20 October 2010
Inequality: Advanced Seminar
Robert Max Jackson
<The following is a syllabus in progress;
further changes will be coming.>
In this seminar we will investigate how to analyze
inequality. In sociology, our scholarship, our textbooks, and our
discussions have long given center stage to various kinds of
inequality: by class, race, gender, income, age, region, religion,
education, and more. Inequality is a focus of much sociological
work and it is a framing consideration for most of the rest. So,
we write about it a lot and read about it a lot. Most of this
work concerns one type of inequality, such as gender or class,
rather than general dynamics of inequality. While this makes
sense in the context of most specific studies, it has limited the
growth in our capacity for theoretical insights and accurate
analyses. Consider an example. Efforts to explain male violence
toward women often refer to sex differences in strength or in
tendencies toward violence. In contrast, no one worries about
physical or inherent differences when trying to make sense of
plantation owners' violence toward slaves. Yet, in both cases we
are trying to understand why and how dominant groups practice
violence against subordinate groups.
In this class we will pursue a series of topics about the
general dynamics of inequalities. Examples of these topics
include: what are the roles of interests in various kinds of
inequalities, how is inequality sustained across generations, what
are the mechanisms that prevent rebellion against the expectations
of inequalities, and what decides the intensity of
Our goal is gain an analytical understanding of social
inequality. This means that we want to understand the crucial
dynamics that characterize all kinds of social inequality, than we
know what kinds of questions we need to ask to discover how a
specific kind of social inequality works.
Each student will choose one kind of social inequality on
which to concentrate during the semester. Each week, students
will try to figure out how the week's topic applies to the
inequality they are investigating. For example, if we are
considering how legitimacy processes influence inequality, then a
student concentrating on gender inequality will examine the
legitimacy's role in women's subordination while a student
concentrating on inequality within organizations will investigate
legitimacy processes in organizational hierarchies.
By the third week, each student will select some kind of
inequality on which to concentrate for the semester. The goal is
to prepare a term paper that investigates the chosen type of
inequality, using the analytic questions and tools we develop
through our weekly topics. Each week, students will write brief
papers (perhaps 2 pages), examining the relevance of that week's
topic to their selected inequality concentrations. These brief
papers will serve each week as a mechanism to fuel and guide our
discussions. Simultaneously, they will serve as the building
blocks from which each student will begin to construct the term
Students should read all papers each week before
class. Students will have responsibility to come with prepared
comments to make on two papers each week. Click here for discussant assignments.
The readings below that are not attributed to another source are
in David Grusky, Social Stratification: Class, Race, and Gender
in Sociological Perspective. Whenever possible, all other
readings will be articles available for download. The links will
appear in the on-line version of the course syllabus.
Each sections of the syllabus includes--beside the common
readings--subsections for an analytical task,
recommended readings, and related readings. To
simplify navigating through the syllabus, the items in these
subsections are hidden until the viewer clicks on the subsection
heading, then they will appear. Some of these subsections,
particularly those for recommended and related readings will be
developed considerably further as the course progresses.
The Weekly Topics
The first class meeting will involve introductory discussions
of the class objectives.
- No task for introductory meeting
- No readings for introductory meeting. Students with limited
relevant background might usefully peruse any standard textbook
on stratification before the first class meeting.
II. What do we mean by social inequality?
How can we conceive of and talk about social inequality in ways
that are general enough to apply across the range of relevant
phenomena, consistent enough to minimize conceptual ambiguities,
and precise enough to be analytically effective? Inequality is
ubiquitous. People are unequal in every conceivable way in endless
circumstances, both immediate and enduring, by both objective
criteria and subjective experience. So, what counts as social
inequality? Can we characterize it in ways that let us confidently
and impartially assess when there is more or less of it?
Analytical task: What is social inequality?
Choose two kinds of inequality. For each kind of
inequality, consider an example showing a high degree of
inequality and another showing equality or a low amount of
Explain how they are unequal. For each of these two
kinds of inequality, try to list the main ways that people are
unequal. For now, don't worry about why such
inequality exists. Try to specify the crucial experiences,
opportunities, or other circumstances that distinguish the
beneficiaries of the inequality from those who are
Try to figure out how we might measure the amount of
inequality. Of the ways that you have listed people being
unequal, select which of these differences seem most
important. What might be reasonable ways to measure
each identified facet of inequality? For each kind of
inequality you have selected an example where inequality is
high and another where it is low. Can you think of a
measurement procedure that will allow one to look at any
society or group and determine if some aspect of inequality is
high, medium, or low? Focus on realistic means that could be
applied in research, that could be used for the same aspects
of inequality when they apply to other kinds of inequality.
Do this only for the two or three facets of inequality in your
examples that seem most decisive.
- After working through the questions above, try to complete
a definition sentence beginning "Social inequality exists when
- 1 -+- David B. Grusky and Manwai C. Ku -- Gloom, Doom, and
- 31 -+- G. William Domhoff -- Who Rules America? Power and
- 73 -+- William Julius Wilson -- The Declining Significance
of Race: Blacks and Changing American Institutions 691
- 77 -+- Arlie Russell Hochschild -- The Time Bind: When Work
Becomes Home and Home Becomes Work 730
III. What are common forms of social inequality?
What is the range of social inequalities that we should be
addressing? Pundits, scholars, and ordinary people usually focus
on the couple forms of inequality they experience as most
troubling. Contemporary sociology's blinkered perspective is
nicely reflected in the many readers and texts on race, class, and
gender. The range of analytically relevant inequalities is
- Choose two significantly divergent societies. It is fine
to use our society (in whole or in part) for one example (but
is fine to use two other societies if you can). The two
societies can be from two different parts of the world, from
different points in time. The aim is to use two societies that
differ significantly in their structure and culture.
