What is a ‘Good’ Job? Cultural Logics of Occupational Prestige
Symbolic valuation is an important but overlooked way that inequality is reproduced in the occupational structure. While much research has been devoted to the causes and consequences of material valuation of occupations (especially pay), this overemphasis on class has neglected status. Sociologists have traditionally measured status through occupational prestige scores. This dissertation challenges two longstanding assumptions about occupational prestige that have characterized the inequality and stratification literature: (1) that prestige is solely a function of material factors, like how much a job pays or how much education or training is required to perform the job, and (2) that everyone views the occupational status hierarchy the same way.
To do this, the dissertation draws upon a new data source that contains information about occupational prestige judgments and the people making those judgments, as well as information about the occupations. It combines data from the 2012 General Social Survey and with federal administrative data from sources such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics. By taking a culture and cognition approach, the three studies comprising this dissertation examine the underlying factors that influence how people make judgments about what makes a “good” job.
The first study focuses on the role of gender, and finds that people grant a “segregation premium” which rewards the gender segregation of jobs with occupational prestige – whether they are male or female. The second study focuses on the role of race, and finds that people perceive jobs with a higher proportion of whites as more prestigious, although this pattern is primarily driven by non-Black raters and raters with a college degree. The third and final study uses an inductive approach to assess heterogeneity in the ways people construct the status hierarchy (“logics” of occupational prestige). It finds evidence for four distinct logics of occupational prestige, and demonstrates that the particular logic a person uses depends on their own social position.
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