Education, Occupation and Social Origin
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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.
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Chapter 7: Inequality in educational returns in Japan

Yoshimichi Sato and Shin Arita


This chapter explores answers to the four research questions raised in the introductory chapter to this book, and places them in the Japanese context. The questions are as follows. First, is there a direct effect of origin (family background) on such outcomes as first job, current job and income? Second, has this effect declined over time? Third, does it change across educational qualifications, and in particular is it weaker for college graduates? Fourth, have educational returns declined over time? The first and second questions stem from the theory of modernization, which predicts that as society undergoes the process of modernization, the principle of meritocracy becomes dominant, so that people are emancipated from their family backgrounds. They are evaluated by their performance, not by their origin. If the theory is empirically valid, the direct effect of origin on outcomes should not exist; or it should decline over time, even if it existed previously.

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