Jan O. Jonsson, David B. Grusky, Matthew Di Carlo, Reinhard Pollak, Mary C. Brinton
Micro-Class Mobility: Social Reproduction in Four Countries

Mannheimer Zentrum für Europäische Sozialforschung: Arbeitspapiere; 100
ISSN: 1437-8574

In the sociological literature on social mobility, the long-standing convention has been to assume that intergenerational reproduction takes one of two forms, either a categorical form that has parents passing on a big-class position to their children, or a gradational form that has parents passing on their socioeconomic standing to their children. These conventional approaches ignore in their own ways the important role that occupations play in transferring advantage and disadvantage from one generation to the next. In log-linear analyses of nationally representative data from the United States, Sweden, Germany, and Japan, we show that (a) occupations are an important conduit for reproduc¬tion, (b) the most extreme rigidities in the mobility regime are only revealed when analyses are carried out at the detailed occupational level, and (c) much of what shows up as big-class reproduction in conventional mobility analyses is in fact occupational reproduction in disguise. Although the four countries studied here differ in the extent to which the occupational form has been institutionalized, we show that it is too prominent to ignore in any of these countries. Even in Japan, which has long been regarded as distinctively “deoccupationalized,” we find evidence of extreme occupational rigidities. These results suggest that an occupational mechanism for reproduction may be a fundamental feature of all contemporary mobility regimes.