Please check out the recent publication by OOW member Kevin T. Leicht. 2020. “Occupations and Inequalities in the 21st Century: What’s in Your Wallet?” Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, Online First.
The study of occupations as a locus for social stratification research has a long and distinguished history in sociology. The authors in this issue present different perspectives on the current and future role of occupations as a foundation for inequalities research. This introduction provides a context for understanding how and why occupations became a focus of inequalities research, especially in the Post-World War II English-speaking world. I then discuss some of the economic changes that have led some to question where occupations stand as a vehicle for analyzing social inequality, and then turn to a summary of the contributions to this issue. This summary is framed as a friendly family debate between those who wish to “fix and refurbish” the old reliable occupational perspective and those who think that researchers should “trade in” the old perspective for one focusing on firms and jobs. My review of the contributions to this issue suggests several avenues for future research including (1) new efforts to improve the quality of occupational coding, (2) a renewed focus on local labor markets as a better representation of where most people find employment, (3) an examination of whether occupational structures mattered more for explaining social inequalities in prior historical periods compared to the present, (4) examinations of how and where occupations matter cross-nationally, and finally (5) a renewed focus on units of measurement that people actually carry around with them and spend (dollars, euros, etc.) as opposed to logged earnings and socioeconomic status points. In an age of record high and rising inequality, the core question of social stratification research really comes down to “What’s in your Wallet”?