- For each example (society), identify the significant,
widely-present forms of social inequality
- "widely present" means not limited to certain locations
nor small parts of the population
- two or more instances of inequality with a similar system
or structure but involving different populations should
usually be considered to of the same kind (e.g., similar
ethnic inequality processes or structures may apply to Hindi
and Chinese minorities)
- Don't go overboard, but do try to consider the range of
social inequalities that you can reasonably identify.
- Indicate the kind of inequality on which you choose to
concentrate this semester.
- Describe what defines this kind of inequality, not only
by contrasting it to equality, but also by comparing it to
the other kinds of inequality that you have listed as
existing in the two societies you examine above.
- 66-+- Edna Bonacich -- A Theory of Ethnic Antagonism: The
Split Labor Market 632
- 30 -+- Anthony Giddens -- Elites and Power 285
- 81-+-Shelley J. Correll. Stephen Benard, and In Paik --
Getting a job: Is There a Motherhood Penalty? 759
- 110 -+- Glenn Firebaugh -- The New Geography of Global
Income Inequality . . 1044
- 21 -+- John H. Goldthorpe and Keith Hope -- Occupational
Grading and Occupational Prestige 195
- 96 -+-Tak Wing Chan and John H. Goldthorpe -- The Social
Stratification of Theatre, Dance, and Cinema Attendance . . .
- 95 -+- John Mullahy, Stephanie Robert, and Barbara Wolfe --
Health, Income, and Inequality . . . 304
- 37 -+- William Julius Wilson -- Jobless Poverty: A New Form
of Social Dislocation, in the Inner-City Ghetto 340
- 67-+- Alejandro Portes and Robert D. Manning -- - The
Immigrant Endave: Theory and Empirical Examples 646
- 98 -+- Eszter Hargittai -- The Digital Reproduction of
IV. What distinguishes legitimate from illegitimate forms of
We often use the term inequality to refer only to forms
of inequality we consider unjust or otherwise undesirable. Yet,
much inequality is commonly accepted as appropriate, fair, or
desirable in societies. The amount of legitimacy attributed to a
form of inequality can be anywhere between extremely high (e.g. the
authority of parents over infants) to extremely low (e.g., slavery
in a modern society with well-developed civil rights). The
assessment of legitimacy should always consider potential
differences among differentially situated groups (e.g., those
enjoying advantages in a system of inequality, those disadvantaged,
and those relatively unaffected), and the degree of agreement or
disagreement about legitimacy assessments. Analytically, we want
to ask what processes or conditions cause a form of inequality to
be considered more or less legitimate. When does the legitimacy
status of inequality change or become contested?
- Focusing on the inequality you have selected as a
concentration for the semester, consider the following.
- What seem to be the main ideas or arguments that people use
to claim this inequality is legitimate?
- Consider how both those with advantages and those
disadvantaged by this inequality try to make sense of it.
- Under what circumstances does it seem that the
disadvantaged are most likely accept or believe the
legitimacy of this inequality? Compare these to the
circumstances under which they are most likely to doubt,
reject, or challenge its legitimacy.
- Think both about
individuals (i.e., within what events or points in their
lives are disadvantaged people more likely to question
legitimacy) and about groups (i.e., what conditions might
induce an "outbreak" of questioning among the disadvantaged).
Can you identify conditions under which those in the
more advantaged positions lose confidence or belief in the ideas that
legitimate the inequality from which they benefit?
- Joan Acker; "Inequality
Regimes: Gender, Class, and Race in Organizations";
Gender & Society, vol. 20, no. 4, pp. 441-464, Aug
- Mérove Gijsberts. "The
Legitimation of Income Inequality in State-Socialist and Market
Societies." Acta Sociologica, Vol. 45, No. 4 (2002),
- David Miller. "Distributive
Justice: What the People Think." Ethics, Vol. 102,
No. 3 (Apr., 1992), pp. 555-593.
V. What is the critical distinction between positional
inequality and status inequality?
To put it simply, positional inequality refers to
inequalities between "positions" such as the different levels in an
organizational hierarchy (e.g., president, divisional manager,
supervisor, clerk). These locations give their advantages and
disadvantages to the people who circulate through them. Status
inequality refers to social advantages and disadvantages that
adhere to categories of people without regard to the positions they
hold (such as race). Grasping the differences between these two
"types" of inequality and the relationships between them is crucial
for analytic clarity. (This distinction has some similarity to the
common contrast between achieved status and ascribed status, but it
is analytically different. Our distinction stresses the way
inequality is socially organized while the achieved/ascribed
concepts refer to the ways people acquire a characteristic.)
Analytical task: How do positional and status
inequalities differ and of what importance are those
- Is the type of inequality you are studying more of a
positional or status type of inequality?
- Explain why this inequality is positional or status
- Identify the important
characteristics of this inequality that makes it either positional or status inequality
- Our society (and many others) has important systems of status inequality and important systems of positional inequality.
- How does the inequality you are studying relate to inequalities of the other type? If you are concentrating on
some form of status inequality, how does it interact with,
depend on, or influence important forms of positional
inequality? If you are concentrating on some form of positional
inequality, analogously how does it influence or interact with
important forms of status inequality in society?
