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Durham University

School of Education

Research Projects

Publication details

Cooper, B. & Glaesser, J. (2008). How has Educational Expansion changed the Necessary and Sufficient Conditions for Achieving Professional, Managerial and Technical Class Positions in Britain? A Configurational Analysis. Sociological Research Online 13(3): 1-22.

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

This paper, whose purpose is both substantive and methodological, focuses on changes over a nine year period, drawing on data from two British birth cohorts (individuals born in 1958 and 1970), and, substantively, employs set theoretic methods to explore the extent to which an upward shift in qualifications achieved led to any reduction in the roles class and gender played in the achievement of professional, managerial and technical (PMT) social class destinations in early adulthood. Our methodological purpose is to illustrate how a counterfactual modelling approach can be used together with Ragin's set theoretic methods to provide an alternative way of analysing relationships in this area. We draw on earlier work exploring the extent to which educational achievement was 'meritocratic' with respect to ability for these cohorts (Cooper 2005, 2006). Our configurational account of the causal pathways to various class destinations is set against the background of a simple model of 'meritocracy' (allocation to available class positions by qualifications alone taking account of the empirical marginal distributions). This model allows us to specify, counterfactually, what qualifications would have represented necessary and sufficient conditions in our modelled meritocracy for reaching the PMT class. By comparison of these conditions with the empirically derived necessary and sufficient conditions for achieving these outcomes (using Ragin et al's fs/QCA software) we show that while allocation processes were far from meritocratic in both cohorts, there were some changes in the way both class and gender combined with qualifications as conditions for destinations. We also show that Ragin's configurational methods, focussing on holistically-conceived cases and conjunctural causation rather than on the net effects of independent variables, provide a useful analytic technique for capturing relationships in this field.

School of Education