|Kevin T. Liecht, ed. Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, volume 16. Stamford: JAI Press, 1998, 376 pp. npl Cloth.
This latest edition of the JAI series in stratification and mobility continues the tradition of collecting together high quality work in one of the central areas of sociology. The thirteen articles are grouped into three main categories: the changing international context of social stratification; race, immigration and life chances, and; the distinctiveness of independent business as a locus of social stratification. Most of the articles are rigourously quantitative, as is characteristic of both this field of research and this series.
The first section on international stratification contains five articles which focus on stratification patterns in Europe, China, Taiwan, Israel, Nigeria and Australia. Morgan and Morgan begin the section by trying to explain an overall decline in the rates of return to education in Nigeria, and why people continued to stay in the high education, public sector despite a 60% decrease in real earnings between 1974 and 1992. They argue that it is not simply that the educated class has a distaste for physical and non-intellectual work, but rather that strong kinship and patron/client relationships in Nigeria reinforce the embeddedness of people in wider social networks. Educated people stay in low paying jobs because they bring prestige to the family unit, while others who work in the higher paying, less prestigious private sector can be counted on to provide income.
Broaded then addresses educational stratification in China and Taiwan, showing that gender equality in educational attainment is patterned by different structures in the two countries. He shows that, contrary to expectations, gender equality is greater in capitalist Taiwan than in socialist/communist China, although his non-random data collection procedures casts some doubt on the validity of his inferences. Haberfeld and Cohen then examine how earnings for Jewish and Arab men changed between 1987 and 1993 in Israel. They show that earnings gaps between these groups are not just related to productivity, and they speculate that Arabs have recently been able to close the gap with western Jews because of a relative shortage of Arab labour brought on by the removal of Arabs from the Occupied Territories.
Charles investigates sex segregation in nine European countries and argues that the level of segregation in a country is a product of the conflict between gender-egalitarian cultural norms (decreases segregation) and the level of post-industrialism (increases segregation). However, some of the variables used in the models are questionable (such as the percentage of the labour force in 1990 who are employees as a measure of post-industrialism), which casts some doubt on the findings. Western then looks at the effects of class biography on class consciousness, and he shows that the more inclusive notion of class biography is a better predictor of class consciousness than the more limited idea of class location.
In the second section, Catanzarite investigates the earnings penalties for Latinos and black men in comparison with white men in Los Angeles. Her results contradict most of the literature on this topic and she demonstrates a significant negative effect of the percentage of immigrant Latinos in an occupation on the earnings of other men in an occupation. She also shows that over time, white men have been able to insulate themselves from this penalty. At the end, she over-generalizes her results to the entire United States. Kposowa and Preston then examine the determinants of low and very low birth weights between black and white mothers, concluding that racism remains an important cause of lower birth weights for the former. Sakamoto, Jiu and Tzeng then show that Wilsons declining significance of race thesis seems to apply to Chinese and Japanese American men in comparison with their white counterparts.
The paper by Coverdill does not deal with race or immigration but with life chances. He argues that the way a person gets a job (personal contacts versus impersonal applications) affects how they will perform and how well they are paid on the job. Although his analyses do not address directly the mechanisms by which personal contacts affect outcomes, the results do suggest that network participants, and not just network structures are an important factor in determining job outcomes. The final paper in the section by Waight shows that income inequalities in paid employment persist after retirement, but the gaps tend to narrow between the haves and the have-nots. What is interesting about this paper is that it shows that women and blacks do not experience the same returns to their workforce characteristics as white men, suggesting that it is not simply labour force attainments which determine post retirement incomes.
The final section on independent business is a welcome change in the stratification literature which tends to focus almost exclusively on employees. The three papers in this section address different processes within the self-employed sector. Aldrich, Renzulli and Langton investigate whether self-employed parents pass on different kinds of resources to their children. They find no support for the idea that the children of self-employed parents have higher rates of self-employment themselves because they acquire the financial capital to run a business from their parents. They argue instead that what self-employed parents pass to their children is entrepreneurial capital (exposure to self-employment in childhood, working in a family business, etc.). Unfortunately, some severe data limitations do not allow them to adequately investigate this possibility.
McCrary then examines race and sex differences in self-employment success by deriving hypotheses about stratification from the paid labour force and testing them on the self-employed. He finds that status composition processes work similarly in the two sectors, but that the differential effects of race and sex are less predictable across the sectors. Finally, Bills addresses the much-neglected sector of franchises, showing that franchisees definitely think of themselves as self-employed, and are attracted to franchising because it offers some of the supposed benefits of self-employment (work autonomy, being a boss, etc.). Bills interview data also reveal that franchisees do not view their work as dependent self-employment because they argue that franchisors provide only background support rather than day-to-day involvement in the business.
Overall, the papers in this collection are high quality pieces which are well written and address important debates in the stratification literature. And while no single volume can be a complete representation of a field, the editor has done a good job of compiling an important collection of readings. Readers will find many points to debate, as well as some provocative claims in several of the articles, which makes this book more important for stratification researchers, rather than less important. The one drawback of the book is an astonishing number of typographic errors (ten in the editors introduction alone, as well as several in the articles by Western and Catanzarite, many of which would have been caught by a spell-checker) which mar an otherwise useful and important contribution.
Sociology and Anthropology
Wilfrid Laurier University