2016 | Feb
The reproduction of inequality through education in urban space
In capitalist societies, social inequality is reproduced structurally, as the social origin of young people –notwithstanding liberal promises for equal opportunities– still largely determines their route towards the social position they eventually hold. Education, in Western societies at least and in spite of important differences among them, has been a privileged way for social mobility, but at the same time a privileged mechanism through which individuals of varying social origins systematically develop different and unequal aptitudes marking their social trajectories (Moore 2004). Social origin in terms of unequal economic, cultural and social capital remains an important factor in determining the social outcome of the educational process.
The democratisation of education in modern times allowed access to employment and power positions, which previously were hitherto a hereditary privilege. This democratisation was a gradual process that prolonged educational trajectories, increased the average level of education, as well as the participation of representatives from lower social strata in all levels of education (Moore 2004). Thus, social mobility increased but inequality continued to be reproduced systematically, since access to constantly higher educational skills required by the sought-after professional posts remained unequal (Duru-Bellat 2006).
At the same time, education is a mechanism legitimising the socially unequal result it creates, attributing unequal educational performance to unequal personal characteristics of individuals and, primarily, to their unequal abilities and the unequal efforts they have made (Duru-Bellat 2009, Dubet et al. 2010).
The educational strategies of the middle classes were reinforced by educational policies that increased parental choice during the past decades in places where neo-liberal ideas and policies prevailed (Oria et al. 2007). These policies have resulted in an increase in social inequalities (Power et al. 2003, Dubet et al. 2010, Dronkers et al. 2010, Oberti et al. 2012, Merle 2012).
The intensity of family educational strategies and their impact on social inequality are related to the development of the middle classes. Things have significantly changed from the time when the middle class represented a small minority; since the 2nd World War the middle class has been expanding in Western societies, and more recently has been undergoing an intense process of internal diversification.
Capitalist globalisation and the economic restructuring it brought about have intensified social inequalities. In the Western world’s major capitals, this trend has assumed the form of social polarisation (Sassen 1991) while income divergence between higher and lower deciles and percentiles has increased significantly (Hamnett 2003). Inequality has increased less in smaller capitals, where the pressure of globalisation on local job markets is generally more limited. In any case, the predominance of neoliberal social regulation models has freed market mechanisms and their dividing impacts, deepening inequality, while the consequences were more limited in cases marked by some form of resistance against the dismantling of welfare systems (Hamnett 1996).
Traditionally, education has been a privileged field of investment for Greek families, highly connected to the increased social mobility of the post-war period. Many researchers have described the role of education in the reproduction of social inequality during the post-war decades (Lampiri-Dimaki 1974, Tsoukalas 1977, Fragkoudaki 1985, Katsikas & Kavadias 1994, Kontogiannopoulou-Polydoridi 1995, Kasotakis 1996, Panayotopoulos 2000, Sianou-Kyrgiou 2006 & 2008, Hadjiyanni and Valassi 2009, Thanos 2010 & 2012).
The data from the 2001 Population Census were used to highlight an important socio-spatial differentiation in educational performance (Maloutas 2007). More recently, the processing of a large database with the characteristics and the performance of all national university entry exams participants in 2004-2005 in Attica showed the relationship among performance, school and residence area (Maloutas et al. 2013). The importance of private schools , as well as the particularities of the housing market –namely the high rate of home ownership and low housing mobility (Allen et al. 2004)– are key parameters explaining the housing selection strategies developed by middle and upper-middle class households and the impact of those strategies on reproducing social inequalities.
In this paper, the focus is exclusively on the reproduction patterns of class positions for different social groups in Athens. The main issues developed in the following are the social differentiation in the length of educational trajectories; the correlation between the occupational category of parents and children, and the role of the place of residence in reproducing class positions through education and the job market.
Aim and methodology
The paper’s aim is to highlight the trends of social mobility in Athens between 2001-2011, starting after the long and intense post-war mobility had stopped and ending when the current crisis had become apparent. The trends of intergenerational social mobility within that decade become evident when the social position of the parents is compared to that of their children according to the 2001 and 2011 Population Census data.
Large sample surveys are the usual means to examine social mobility and to analyse the intergenerational transitions among occupational categories with the required level of detail. In addition, field research with a fixed sample (panel) is used in order to control changes in these trends over time. Goldthorpe’s (1980) surveys on social mobility in Britain are amongst the most comprehensive and characteristic of the kind.
