ‘Gender and the pay of university graduates: Evidence from Canada’s National Graduate Survey’ by Mike Smith. Smith used data from the National Graduates Survey to build a longitudinal dataset of destinations of Canadian graduates from 1986 to 2000 to explore gender differences in their careers two and five years after graduation. He found for Bachelors students that the field of study for first degrees made a large difference to gender pay gaps, although as these pointed in different directions this is often missed as it can be evened out across the whole workforce. He argued that part of these differences can be accounted to differences in the Canadian economy over the 20 years studied, with differing employment rates and GDP at different time-points and a dot-com boom in the 1990’s which increased salaries in the male-dominated computing sector. He also argued that during the 1990’s women were more likely than men to be outside of employment and education, thereby acquiring less human capital to complement their university qualifications. This was presented as evidence that the gender pay gap can affect those in advantaged occupations and early in their careers, contradicting arguments that pay discrimination is generally found amongst low and un-skilled workers.

Nichola Shakleton critiqued ministerial claims about child obesity in her paper ‘Is there really a link between low parental income and childhood obesity?’. Using the Millennium Cohort Study she found poverty was only associated with childhood obesity when there was an absence of contextualising variables studied. Shakleton showed that incorporating parental education, social class and other demographical factors eliminated the association between low pay and obesity. Comparison with data from Growing Up in Scotland supported the findings, suggesting that the income effect claimed by politicians was created by an underlying effect of parental education.

Harry Ganzeboom and David Nikoloski considered stratification measures in their paper ‘Occupational Homogamy and occupational mobility as measures of occupational stratification’. They argued that intergeneration and homogamy measures of stratification, such as ISEI and CAMSIS respectively, are created through measuring entirely different processes yet produce broadly similar results. Using the European Social Survey, they compared intergenerational mobility models (which should be linked to socio-economic status and measures such as ISEI) and homogamy models (which should be linked to social distance and measures such as CAMSIS). It was argued that analysis of high residual off-diagonal combinations could aid understanding of whether processes of homogamy or reproductions were dominant forces of stratification.

Franz Buscha and Patrick Sturgis addressed the differing views on mobility in their paper ‘Inter-cohort trends in intergenerational mobility in England and Wales: Income, status and class (InTIME)‘. They looked at the debate between economists and sociologists regarding relative levels of social mobility, using the ONS Longitudinal Survey to build a large longitudinal dataset of the occupations of individuals and their parents, which was matched to the New Earnings Survey Panel Dataset to imputed likely income levels. They argued that the ‘by slow degrees’ argument of increasing social mobility was found when looking at the CAMSIS scores of individuals, but the income-derived measure was more consistent with a ‘constant flux’ of changing levels of mobility rather than an increase in social reproduction.

Robin Samuel explored ‘How cognitive and different non-cognitive characteristics affect labour market outcomes in Switzerland’. Using PISA data he looked at how cognitive and non-cognitive characteristics related to job satisfaction and earnings. Samuel argued that cognitive ability was often a stronger explanatory than non-cognitive controlling variables. He argued that both cognitive and non-cognitive processes were important, although the non-cognitive effect was smaller than other studies have suggested.

Lindsay Richards presented ‘Patterns of Connectedness, Economic Hardship and Psychological Effects, exploring the relationship between life satisfaction, financial situation and connectedness’. Latent class analysis of social capital from the BHPS identified six classes of social supported. Household income and satisfaction scores were compared for these groups, showing an effect for social capital with regard to other wellbeing positions. The effect of higher income upon satisfaction was shown to differ by latent class.

Dave Griffiths, Richard Zijdeman and Paul Lambert provided the final paper of the seminar,’Bakers’ sons aren’t butchers: Analysis of microclass mobility in the 19th century‘. Making use of the linked 19th century census in Norway and the USA from NAPP, they explored whether contemporary microclass theories could be observed in historical datasets. Expanding on the HISCO, HISCAM and HISCLASS developments in historical occupational analysis, a microclass scheme sensitive to 19th century occupations was discussed.

The seminar has been running since around 1968, usually in Cambridge although which visits to Cardiff, Stirling and Utrecht. Next year’s seminar will, again, be organised by Bob Blackburn and Paul Lambert  in early September.


About Dave Griffiths

I am a lecturer in Quantitative Methods in the School of Applied Social Science at the University of Stirling.
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