- Similarly, how does the inequality you are studying relate to
other inequalities of the same type. For example, if you are
studying a form of positional inequality, how does it relate to other
forms of positional inequality?
VI. How do we understand "honor" status hierarchies, that lack
apparent material bases?
Academia is one good example of a well-developed system (or
systems) of honorific inequality. High school peer groups are
often good examples of short-lived patterns of status inequality.
The key to honorific inequalities is that people compete for
recognition and deference, rather than material goods, power, or
opportunities. Purely honorific inequality structures are rare, as
the pursuit of prestige is commonly intermingled with materialistic
inequities. The study of honor and prestige systems (other than in
the specialized form of occupational prestige) is underdeveloped in
sociology. Theoretical works recognize its significance, but most
treat honorific inequality as both causally derivative and of
marginal importance when compared to economic and political
inequalities. While prestige and honor are elusively intangible,
we are likely to misunderstand any type of inequality if they are
Analytical task: What do non-material inequalities of
honor or prestige look like in practice and what is the logic
of their processes?
- How does the system of inequality you are studying give
greater honor or prestige to those who are well-placed within
it compared to those who are disadvantaged?
- Are there any widespread ways that people in the advantaged
group talk and think about themselves as superior to those in the
disadvantaged (superior in the sense of being better, more worthy
- In what ways do disadvantaged people appear to accept or
reinforce perceptions of advantaged people as deserving
deference? Do disadvantaged people display any notable efforts to
create or sustain alternative conceptions of honor that would
- Try to list the
ways in which those in the advantaged group kinds of honors (or dishonors) that people experience.
- Do people work at increasing the deference they recieve
compared to others in the system of inequality? Here we have to
distinguish, as best we can, the deference gained in the relevant
system of inequality from honor or deference that is due to other,
interacting systems of inequality.
- Do those at the higher level(s) of the inequality system
compete with each other for honor (as opposed to competing with
the disadvantaged) within that system of inequality?
about those at the lower level(s)? Do they, for example, compete
with each other for recognition by people in the advantaged levels of
that type of inequality?
- How does such competition (or lack of competition) for honor
amongst those at a similar level in the hierarchy affect the
system of inequality?
- 92 -+- Thorstein Veblen -- The Theory of the Leisure Class .
. . .862 [also compare potlatch]
- 93 -+- Pierre Bourdieu -- Distinction: A Social Critique of
the Judgement of Taste . 870
- 33 -+- David Brooks -- Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper
Class and How They Got There . . . .304
- 32 -+- Alvin W. Gouldner -- The Future of Intellectuals and
the Rise of the New Class 295
- 20-+- Donald J. Treiman -- Occupational Prestige in
Comparative Perspective 191
- 21 -+- John H. Goldthorpe and Keith Hope -- Occupational
Grading and Occupational Prestige 195
- Bernd Wegener, "Concepts
and Measurement of Prestige Concepts and Measurement of
Prestige," Annual Review of Sociology, Vol. 18,
(1992), pp. 253-280
- Rebecca L. Sandefur, "Work
and Honor in the Law: Prestige and the Division of Lawyers'
Labor," American Sociological Review, Vol. 66, No. 3
(Jun., 2001), pp. 382-403
- Francis Flynn, "How
much should I give and how often? The effects of generosity and
frequency of favor exchange on social status and
productivity," Academy of Management Journal Oct
2003, Vol. 46 Issue 5, pp.539-553
- 18 -+- Kim A. Weeden -- Occupational Closure and Earnings
VII. How do people experience inequality and why do these
Research on inequalities often treats experience as a simple
effect of inequality; interesting but secondary to theory and
explanation. Here we want to think of experience not only as a
result, but also as a potential ingredient to the explanation of
inequalities. The experiences of inequalities can serve as strong
motivating forces at all levels. The experiences also encompass
not only the outcomes of inequality, but all the processes that
sustain or challenge it.
Analytical task: How do lower-status and higher-status
people experience inequalities and their locations within
them? With what consequences for the systems of inequality?
- For the system of inequality that you are studying, try to
characterize, briefly, how those in high-status and low-status
locations have different experiences. Which kinds of
experiences matter and how to categorize experience are
difficult questions with no obvious answers. Here are some
dimensions you might consider:
- how much and in what ways do people recognize the inequality
and think about it?
- in general, people may
- grasp the outlines of social inequality between groups or positions
- see themselves as being in unequal relationships, but not
have a conception of this as part of a larger pattern of inequality
(e.g., when women or men see themselves as superior or inferior to the
other sex, but do not perceive there to be gender inequality)
- people may not be able to conceptualize their experience of
an inequality as being inequality, but think of it in different terms
(e.g., believing it is not that "they" are inferior or that "we"
discriminate against "them," "they" are just different)
- in what way do people seem to perceive or talk about fairness with respect to an inequality?
- what sense of fairness do they have in their own position?
- and how do they think about the fairness of the
existence of inequality (of this sort)?
do the advantaged and disadvantaged have distinctive experiences
about what other people who share their standing are like?
- do the reference groups have different demographic compositions
(e.g. sex, ethnicity, age, class) apart from the defining distinctions
due to that inequality?
- are their cultural differences in the ways people dress, ways of talking, leisure activities, religiosity, or the like?
- how do people perceive those at their level as different
from those at the other end of the inequality spectrum, and
how do they interact differently with them?