This paper attempts to identify social mobility patterns using an alternative approach, based on the analysis of detailed data from the 2001 and 2011 Population Census (EKKE-ELSTAT 2015).
This choice is based on the premise that in Athens –as well as in Southern Europe in general– intergenerational cohabitation, a result of the relative delay in the disengagement of young people from the parental home, allows us to trace mobility patterns through the correlation of attributes (occupational and other) of the household’s members, taking into account the position of each person in the nuclear family. Thus, contrary to countries where young people usually leave their parents’ household before they begin their careers, in Southern Europe, their long-term cohabitation allows the detection of social mobility patterns. The long-term intergenerational cohabitation in Southern Europe indirectly offers the possibility to realise such research, provided that the individuals residing with their parents for long periods are not significantly different from same-age peers, an issue analysed below.
The use of Population Census data is obviously faced with limitations. Given those limitations, the paper focuses on:
- Calculating the length of educational trajectories for the age group 15-29 (those born between 1972 and 1987 for the 2001 Census, and between 1982 and 1997 for the 2011 Census) in relation to the social status of the parental household. This shows some preliminary information on inequality in terms of social mobility in the sense that the length of educational trajectories of children appears to correlate with the social status of their parents.
- Correlating the occupational category of those who remain in the parental household and are part of the age group 22-34 (those born between 1967 and 1980 for the 2001 Census and between 1977 and 1990 for the 2011 Census) with the social characteristics of the parental household. In this way, we matched specific occupational positions between parents and children, providing an indirect outlook on social mobility patterns and trends.
- How the place of residence affects social mobility, a question examined through the comparison of mobility patterns and trends of the same social group in places of residence with different social characteristics.
In addition to the key parameter of social status, we examine the role of gender and ethnic group in the formation of social mobility patterns and trends.
The most significant methodology issue in this case concerns the way in which the social character of the parental household is defined. Given the investigative character of this research, we have opted to refer exclusively to the profession of the father .
Young people residing with their parents.
The increasing difficulty young people face in entering the job market and the expansion of social inequalities have led to increased rates of further delays in achieving independence from the parental household. According to research by EUROFOUND, for young people between 18-29 in Europe, cohabitation rates with parents reached 48% in 2011, up from 44% in 2007. Greece is close to the average, with 46% and 37% respectively while for Italy and certain Eastern European countries (Hungary, Slovenia, Lithuania), rates are much higher and increasing at a fast pace (EUROFOUND 2014). The upward trend is also evidenced in countries with traditionally lower rates, such as the United Kingdom, where the rate of cohabitation with parents for children between 20-34 years increased from 21% in 1996 to 26% in 2013 (BBC 2014).
According to the data of the last two Population Censuses, the rate of cohabitation of young individuals between 22-34 years in Athens rose from 35.4% in 2001 to 39.3% in 2011. The increase seems to be mainly due to young unemployed individuals (table 1), though the percentage of working young individuals that live with their parents amounts also to more than 1/3 of their group.
Table 1: Percentage of young individuals between 22-34 years residing in parental households, in relation to their main occupation in Athens.
Figure 1: Percentage of young male and female Greeks living in their parental homes in Athens in 2011.
Cohabitation with parents mainly is higher for men (43.6%) rather than women (34.9%, figure 1) a phenomenon observed internationally. Also, it mainly concerns people born in Greece (44.1%) rather than people not born in Greece (17.3%), the latter including in this case individuals from non EU Eastern European countries, North Africa, the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent.
How representative a sample are young individuals residing in parental households?
To evaluate how representative young individuals residing with their parents are, compared to the entire young population of their age, we have compared a series of characteristics of these two groups.
Greeks aged 15-29 living in their parents’ household appear to follow approximately the same length of educational trajectories as the total of same-age peers. A very small elongation of these trajectories for the first group appears between 2001 and 2011. However, this is not the case for young migrants, who present significantly longer educational trajectories when living with their parents. This significant difference may be linked to the different conditions for integration between first and second generation migrants.
As for unemployment, young people aged 15-19 residing at their parents’ households did not significantly differ from the overall population in 2001, while in 2011 unemployment seems to be a reason for remaining at their parents’ house.
Young people staying with their parents do not appear to differ from the overall population of same-age peers as to the occupational categories they belong to. Based on a rough classification into high-status occupational categories, intermediate and categories of technicians and workers, the allocation of those living with their parents and the overall age group are similar. Indeed, in 2011, the differences between the two decreased even more (figures 2 and 3).
