Edited by Yaojun Li
Chapter 12: Social capital and the social relations of occupational structure
Research traditions in studying occupational structures of social inequality, and patterns and processes of social capital, have hitherto been only loosely connected. On the one hand, there have been many studies which have explored occupations and social connections, without explicitly using the terminologies or theories of social capital. On the other hand, the literature on social capital often takes account of occupations directly as a mechanism for measuring resources available to individuals, without a more extended account of the ways in which occupational structures may be measured and summarized. This chapter reviews the use of social capital data in analyses of the occupational structure, and the use of occupational data when studying the social capital held by individuals. For the first scenario, we focus on approaches which have been applied in sociology since the 1960s to analyse statistical patterns in the social interactions between members of different occupations, an approach traditionally perceived as measuring ‘social distance’, rather than as an analysis of social capital (for example Stewart et al., 1980). We describe how social distance analysis is used to measure occupational advantage, and relate this to other methodologies and to other relevant literature on social capital. For the second scenario, we consider the tradition of social capital research which has used occupational data as indicators of relative social advantage, exploring the development of ‘position generators’ as a mechanism for estimating the occupational resources available to others.
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