- In particular, what, if any, are the common patterns of deference when
interacting with a previously unknown person at the other end
of the inequality spectrum? (Most importantly, presumably,
within the institutional context embracing this form of
inequality, but also, potentially, in external contexts.)
- How do advantaged and disadvantaged people differ in general ways that they experience the possibilities and realities of life?
- how do people experience ambition vs. resignation?;
- how do they differ in expectations for the future?
- do they allocate blame for failures and credit for successes
(of the individual) differently?
- do they have different orientations toward behavioral tendencies such as violence, intimidation, manipulation,
cooperation, and subservience?
- are there significant differences in religiosity?
- do they seem to feel different loyalties toward the institution surrounding the
structure of inequality, toward those in a similar location
in the inequality structure, toward those at a different
- how do they differ in their trust in authority and government?
- If you can, consider the implications of social mobility or
changing social standing for these experiences of inequalities. That
is, do people differ in their experience of a location in a system of
inequality depending on how they got there?
- Note that even people distinguished by locations in a
system of status inequalities may experience some form of
mobility. First, they may experience a shift in the relative
weight of the status inequality due to changes in other
status investing characteristics; an example could be
different meaning of race for affluent blacks vs. poor blacks
and affluent whites vs. poor whites, where the analytical
class difference may be experience in terms of race. Second,
the standing of an entire status group or category may change
over time; consider, for example, the changes that have been
seen by middle-age blacks and whites in South Africa or women
and men in many countries.
- Note that someone whose status appears unchanged may
experience it differently because the statuses of significant
others do change
- How do people differ in their experiences of being advantaged or
disadvantaged in the referent form of inequality depending on their
location in other important forms of inequality? (For example, how
does the experience of being Native American differ between the highly
educated and the low educated?)
- As a reminder, note that you want to consider (and compare)
the experiences of being advantaged with the experiences of the
- 97 -+- Annette Lareau -- Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race,
and Family Life 926
- 35 -+- Barbara Ehrenreich -- Nickel-and-Dimed: On (not)
Getting by in America 317
- 44 -+- Sharon Hays -- Flat Broke with Children: Women in the
Age of Welfare Reform 407
- Robin Leidner, "Serving
Hamburgers and Selling Insurance: Gender, Work, and Identity in
Interactive Service Jobs," Gender and Society, Vol.
5, No. 2 (Jun., 1991), pp. 154-177
- Jeffrey Pfeffer and Nancy Langton, "The
Effect of Wage Dispersion on Satisfaction, Productivity, and
Working Collaboratively: Evidence from College and University
Faculty," Administrative Science Quarterly, Vol. 38,
No. 3 (Sep., 1993), pp. 382-407
- James R. Kluegel and Eliot R. Smith, "Whites'
Beliefs about Blacks' Opportunity," American
Sociological Review, Vol. 47, No. 4 (Aug., 1982), pp.
- Heli Vaaranen, "The
Emotional Experience of Class: Interpreting Working-Class Kids'
Street Racing in Helsinki," Annals of the American
Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 595, (Sep.,
2004), pp. 91-107.
VIII. What determines the allocation of people (or other
relevant unit) within a positional system of inequality?
This issue includes questions commonly addressed in
the literatures on social mobility and status attainment (and on
placement within organizations). Positional inequality can be
conceived as the juxtaposition of two systems: first, the structure
of relationships between the positions constituting the system and,
second, the relations between the people who occupy these
positions. The patterns of people's movement among positions both
reflects and influences the relationships among positions, but it
also shows the impact of impinging status inequalities. More or
less independent of its occupants, a system of positional
inequality has a static "structure" characterized by the direct
relationships of authority and dependence between positions; the
ranking of positions according to the rewards, authority,
opportunities, and statuses attached to them; and the demographic
profile defined by the number of positions of each type.
Positional inequality systems also have dynamic structures defined
by the movement of people through them, both within careers and
between generations. These two components of structure are linked
by the selection processes controlling access to positions.
Analytical task: How does a system of positional
- Depending on whether you are studying a type of positional
inequality or a type of status inequality, you will approach
this issue from different directions.
- If you are studying a
positional inequality, you can focus on the relationships among
the locations within it and how people move through those
- If you are studying a type of status inequality, you will
want to consider how the distinction between the status groups
influences their access to locations within a system of positional
inequality and what that means. To begin, choose a prominent system of
positional inequality that plays a significant role in the persistence
of the status inequality you are studying. For this task, focus
on that positional system of inequality.
- Begin by specifying the relevant system of positional
- Describe the overall structure of
positions, assessing the differential characteristics attached
to the positions (rewards, authority, visibility, etc.) and the
relationships between the positions.
- Consider the simple demographics of the system (how many
positions exist at each level).
- In you can, describe how did the existing configuration of positions come into
- For this system of positional inequality, try to describe the "normal" pathways of
movement into and between positions.
- What are the initial entry points, the positions that
take people who have not previously been in the system? If
these entry point positions are themselves unequal,
- How are they unequal?
- What determines who gets in which ones?
- Who controls the allocation process of the initial
positions (directly and indirectly)?
- What is the pattern of movement among positions within
- To what degree does selectivity operate (the
- Consider if lateral movement among positions is
relevant to hierarchical movement.
- Is there significant downward movement as well as
upward in the positional hierarchy? If so, remember to
examine downward as well as upward for all issues about
movement among positions.
- What appears to decide who moves up into more desirable
positions (or down)?
