Inequality Generating Process in Longitudinal Perspective: Educational Transitions and Occupational Trajectories in Three Mexican Cohorts (1950-2011)

Research Project (to be discussed at the Winter Academy) by Nicolás Brunet.

Nicolás Brunet is a sociologist at the Centre of Sociological Studies, El Colegio de México. He is currently pursuing his PhD with a focus on inequality generating processes in a longitudinal perspective, both at educational and occupational transitions.

Past generations of stratification and social mobility studies have concentrated only on comparative examinations of mobility rates and mobility tables between countries. They have provided a comparative portrait of distinct mobility regimes linked to socioeconomic and industrial development degrees, as well as historical change of occupational patterns throughout different cohorts. In view of the fact that they work on a societal level, little insights were given on the individual level of job/status attainment. In addition, by mixing individuals of different ages, sociodemographic and occupational experiences, classical studies usually have arrived at an unrealistic and without-context picture of the individual level. Notwithstanding the importance of that task, the inequality generating process has remained a “black box”. This project suggests that combining the stratification and social mobility tradition with a life course perspective (LCP) could help us to tackle some of those “black box” restrictions. Thus, the aim of this research is the comparative analysis of trajectories of three Mexican birth cohorts (1951-53; 1966-68 and 1978-80), throughout school inequalities, occupational chances and social roles competition at different institutional and social settings and opportunities. By multilevel life event modeling techniques, this project looks at stratification trajectories, based on family background tradition, but also, by using an interlocking careers perspective. Contributing to a “connected” portrait of life course stratification logic, it also explores evidence of “cumulative advantages” versus “age-transitional” lifetime processes. At the individual level, it uses longitudinal retrospective information provided by “Encuesta Demográfica Retrospectiva” (EDER 2011) at the national level. To set up institutional and social settings, it uses data of General Population, Household and Housing Census (1960, 1970, 1990, 2000 y 2010) provided by IPUMS International Project.

I.                   Introduction

Past generations of stratification and social mobility studies has almost concentrated only on comparative exam of mobility rates and mobility tables between countries. They have provided a comparative portrait of distinct mobility regimes linked to socioeconomic and industrial development degrees, as well as historical change of occupational patterns throughout different cohorts. In view of the fact that they work on a societal level, little insights were given on the individual level of job/status attainment. In addition, by mixing individuals of different ages, sociodemographic and occupational experiences, classical studies usually have arrived to unrealistic and without-context picture at the individual level. Regardless the importance of that task, the inequality generating process remained as a “black box”. This project suggests that combining stratification and social mobility tradition with a life course perspective (LCP) could help us to tackle some of those “black box” restrictions. Thus, the aim of this research is the comparative analysis of trajectories of three Mexican birth cohorts (1951-53; 1966-68 and 1978-80), throughout school inequalities, occupational chances and social roles competition at different institutional and social settings and opportunities. By multilevel life event modeling techniques, I look at stratification trajectories, based on family background tradition, but also, by using an interlocking careers perspective. Contributing to a “connected” portrait of life course stratification logic, I also explore evidence of “cumulative advantages” versus “age-transitional” lifetime processes. At the individual level, I use longitudinal retrospective information provided by “Encuesta Demográfica Retrospectiva” (EDER 2011) at national level. To set up institutional and social settings, I use data of General Population, Household and Housing Census (1960, 1970, 1990, 2000 y 2010) provided by IPUMS International Project.

This document has been organized in six sections. Section II introduces the main background of stratification and mobility tradition, and the analytical framework that I will use to characterize stratification trajectories with a LCP. Sections III and IV put the main explanatory factors and research questions, as well as specific research procedures to cope with. In section V and VI, research goals and research strategy will be defined.

 II.                Analytical framework

In the late nineties, Mexican and Latin American studies on mobility and social stratification process have recovered their lost impulse. However, new research has put his major effort into comparative analysis of mobility patterns, without focus in mezzo and micro processes of intergenerational transmission of social inequality. Regardless the importance of examining mobility tables in order to assess the fluidity of different (temporal and spatial) stratification regimes, this analytical strategy face three key restrictions (Blossfeld, Hamerle y Mayer, 2003: 212). First, the inequality generating process remained as a “black box”, so that; an intrinsically rich process of attainment remains unclear and poorly identified. Second, given the high heterogeneous composition of individuals (different ages, sociodemographic and occupational experiences) the main task of interpretation of results became a difficult issue. Finally, studies usually have arrived to unrealistic and without-context picture on the individual level. Then, move towards a “four generation” mobility studies (Treiman y Ganzeboom, 2000) still remain as an important assignment to the Latin American research. At least, a “four generation” study required taking into account ecological, institutional, geographical or spatial condition in which individual social attainment –educational or occupational- process occurs. The project suggests that combining stratification and social mobility frame with a LCP could help us to tackle those three major “black box” limitations. First of all, LCP allows us to go beyond the traditional two point frame view (origins-destinations), and get a genuine longitudinal trajectory. Secondly, by introducing a set of individual “mediator” micro factors, we have a great opportunity to enrich the analysis and, at the same time, increase our control of the inequality generating process. Third, we could also introduce social settings and economic opportunities as macro factors, and doing this, we enrich the LCP from its own “temporal” and “historical” principles.

