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Estimates of Father-to-Son Occupational Mobility in India, Circa 1962

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We have presented some initial estimates of father-to-son occupational mobility in India, using what appears to be the only available national-sample set of requisite data. In view of the complexities of undertaking sample surveys in a population as large as and as varied as that of India, our construction of mobility estimates through a secondary analysis of survey data that were produced for original purposes other than the study of occupational stratification must be taken as a first approximation. Hopefully, future research will extend this effort by undertaking a primary investigation of stratification and mobility in India, with rigorous sampling, an expanded list of relevant variables, and more refined measurement. In the meantime, conclusions of the present study may be recapitulated as follows. (1) Based on the 10 x 10 transition matrix, nearly one-half of the national-sample of adult males were in occupational categories different from those of their fathers. Most of this movement consisted of short-distance status changes, that is, flows from the origin category to a contiguous or near-contiguous category. Yet, as exemplified by the one of every ten sons of nonowner cultivators and the one of every ten sons of unskilled blue-collar or domestic-servant background who had entered nonmanual occupations as of 1962, long-distance occupational rank changes occurred often enough to cast suspicion on any supposition of rigid barriers to the vertical movement of individuals. This finding is congruent with earlier regional data on intergenerational mobility. With the breakdown of older patterns of inter-caste symbiosis and reciprocity, particularly prevalent in the rural areas, brought about by the government's development programs (Singh, 1967; Mandelbaum, 1960), this vertical movement of individuals is likely to increase. Traditional customs bound the individual to his extended kinship unit and his kinship unit to the caste hierarchy of the village. As the importance of such relations decreases, it is plausible that individual attempts at occupational mobility will become more frequent. (2) In terms of the conventional 3 x 3 matrix, the aggregate rate of observed occupational change in India (28%) was somewhat smaller than the comparable rate in France (40 % ) or Italy (37%) but was convergent to that for the Philippines (25%). There was less outflow from the agricultural to the nonagricultural sectors in India (and the Philippines) than in either of the two European countries; moreover, in India such upward flows across the agricultural-nonagricultural boundary were nearly equivalent proportionately to the downward flows, which contrasts markedly with the unidirectional permeability of the boundary in societies such as France or Italy. As argued above, these rates are the result of complex factors involving the long-term perspectives of many manual workers. (3) Although the level of industrial development has been relatively low in India (as compared with France or Italy), there was nevertheless some redistribution of demand in the occupational hierarchy (from the farm to the nonfarm sectors), and this exogenous factor contributed nonnegligibly to the rate of observed occupational change. Such contribution was proportionately smaller than in either of the more industrialized societies, however, and indeed once inter-country differences in the magnitude of demand redistribution have been standardized (as in Table 3) the country estimates of rate of mobility becomes more closely convergent. (4) Within limits of available information, examinations of intracountry variations of rates of status change indicated that such variations either were small or, in the contrast between urban and rural residence, followed an expected pattern. Regionally, occupational status change was generally somewhat less frequent in the northern states than in other regions of India, at least partly because the redistribution of occupational demand was relatively low in the North. In terms of religious group, the Christian sons may have had a slight advantage over the Hindu and Moslem sons with respect to manual-to-nonmanual ascent. But on the whole the three groups evinced highly similar patterns of mobility, especially once we adjust for the circumstance that the Christian sons more often came from urban, nonmanual homes. (5) Compared with approximately correspondent data from other societies (e.g., USA, Australia, France, Italy), the gross level of father-to-son occupational status transmission was rather high in India. Furthermore, partialling of this zero-order relationship showed that more of the transmission of paternal occupational effects was direct (or mediated by other variables) than was mediated by the son's own level of educational attainment. Although variation in the education variable was not inconsequential, its impact on son's subsequent occupational experience was considerably weaker than the impact of father's occupation. In general, the evidence from India fits rather well the cross-national pattern, documented elsewhere (Hazelrigg and Garnier, 1976), of a positive correlation between the observed rate of occupational status change and the level of productivity (as measured by per capita energy consumption, GNP, or GDP). This cross-national covariation appears to be largely a function of connections between productivity and factors of the shape or relative composition of the occupational hierarchy, however, rather because of any linkage between productivity and the rate of circulatory mobility. Thus, whereas India, along with the Philippines, exhibited observed rates of occupational status change that generally were lower than those reported for either France or Italy, in terms of mobility rates adjusted for differential shifts in the distribution of occupational positions the pairwise contrast between the less and the more industrialized societies dims appreciably.13 In short, the relatively low rate of actual occupational change among Indian males cannot be attributed to an unusually low rate of "circulation of talent and skill" (a rate that is often taken to be an indictor of the "openness" of occupational stratification). It was due principally to the historical circumstances of limited industrial expansion, and thus to the weakness of the upward redistribution of higher occupational hierarchy. Countries that have been characterized by higher rates of actual status change, such as France or the USA, have been so characterized not because they have enjoyed higher rates of circulatory mobility but because they have been more successful in developing and sustaining "positive growth" economies.

Affiliations: 1: University of Texas, Arlington, U. S.A.; 2: Florida State University, U. S.A.


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