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Education, Occupation and Social Origin

Education, Occupation and Social Origin

A Comparative Analysis of the Transmission of Socio-Economic Inequalities

Edited by Fabrizio Bernardi and Gabrielle Ballarino

This innovative book takes a comparative approach to the social origin–education–destination triangle (OED), looking at the intergenerational transmission of advantage in 14 countries. The intention is to debate the claim that education is the ‘great social equalizer’. The contributors examine the relation between family background, education and occupational achievement over time and across educational levels, focusing on the relationship between individuals’ social origins and their income and occupational outcomes. It will be of interest to academics and students of social policy and those interested in social inequalities and their reproduction over time.

Chapter 2: Inequality of educational returns in France: changes in the effect of education and social background on occupational careers

Milan Bouchet-Valat, Camille Peugny and Louis-André Vallet

Subjects: education, education policy, social policy and sociology, education policy, sociology and sociological theory


In contemporary France, does social origin still have an influence when young men and women leave the educational system after they obtain their qualifications and present themselves on the labour market to enter their first jobs? If, even in a post-industrial society (Bell 1973), family background still affects the degree of success of this first step among young people with the same educational assets, does this ascription effect persist over the course of their subsequent occupational careers? Could it be the case that, in a country characterized by tremendous educational expansion over recent decades, the long-lasting effect of social origin has become more prominent in the most recent cohorts as compared with the previous ones? Finally, have returns to education followed the opposite trend, thereby reflecting a recent shift in the relative balance between ascription and achievement? These questions are of central interest for both the study of French society and the more general understanding of fundamental social stratification processes that govern the dynamics of occupational attainment over the life-course. This chapter conducts an empirical examination of the aforementioned questions on the basis of large-scale, high-quality and nationally representative data spanning the evolution of French society from 1977 to 2003 and the labour-market situations of cohorts born between 1938 and 1975.

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