Precisely, the aim of this project is to analyze the stratification process from a LCP using longitudinal data (EDER 2011) based on educational and occupational transitions and trajectories. The project focuses on three main stages of the inequality generating process:

  • Educational trajectory
  • School-to-work transition
  • Job shifts

The main purpose of this strategy is threefold. The first objective is to assess the magnitude of inequality in every single stage. The second task is to explore main explanatory factors based on family background tradition (social origins); but also, by using an interlocking careers perspective. In particular, interactions between educational, labour and family roles conflict, with specific consideration of gender differences. Finally, I will try to seek evidence of pervasive “cumulative advantages” mechanisms, versus “age-transitional” processes embedded in specific age stages of the life course.

 III.              Explanatory factors

In the last forty years, stratification and mobility literature has reached well establish theoretical agreements (Hout y DiPrete, 2003). Nevertheless, four levels of explanatory factors stand out as principals.

Age and duration effects. Obviously, we first assume people’s ages as the major indicator of temporality processes and key “turning points” (Kerckhoff, 2001: 11) built by a LCP of stratification process. The claim is that age patterns of stratification trajectories are social constructs. Therefore, aging effects will be considered beyond its ontogeny sense (Riley, 1986; 1987).

Family background effects. Second, stratification trajectories are rooted in early social origins and family background effects by intergenerational transmission of material and cultural resources (Sewell y Hauser 1975) educational expectations and track placement (Shavit et al, 1990; Elman and O’Rand, 2007) that shape educational and occupational attainments. Family background also predicts timing norms of school leaving and occupational entrance (Solís, 2012; Giorguli, 2011: 140-143). Accordingly to the standard way (Buchmann, 2002), father and mother educational and occupational attainment, in addition to socioeconomic status will be considered as a whole. I will use a Social Origins Index (Solís, 2012) constructed by factor analysis on EDER data.

Life course and interlocking careers effects. Third, stratification trajectories depend on life course effects. Particularly those related to interlocking careers and linked lives. That means that changes at one career domain (educational, occupational etc.) has an important effect in probabilities of change in other career (Kerckhoff, 2002: 251). Even so the increasing female participation in Mexican labour market, gender-based discrimination mechanisms must be kept in mind. Particularly, recurrent interruption of women’s occupational careers and extended economic inactivity periods, due to maternity as well as housewife roles (Ariza and Oliveira 2005, Triano 2010). To assess the effect of role conflict, I will use time-varying variables (“before”, “during” and “after”) of leaving school, first full occupational entrance and marriage as “interlocking coefficients”.

Time and space effects. By time and space life course perspective principles, the project considers whether stratification trajectories might be expected to vary across time and geographic contexts of Mexican history. Here our expectation is to differentiate between “individual” and “historical” time (Alwin and McCammon, 2007) and observe variation throughout Mexican cohorts (Ryder, 1965) and different “social settings” (Treiman, Ganzeboom and Rijken, 2003). Mexican classical studies on stratification have stated that residential area has mayor educational and socialization effects during 5 and 15 years (Balán, Browning y Jelin, 1973, Solís, 2007). Specially, environmental effects of living in urban or rural areas, as well as educational and occupational opportunities at the state level. On one hand, main evidence supports time-dependency patterns of sociodemographic events of interest (school leaving, first labour entrance and marriage patterns) upon locality size. Additionally, Mexican studies have shown supportive evidence of large heterogeneity at regional level, both in educational (Barkin, 1971) and occupational opportunities (Solís, 2007). Accordingly, educational chances -expansion as well as inequality- and occupational structure upgrading -informal and traditional sectors- will be under consideration.

IV.              Research questions

  1. Which are the main characteristics and determinants of stratification trajectories in Mexico?
  2. Which are the main characteristics and determinants of educational trajectories, school-to-work transition, and main occupational shifts?
  3. How does interlocking careers amid different life domain (educational, familiar and occupational) operates in an LCP?
  4. Which are the main differences between age cohorts and genders?

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