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Journal Articles British Journal of Sociology Year : 2021

The case for studying the intergenerational transmission of social (dis)advantage: A reply to Gary Marks

Abstract

Our article “Understanding the mobility chances of children from working‐class backgrounds in Britain: How important are cognitive ability and locus of control?” examines the role of cognitive ability and peoples’ sense of control over their lives in mediating the effects of individuals’ social background on their educational attainment and on their labor market position (Betthäuser et al., 2020a). The article takes as its starting point the persistent view in both academic and policy circles that most of the differences in the educational attainment and labor market success between individuals from different socio‐economic backgrounds are due to differences in cognitive ability between them (see e.g., Marks, 2014; Murray, 2012). Using data from the 1970 British Birth Cohort Study, we find that cognitive ability mediates a non‐negligible yet limited amount of the effect of individuals’ social background on their educational attainment (about 35%) and their labor market position (about 20%). This means that about 65% of the effect of individuals’ social background on their educational attainment, and about 80% of the effect on their labor market position, is channeled by factors other than cognitive ability. Contradicting the claims by Murray (2012), Marks (2014), and others, this finding highlights that the intergenerational reproduction of social (dis)advantage that prevails in even the most developed societies is deeply unmeritocratic and unfair. Consequently, we see an urgent need for researchers to identify and for policy makers to address the channels through which individuals’ parental class background shapes their life chances, above and beyond its effects on individuals’ cognitive ability. [First paragraph]

Dates and versions

hal-03699660 , version 1 (20-06-2022)

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Attribution - NonCommercial - NoDerivatives

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Bastian Betthäuser, Erzsébet Bukodi, Mollie Bourne. The case for studying the intergenerational transmission of social (dis)advantage: A reply to Gary Marks. British Journal of Sociology, 2021, 72, pp.233-238. ⟨10.1111/1468-4446.12813⟩. ⟨hal-03699660⟩

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