chapter  10
15 Pages

Occupational attainment

Research on the process of occupational attainment can be traced to the pioneering work of Blau and Duncan (1967), to whom the term “status attainment research” is attributed. This model links causal pathways from socioeconomic origins to adult socioeconomic outcomes. The pathways are arranged in a temporal sequence; socioeconomic background influences educational attainment, which in turn influences occupation and earnings. Therefore, the relationships between factors that are temporally most distant, such as socioeconomic origins and earnings, are weaker than the relationships between more proximal factors, such as socioeconomic background and educational performance. An important component of the Blau-Duncan model is the conceptual distinction between ascription and achievement. Ascription includes all ascribed characteristics, socioeconomic background, gender and race, although the main focus is on socioeconomic background factors, while achievement is the level achieved in the education system. According to Coser (1975: 694), the model allows for the first time an assessment of the precise details of the process of occupational attainment. It also permits comparison of the contributions of social inheritance and individual effort in the attainment of socioeconomic status. A major variant of the status attainment model is the Wisconsin model, based on WLS highschool seniors in 1957. This psychosociological model includes measured ability, high-school grades, the influence of significant others (i.e. teachers and peers), and educational and occupational aspirations (Sewell et al. 1969, 1970, 2004).