- Paperback: 544 pages
- Publisher: Free Press; 1 edition (June 1, 1978)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0029036704
- ISBN-13: 978-0029036709
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.3 x 8.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #308,916 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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American Occupational Structure 1st Edition
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Brilliant though they were, I think Blau and Duncan made a serious theoretical error when they decided to treat structural mobility as a nuisance that merely blurred their focus on individual mobility. A good case can be made that level of educational attainment was the strongest predictor of offsprings' socioeconomic status primarily because the occupational distribution was opening at the top, with more and more good jobs being created to absorb the output of high schools, colleges, and universities. Education worked because there were occupational places to put educated people, not because we live in an intrinsically meritocratic world.
Today things have changed markedly. No one saw it coming, certainly not Blau and Duncan, but since the early 1970's the creation of good jobs -- prospects for upward mobility through investments in education -- has been undercut by out-sourcing, down-sizing, internationalization, and technological innovation. All this in pursuit of reduced labor costs. The efficacy of investment in education as an agency of upward social mobility has not stood the test of time.
Writing in the 1960's, however, Blau and Duncan saw the same happy future as everyone else: more good jobs, more opportunities for upward social mobility, unparalleled prosperity, and the professionalization of everyone. Near the end of their book they attributed their optimism to the ascendance of the norm of universalism. As with everyone else, they where caught unaware by dramatic structural changes.
I've read this book twice, and learned from it each time. The most important lesson, however, is one that Blau and Duncan missed: macro-level contextual factors inevitably take precedence over individual-level characteristics. Macro-level contextual factors, however, commonly defy inclusion in statistical models.