Figure 2: Percentage of young people aged 22-34 per occupational category in Athens 2001
Figure 3: Percentage of young people aged 22-34 per occupational category in Athens 2011
For young migrants, things are somewhat different. Those from Eastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa who reside with their parents, have significantly higher professional posts compared to their overall age group with the same ethnic identity, while the position of those from the Indian Subcontinent is equally low in both cases (figures 4,5 and 6), confirming the social hierarchy of ethnic groups (Kandylis et al. 2012).
Figure 4: Percentage of young individuals aged 22 to 34 from Eastern Europe per occupational category in Athens 2011
Figure 5: Percentage of young individuals aged 22 to 34 from countries of North Africa and the Middle East per occupational category in Athens 2011
Figure 6: Percentage of young individuals aged 22 to 34 from the Indian Subcontinent per occupational category in Athens 2011
Summing-up, we found that young men and women residing in their parental homes have approximately the same educational trajectory length and distribution in broad occupational categories, as their overall age category. This similarity is almost absolute for native Greeks, while young migrants or children of migrants present significant differences in both the length of their educational trajectories and their occupations in favour of those staying at the parental home.
General social mobility trends in the 2000s.
Based on the 2001 and 2011 Population Censuses, the lengthening of educational trajectories is a key characteristic of the 2000s, (figure 7).
Figure 7: Percentage of young individuals aged 15-29 who are pupils/students
The comparison between 2011 and 2001 indicates that the 12-year long education has become the norm for the majority of young people up to 18 years old. The group whose age corresponds to university education has significantly increased in percentage too. Educational trajectories have undoubtedly lengthened.
The educational trajectories of both young men and women have lengthened, while the distance between men and women in 2001, insofar as length of educational trajectories is concerned, widened in favour of women in 2011.
Occupation and unemployment
Figure 8: Percentage of young (22-34) native Greeks per broad occupational category in Athens (2001 & 2011)
According to the distribution of young Greeks aged 22-34 in four broad occupational categories in the beginning and the end of the 2000s, only the percentage of those classified in the highest category is increasing, while percentages in all other categories, especially those of non-specialised and skilled workers, are decreasing. For young migrants or children of migrants, the percentage of those included in the intermediate and upper categories is increasing, while the amount of those included in the remaining categories is decreasing. Overall, the data show an increase in the upper end of the scale and a decrease in the remaining spectrum of professional positions (figures 8 and 9)..
Figure 9: Percentage of young (22-34) migrants per broad occupational category in Athens (2001 & 2011)
At the beginning of the decade, unemployment was much lower for young men compared to young women. As overall unemployment rose towards the end of the decade, gender differences have disappeared, at least for the younger generations (Maloutas 2015b, 147-148).
The general trends during the 2000s were as follows:
- Educational trajectories have lengthened overall and 12-year education became the norm almost for the entire young population
- In terms of occupations, the percentage of people in upper occupational categories has increased while the weight of the remaining categories , especially workers, has decreased.
- Intermediate occupational categories are the more numerous throughout that period
- The distribution of the native Greek and immigrant population in occupational categories is very dissimilar as the relative weight of lower occupational categories is higher in the immigrant population
- Female employment is concentrated in intermediate and high occupational categories
- Unemployment rose significantly in the 2000s while gender differences decreased in young individuals
Reproduction of social inequalities
Social differentiation in the length of educational trajectories
One aspect of the reproduction of social inequality is the average length of educational trajectories in households whose heads belong to socially diverse occupational categories. In conditions of equal opportunities, the differences between these categories should be small and random, something that does not happen in reality
Figure 10: Percentage of young individuals aged 15-29 in education in Athens, by occupational category of the reference person in their household
The first finding is that the educational trajectories of young people from households belonging to higher professional groups are generally longer than those from intermediary or lower strata.
The second finding is that during the 2000s, the length of educational trajectories increased for all young people –irrespective of the social environment from which they originated.
The third finding is that the increase in the length of educational trajectories was significantly higher for young people from families with intermediary and lower occupational categories. This is an indication of decreasing social inequality, although it is not sufficient to prove such a trend..
Regarding gender, the duration of education appears to be longer for men from families in high occupational categories: Households of legal professionals are representative of this trend. In the intermediate (for example retail salespersons) and low (Unskilled Industry and Construction Workers) occupational categories, evidence shows the inverse relationship in terms of gender.
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