Openness of social structure: theory and empirical findings

Henryk Domański


High social “openness” means easy access to social classes and categories, regardless of social origin, while low openness refers to the inheritance of the father’s position and barriers of recruitment to privileged categories. It is assumed that these relationships display mostly in patterns of mobility, marital choices and patterns of friendships. The lower mobility and heterogeneity in marital and friendships choices the lower is social openness. This article show which important questions are determined in analyses of these phenomena. First part discusses various problems and contexts raised in analyses on social openness. Concerning social mobility rates I show that it is regarded as characteristics of: (i) formation of social hierarchies, (ii) degree of stability of political systems, (iii) effectiveness of economy, and (iv) mechanisms shaping attitudes and orientations. Second part is an overview of empirical analyses concerning mobility and marital choices. Based on recent data an attempt is made to point out differences between countries and universal rules of these patterns. Then, I refer to changes in time. According to long-term expectations, derived from the theory of modernization, the net effect of social ascription should go down. This tendency was amply evidenced but there were also exceptions, both with respect to particular countries and periods of time.


social mobility; marital choices; social stratification; inheritance of social position

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