On the Stability of Occupational Rankings

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A major puzzle for sociologists is how it can be that societies that differ vastly in their culture and economic circumstances maintain a similar ranking of occupations. Economists have identified a similar stability in the wage structure. The difference in pay of skilled and unskilled workers has been stable over time and is surprisingly similar in developed and undeveloped countries. This article contends that these two phenomena reflect the same basic principle: If workers are free to choose their occupation and level of skill, then differences in culture and in the state of development will mainly affect the number of workers in different activities but not their rewards. In the language of economists, free mobility generates highly elastic supply into different occupations and skills. Therefore, occupational rewards are largely independent of demand.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)221-233
Number of pages13
JournalRationality and Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1992


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