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Decomposing ‘social origins’: the effects of parents’ class, status and education on the educational attainment


Divergent findings on trends in inequalities in educational attainment associated with individuals’ social origins have led to much discussion of how far these reflect real differences by place and time or, rather, differences in research procedures. But in this latter regard one issue has received relatively little attention: i.e. that of the conceptualisation and measurement of social origins. We propose decomposing social origins into parental class, parental status and parental education. Following this approach, we analyse data from three British birth cohort studies. We show that these three components of social origins have independent and distinctive effects on educational attainment, and ones that persist or change in differing ways across the cohorts. We also make some assessment of their combined effects. We consider the methodological implications of our findings, in particular for analyses of trends in educational inequalities, and, further, how they might result from other, independently established, changes in social stratification in Britain over the historical period covered.

John Goldthorpe
Short bio: 

John Harry Goldthorpe is a British sociologist and an emeritus Fellow of Nuffield College, Oxford.
He is an outstanding expert in social stratification and comparative macro-sociology, including methodological issues. His current research topics are research on comparative mobility patterns and class structure in capitalist and state socialist societies. Furthermore, he is interested in the theory of social action, especially rational action theory, and its relation to quantitative sociological analysis.

29 March 2012 - 17:00

IRVAPP/Fondazione Bruno Kessler - Via Santa Croce 77 - Trento


The presentation will be in English.