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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 12: The direct and indirect effects of social background on occupational positions in Sweden: new evidence on old questions

Erik Bihagen and Juho Härkönen

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


This chapter looks at Sweden, long extolled as an egalitarian society with low economic inequalities and high levels of equality of opportunity (e.g., Björklund and Jäntti 2011). Our research questions follow those of the broader project. First, we ask whether direct class background effects are found in Sweden. The second question concerns whether the effects of social background have changed over time. Third, we ask whether direct class background effects are weaker among persons with a tertiary education. Fourth, we are interested in whether class-of-origin effects are stronger or weaker at labour market entry, when employers have less information on potential workers and vice versa, than at later career stages. Finally, we analyse whether direct social origin effects vary by gender. In section 12.2, we discuss the Swedish context and its relevant institutions and characteristics. Then in section 12.3 we review the previous studies pertaining to our research questions. Thereafter, in section 12.4, we present our data. In section 12.5 we present our findings, while section 12.6 provides a discussion.

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