- Is the determining process fairly consistent across
positions or does it vary by how high or in what sector
the position appears?
- who has decision-making power?
- how standardized or impartial is the process (note
that impartiality can be the result of self-conscious
efforts to eliminate bias or inappropriate criteria or it
can be the result of an uncontrolled process that is
inherently unbiased (as some would suggest for market
- How is the position-allocation process ideologically
- particularly consider ideological constructs that
reinforce,obfuscate, legitimate, or challenge the
- how are "success" and "failure" conceived (as moral and
- are there competing ideological formulations of what
causes success and failure?
- How is this system of positional inequality related to systems of status inequality? If
this system of positional inequality is your inequality concentration,
then a brief overview of relationships to relevant systems of status
inequality is appropriate. If your concentration is a
system of status inequality, this part can be an extensive analysis of
the interpenetration and mutual influence between this system of
positional inequality and your concentration system of status
- Consider both why the systems of inequality have these relationships (between the positional and status systems) and how they work.
- While trying to make sense of the relationship between the
two types of systems, it may help to consider conditions under which
they do not work together or become inconsistent. Why might the system
of positional inequality treat some individuals in a manner
inconsistent with their standing in the system of status
inequality? Why might parts or even most of the system of
positional inequality generally ignore the system of status inequality
because of prevailing conditions or needs?
- 50-+- Peter M. Blau and Otis Dudley Duncan, with the
collaboration of Andrea Tyree -- The Process of
- 51 -+- Christopher Jencks, Marshall Smith, Henry Arland,
Mary Jo Bane, David Cohen, Herbert Gintis, Barbara Heyns, and
Stephan Michelson -- Inequality: A Reassessment of the Effect of
Family and Schooling in America 498
- 54 -+- Jay MacLeod -- Ain't No Makin' It: Leveled
Aspirations in a Low-Income Neighborhood 528
- 45 -+- Ralph H. Turner -- Sponsored and Contest Mobility and
the School System 420
- 56 -+- Michael J. Piore -- The Dual Labor Market: Theory and
- 38 -+- Douglas S. Massey and Nancy A. Denton -- American
Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass 349
[85 -+- Jerry A. Jacobs -- Revolving
Doors: Sex Segregation and Women's Careers 797
86 -+- Barbara F. Reskin -- Labor
Markets as Queues: A Structural Approach to Changing
Occupational Sex Composition 802 ]
- Hout, Michael and Thomas A. DiPrete. 2006.
What Have We Learned? RC28s
Contribution to Knowledge About Social Stratification.
Research on Social Stratification
and Mobility 24: 1-20.
- 52 -+- David J. Harding, Christopher Jencks, Leonard M.
Lopoo, and Susan E. Mayer -- Family Background and Income in
Adulthood, 1961-1999 505
- 49-+- Gary Solon -- Intergenerational Income Mobility
- 55 -+- Stephen L Morgan -- A New Social Psychological Model
of Educational Attainment 542
- 64 -+- Richard Breen and John H.-Goldthorpe -- Explaining
Educational Differentials: Towards a Formal Rational Action
- Thomas J. Dohmen, Ben Kriechel and Gerard A. Pfann;
Bars and Ladders: The Importance of Lateral and Vertical Job
Mobility in Internal Labor Market Careers"; Journal of
Population Economics, Vol. 17, No. 2 (Jun., 2004), pp. 193-228
- Joseph P. Ferrie; "History
Lessons: The End of American Exceptionalism? Mobility in the
United States since 1850"; The Journal of Economic
Perspectives, Vol. 19, No. 3 (Summer, 2005), pp.
Classes in an Ethnically Homogeneous Environment." In
Imperialism and Social Classes. (read through the first
section of "Summary and Conclusions", -+-20-+-ignore the last
few pages) [a brilliant, albeit flawed, analysis of
- Rachel A. Rosenfeld "Job
Mobility and Career Processes"; Annual Review of
Sociology, Vol. 18, (1992), pp. 39-61
- Robert P. Althauser; "Internal
Labor Markets"; Annual Review of Sociology, Vol. 15,
(1989), pp. 143-161
- 46-+- David L. Featherman and Robert M. Hauser -- A Refined
Model of Occupational Mobility 426
- 48 -+- Richard Breen -- Social Mobility in Europe 465
- 53-+- 'William H. Sewell, Archibald 0. Haller, and
Alejandro Portes -- The Educational and Early Occupational
Attainment Process 516
- 57 -+- Aage B. S-+-rensen and Arne L Kalleberg -- An
Outline of a Theory of the Matching of Persons to Jobs 553
- 58 -+- Arne L. Kalleberg -- Nonstandard Employment
Relations and Labour Market Inequality: Cross-national
- 59 -+- Mark S. Granovetter -- The Strength of Weak Ties
- 60 -+- Nan Lin -- Social Networks and Status Attainment
- 61 -+- Ronald S. Burt -- Structural Holes 583
- 62 -+- Roberto M. Fernandez and Isabel Fernandez-Mateo --
Networks, Race, and Hiring 587
- 63 -+- Dalton Conley -- What Do Low (or High) Sibling
Correlations Tell Us About Social Ascription? 596
- Robert Gibbons, Michael Waldman; "A
Theory of Wage and Promotion Dynamics Inside Firms;"
Quarterly Journal of Economics November 1999, Vol. 114,
No. 4: 1321-+-1358.
