Conference Paper BHPS-2009 Conference: the 2009 British Household Panel Survey Research Conference, 9-11 July 2009, Colchester, UK
'Escape from poverty' and occupations
This paper considers an approach to studying the concept of poverty by using data on
occupations as indirect measures of poverty. It presents a number of candidate
measures which are based on data on occupations, and compares their properties and
analytical qualities with alternative measures of poverty (based upon income).
The analysis is motivated by the sociological axiom that occupations matter, more
than any other factor, in defining individuals’ own life experiences, and in defining
the very contours of social structure and inequality. We present a number of results to
justify this position. We argue that sociological evidence on how the distribution of
social advantage and disadvantage is related to occupations should be leveraged to
consider occupation-based measures of poverty.
It is an open question whether the social significance of occupations translates to their
helpfulness in the analysis of poverty. There are substantial differences between the
results of analysis using occupation-based and income-based measures of poverty,
and we recognise that there are many scenarios where an occupation-based measure
may not be at all useful. Typically, occupation-based measures generate a more
stable, pessimistic account of the persistence of social disadvantage and poverty.
Accordingly, we construct an argument that the evidence on social inequality derived
from studying occupations is persuasive, and a sounder basis for policy decisions
concerned with social exclusion and social justice, than is the evidence provided by
income-based poverty indicators.