Studies of how characteristics of the family of origin are associated with educational and labor market outcomes indicate the degree of openness of societies and have a long tradition in sociology. We review research published since 1990 into educational stratification and social (occupational or class) mobility, focusing on the importance of parental socioeconomic circumstances, and with particular emphasis on comparative studies. Large-scale data now available from many countries and several time points have led to more and better descriptions of inequality of opportunity across countries and over time. However, partly owing to problems of comparability of measurement, unambiguous conclusions about trends and ranking of countries have proven elusive. In addition, no strong evidence exists that explains intercountry differences. We conclude that the 1990s witnessed a resurgence of microlevel models, mostly of a rational choice type, that signals an increased interest in moving beyond description in stratification research.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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