IX. How should we conceive interests in the analysis of
Almost everyone analyzing any system of inequality refers
to "interests" sooner or later, even authors who emphasize cultural
or normative explanations. Yet, interests usually receive casual,
unsystematic treatment. This casual reliance on interests builds
on two simple assumptions: (1) a range of relevant potential
actions and events will have differential consequences for people
depending on their location in a system of inequality and (2)
anticipation or past experiences of these consequences will
influence peoples' actions. From this starting point the
considerations of interests take many routes, considering objective
and subjective interests, individual versus collective interests,
realistic compared to misconceived interests, consistent versus
inconsistent interests, contradictory and ambiguous interests, and
so on. Simply put, every theory of inequality relies on a theory
of interests (even if a negative theory).
Analytical task: Interests
- For the inequality you are studying, list the most
important ways that the "objective" interests of the advantaged
are at odds with those of the disadvantaged.
list the most important ways that the "objective" interests of the
advantaged people or groups converge with those of the disadvantaged.
Here we are concerned with interests relative to conditions or
practices that have a wide spread influence, usually where both the
advantaged and disadvantaged are exposed to common effects. For
example, potentially a shared interest between officials of an
autocratic government and the citizenry in maintaining public peace
would be relevant, but parallel or similar interests in being healthy
would not. Similarly, the employers and workers in a corporation
may have divided interests about the distribution of the company's
income, but they have convergent interests in the corporation being
- When and where do "objective" individual
interests seem to contradict "objective" collective interests?
What consequences do these contradictions have? (E.g., it is
generally in students' collective interest that professors grade all
students the same way, but a tall, pretty boy has an individual
interest in biased grading if a professor favors tall, pretty boys.)
- In what important ways do people's conceived
interests diverge from their objective interests? (A classic
example occurs when members of a group, such as the working class,
believe their interests are best served by a political party that is
actually committed to policies that threaten their interests, such as
those typically associated with Republicans.) What seems to
account for the disjunctions? (Consider both the advantaged and
- If you have the time for more...
institutional and cultural processes or arrangements seem to influence
the emergence of common interests based on the inequalities you are
studying? E.g., the aged or young adults may have a strong,
self-conscious sense of common interests under some circumstances but
at other times not recognize possible shared interests.; what
determines when they do see their concerns as common interests?
- Thinking about interests not as an individual experiences
them, but as they are produced and sustained by the system of
inequality, how would you characterize the important
interests of the advantaged and the disadvantaged in your
example(s) in terms of their clarity, consistency, extremity,
and the like?
- Richard Swedberg; "Can
There Be a Sociological Concept of Interest?"; Theory and
Society, vol. 34, no. 4, pp. 359-390, Aug 2005
- Robert Max Jackson, The Formation of Craft labor
on interest formation among workers and employers: 33-39,
72-77, 83-104, 182-185, 288-290, 300-301, 329-331.
- Robert Max Jackson, Destined for Equality, excerpts on
interests in general (264-68), women's vs. men's (175-79),
men's changing (221-231), and those of the state & powerful
men (44-46, 67-70, 231-6)
- 78 -+- Lisa Belkin -- The Opt-Out Revolution 735
- Wikipedia, "Prisoner's
- James Madison, The
Federalist No. 10 ("The Utility of the Union as a
Safeguard Against Domestic Faction and Insurrection
[continued]") & The
Federalist No. 51 ("The Structure of the Government
Must Furnish the Proper Checks and Balances Between the
- Johan Heilbron;
Interest: History of the Concept, International
Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, 2004,
- Catherine I. Bolzendahl, Daniel J. Myers; "Feminist
Attitudes and Support for Gender Equality: Opinion Change in
Women and Men, 1974-1998"; Social Forces, Vol. 83,
No. 2 (Dec., 2004), pp. 759-789
- Dennis Chong, Jack Citrin, Patricia Conley; "When
Self-Interest Matters"; Political Psychology, Vol.
22, No. 3 (Sep., 2001), pp. 541-570
- Mustafa Emirbayer, Ann Mische; "What
Is Agency?"; The American Journal of Sociology, Vol.
103, No. 4 (Jan., 1998), pp. 962-1023 [read quickly--to
read slowly is to risk calcification of the intellect]
- J. A. W. Gunn; "'Interest
Will Not Lie': A Seventeenth-Century Political Maxim";
Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 29, No. 4 (Oct. -
Dec., 1968), pp. 551-564
- Aage B. Sorensen; The "Structural
Basis of Social Inequality" The American Journal of
Sociology, Vol. 101, No. 5 (Mar., 1996), pp. 1333-1365
- Franz Traxler; "Business
Associations and Labor Unions in Comparison: Theoretical
Perspectives and Empirical Findings on Social Class, Collective
Action and Associational Organizability"; The British
Journal of Sociology, Vol. 44, No. 4 (Dec., 1993), pp.
- 79 -+- Heather Boushey -- Is the Opt-Out Hypothesis
- Erik Olin Wright; "Working-Class
Power, Capitalist-Class Interests, and Class
Compromise"; The American Journal of Sociology, Vol.
