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The attainment of socio-economic status in Australia : family background, interests, education, skill and sector of work (PhD)

Adrian Beavis, University of Melbourne

Abstract

The thesis provides an account of the attainment of socio-economic status in Australia. By investigating the attainment of socio-economic status, the research was seeking to understand how occupations of different social standing come to be filled by succeeding generations. Using data taken from national censuses and two Australian studies of work and education, the thesis provides evidence that the world of work is divided into sectors which can be interpreted in terms of the RIASEC typology used to classify generic interests. These sectors are also strongly related to sex composition and the socio-economic status of occupations within them. Using the ideas of Gottfredson, it is argued that young people's interests motivate them to seek occupations in one of these sectors, and it is these same interests which shape their educational choices and career decisions. It is also theorised that the social dimension of socio-economic status can be indexed using the skill levels of occupations. This approach leads to the view that the variables that are important for understanding the attainment of socio-economic status in Australia are: (a) generic interests; (b) the content and level of the education of an individual; (c) the skill level of the occupation they hold, and; (d) the sector of work in which their occupation is located. Entailed in this view is the claim that in Australia socio-economic status is largely achieved and not ascribed. The thesis concludes by noting that generic interests may act as vectors for ascription so the general conclusion that socio-economic status is attained in Australia needs to be treated cautiously. Families may socialise their offspring towards reproducing parental interests. As interest types are associated with different levels of socio-economic status, reproduction of interests may be associated with the reproduction of socio-economic status (and, therefore, its ascription). The thesis also raises the question, unanswered for lack of data, concerning the extent to which schools offer young people the opportunity to develop new interests.

Suggested Citation

Adrian Beavis. "The attainment of socio-economic status in Australia : family background, interests, education, skill and sector of work (PhD)" 2003

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