Title

THE DECOMPOSITION OF INEQUALITY BY CLASS AND BY OCCUPATION: A Research Note

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1-1-1991

Description

Sociological research on earnings and income has focused on predicting individual income. Analyses most often use occupational status or class, along with other economically relevant variables, to explain earnings or income variations among individuals (income determination). Aggregate inequality (income distribution) has received considerably less attention, except in cross‐national research. This especially holds for applying central concepts of stratification to the analysis of inequality. That is, class and occupation differences in economic rewards are rarely used to investigate aggregate earnings or income inequality. This study, using 1976 and 1977 Panel Study of Income Dynamics survey data, estimates the proportion of total earnings/income inequality accounted for by class and by occupation. Theil's index is used to measure earnings and income inequality and thus decompose total inequality into between‐and within‐group components. Wright's five‐category schema is replicated for decomposition of inequality by class and a traditional four‐category ordinal typology for decomposition by occupation. The two schemas show similar results: both class and occupation respectively account for between one‐fifth and one‐fourth of total earnings and income inequality. The results show the relevance of these central stratification typologies for the analysis of aggregate inequality.

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