105, No. 4 (Jan., 2000), pp. 957-1002
- Dennis Chong; "Values
versus Interests in the Explanation of Social Conflict";
University of Pennsylvania Law Review, Vol. 144, No. 5
(May, 1996), pp. 2079-2134
X. How does resistance by subordinate groups work?
People do not enjoy the lower status, fewer rewards, subjection
to authority, and other disadvantages attached to being at the
lower end of a system of inequality. This may result in anything
between a mild, occasional resentment and a continuous, burning
hatred with their fate. Fear, identification with the system,
search for praise from those above, or hope for personal
advancement may induce some to conform as much as possible with the
expectations of the advantaged. Still, wherever inequality exists,
Analytical task: Resistance
- For your example of inequality, how do the disadvantaged
- While identifying resistance, consider
- everyday, commonly repeated actions of the disadvantaged
- unusual, more extreme individual actions by some
- collective or organized forms of resistance
- What conditions, rules, processes, and actions limit
resistance? To recognize these obstacles, consider why the
identified forms of resistance are not more common, more
extreme, or more effective?
XI. What are the bases of actions that secure dominance over
From those enjoying the most privileged positions to those
suffering the most disadvantages, people may believe that the
system of inequality that divides them reflects the elusively
differential favor of the gods, the cruel fate of nature's uneven
treatment, or a simple reflection of people's efforts. In truth,
systems of inequality require work to keep them going, particularly
the efforts of those in superior positions to preserve the shape of
the system and their positions within it. We cannot hope to grasp
the logic of a system of inequality until we understand what this
work is and how it gets done.
Analytical task: How and why do advantaged people act
in ways that (1) preserve their advantages and (2) preserve the
system of inequality that gives them advantages?
- For the inequality you are studying, try to list the kinds
of actions by advantaged people that seem to occur consistently
and seem to reinforce their advantages. In doing this consider
(among other things):
- How advantaged people treat disadvantaged people in
direct interactions; the relevant comparisons are with the
ways the advantaged relate to each other and the ways the
disadvantaged relate to each other.
- How advantaged people have different kinds of
relationships with others who, like them, have advantages
than with disadvantaged people
- How simply using their advantages might reinforce the
privileges of advantaged people, though actions that are not
aimed at disadvantaged people or at sustaining the inequality
- How advantaged people respond if one of them is
challenged by a disadvantaged person.
- "Challenges" can take many forms. A member of a
subordinate group may simply refuse to show "proper"
deference, as when a lower caste person does not step
aside, a black woman does not go to her place in the rear
of a bus, or a member of the secretarial pool addresses
managers by their first name just as they do her. Someone
with lower standing may adopt the dress or mannerisms of
those with higher standing, or attempt to move into their
neighborhoods or schools. More directly, someone with
lower standing may reject and defy efforts to exercise
authority by those "above" them. And so forth ....
- How advantaged people exercise power in government, over
laws, or in the economy in ways that benefit those with
- How do advantaged people respond if there is a collective
challenge to the system of inequality in which they have
- And if you have time...
- Looking over the range of actions you identify as
relevant above, can they usefully be categorized into those
that mainly benefit an individual's status and those that
mainly help sustain the system of inequality?
- What within the system of inequality seems to organize
and ensure the actions that sustain it? For example, in the
simplest conceivable system of inequality, we might find the
only mechanism is the interests of those in dominance--they
individually act on those interests in a manner unmediated
by ideology, norms, relationships with others in the dominant
group, laws, organizational processes, or anything else.
More complex systems involve mechanisms that induce these
actions, giving individuals motivation, direction, and
support. Looking at the range of actions identified as
relevant, what stand out as the mechanisms that make such
actions consistent and effective?
- What seem to be important limitations on the actions that
secure dominance? How are these actions constrained by laws,
norms, ideology, resources, or the like? What conditions or
potentials for the future might cause the actions to lose
enthusiasm or effectiveness?
- 29 -+- C. Wright Mills -- The Power Elite 275
- 75 Melvin Oliver and Thomas M. Shapiro -- Black Wealth/White
Wealth: A New Perspective on Racial Inequality . . . .709
- Michael Schwalbe; "The
Elements of Inequality"; Contemporary Sociology, vol.
29, no. 6, pp. 775-781, Nov 2000
- 28 -+- Gaetano Mosca -- The Ruling Class 268
- 70-+- Marianne Bertrand and Sendhil Mullainathan -- Are
Emily and Greg More Employable Than Lakisha and Jamal? A Field
Experiment on Labor Market Discrimination 673
- 45 -+- Ralph H. Turner -- Sponsored and Contest Mobility
and the School System 420
- 74-+- Joe R. Feagin -- The Continuing Significance of Race:
Antiblack Discrimination in Public Places 703
- 34 -+- Gil Eyal, Ivan Szelenyi, and Eleanor Townsley --
Post-Communist Managerialism . . .311
- Nicholas Petryszak; "The
Dynamics of Acquiescence in South Africa"; African
Affairs, Vol. 75, No. 301 (Oct., 1976), pp. 444-462
- 18 -+- Kim A. Weeden -- Occupational Closure and Earnings
- 71 -+- Claude Steele -- Stereotype Threat and
African-American Student Achievement . . .678
- Erik Olin Wright; "Metatheoretical
Foundations of Charles Tilly's Durable Inequality;"
Comparative Studies in Society and History, Vol. 42, No.
2 (Apr., 2000), pp. 458-474 [For our immediate purposes, read
this mainly to understand what Tilly was doing in Durable
Inequality. The following two short pieces by Tilly convey
his point of view.]
- Charles Tilly; "Changing
Forms of Inequality"; Sociological Theory, Vol. 21,
No. 1 (Mar., 2003), pp. 31-36
- Charles Tilly; "Relational
Studies of Inequality"; Contemporary Sociology, Vol.
29, No. 6 (Nov., 2000), pp. 782-785
- Barbara F. Reskin; "Including
Mechanisms in Our Models of Ascriptive Inequality";
American Sociological Review, Vol. 68, No. 1 (Feb.,
2003), pp. 1-21
XII. What induces reducing or overcoming inequalities?
Inequality systems do not only have causes that bring them into
existence and causes that preserve them, they also have causes that
potentially reduce or eliminate them.
Analytical task: Declining inequalities
- In what ways did those involved in the inequality you are
studying actively promote or resist its decline? Were there
direct clashes over the competing interests of those advantaged
and those disadvantaged? If so, what were there causes and
- Were there any independent changes in the circumstances of
the advantaged people that plausibly diminished their will or
ability to sustain the pattern of inequality?
- Have there been changes in structural conditions, such as
economic organization, technology (communication, birth
control, etc.), or other seemingly independent conditions that
have challenged the persistence or strength of the
- 47-+- Robert Erikson and John H. Goldthorpe -- Trends in
Class Mobility: The Post-War European Experience ....437
- 68-+- Alejandro Portes and Min Zhou -- The New Second
Generation: Segmented Assimilation and Its Variants 658
- 91 -+- Francine D. Blau and Lawrence M. Kahn -- The Gender
Pay Gap: Have Women Gone as Far as They Can? 843
- Robert Max Jackson; "Opposing Forces: How,
Why, and When Will Gender Inequality Disappear?"; in
Declining Significance of Gender; eds. Francine D. Blau,
Mary C. Brinton, David B. Grusky; 2006.
- Jens Beckert; "The
Longue Dur-+-e of Inheritance Law. Discourses and
Institutional Development in France, Germany, and the United
States since 1800"; Archives Europeennes de
Sociologie/European Journal of Sociology, vol. 48, no. 1,
pp. 79-120, 2007 [This contains the central argument of the
book that is discussed in the symposium listed next.]
- Anne Alstott, Marion Fourcade, and Philippe Steiner;
Symposium on Jens Beckert Inherited Wealth. Princeton,
Princeton University Press, 2008"; Socio-Economic
Review 2009 7: 145-159
XIV. What causes inequality?
Perhaps the most fundamental question about inequalities, and
sometimes seeming the most illusive to answer, is the misleadingly
simple question, what causes inequality? While no general, all
embracing answer is possible (at this time), progress in
understanding inequality demands that we continually try to improve
our analyses of the causes. Any effort to do this must consider
different forms of causation that are possible.
Analytical task: The causes of inequalities. This
task obviously builds on all that has come before.
- For the kinds of inequality you are studying, choose one
instance or circumstance that has low inequality and another
that has high inequality.
- Comparing the instances of high inequality with those of
low inequality, construct a series of hypotheses about about
the possible causes of high inequality. Among other things to
think about, you might consider:
- the origins of each example of inequality
- the history of changes in levels of inequality (if
applicable and known)
- legal contexts
- ideological and cultural contexts
- relationships to other forms of inequality
- direct relationships between those advantaged and those
disadvantaged by the inequality
- how individuals' statuses are decided
- Consider to what degree the origins or the persistence of
the inequality is explained by the outcomes of self-interested
actions of individuals and organizations.
- Consider to what degree the origins or the persistence of
the inequality is explained by its functional and structural
relationships to important social arrangements or "needs."
- Consider to what degree the origins or the persistence of
the inequality is explained by some competitive processes.
- Try to be self-conscious about the comparisons being made,
implicit or explicit, and what alternatives might be possible.
- Try not to forget that inequality induces and part of its
explanation lies in the processes, conditions, and structures
that limit resistance's effectiveness
- [no common readings this week]
- 2 -+- Kingsley Davis and Wilbert E. Moore -- Some
Principles of Stratification 30
- 8 -+- Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez -- The Evolution of
Top Incomes: A Historical and International Perspective 67
- 19 -+- Peter M. Blau and Otis Dudley Duncan, with the
collaboration of Andrea Tyree -- Measuring the Status of
- 20 -+- Donald J. Treiman -- Occupational Prestige in
Comparative Perspective 191
- 72 -+- Devah Pager -- Marked: Race, Crime, and Finding Work
in an Era of Mass Incarceration 683
- 82 -+- Barbara F. Reskin -- Rethinking Employment
Discrimination and Its Remedies . . 770
- Roger V. Gould; "The
Origins of Status Hierarchies: A Formal Theory and Empirical
Test"; The American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 107,
No. 5 (Mar., 2002), pp. 1143-1178
- Peter M. Blau; "The
Hierarchy of Authority in Organizations"; The American
Journal of Sociology, Vol. 73, No. 4 (Jan., 1968), pp.
- W. Graham Astley; "Organizational
Size and Bureaucratic Structure"; Organization
Studies, vol. 6, no. 3, pp. 201-228, 1985
- Jos C. N. Raadschelders; "Size
and Organizational Differentiation in Historical
Perspective"; Journal of Public Administration Research
and Theory: J-PART, Vol. 7, No. 3 (Jul., 1997), pp. 419-441
- Kathryn M. Neckerman and Florencia Torche. "Inequality:
Causes and Consequences" Annu. Rev. Sociol. 2007. 33:
- Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez. "Income
Inequality in the United States, 1913-1998." The
Quarterly Journal of Economics Vol. 118, No. 1 (Feb.,
2003), pp. 1-39