Class Transformation and Trends in Social Fluidity in the Republic of Ireland 1973–94

Richard Layte and Christopher T. Whelan

in Social Mobility in Europe

Published in print August 2004 | ISBN: 9780199258451
Published online November 2004 | e-ISBN: 9780191601491 | DOI:
 Class Transformation and Trends in Social Fluidity in the Republic of Ireland 1973–94

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The Irish case provides a particularly appropriate test of the consequences for social mobility of economic growth and, in particular, of the hypothesis of increasing merit selection. This is so not only because the lateness and speed of economic change allows us to capture it through a set of national surveys conducted in the past three decades but because such change was based on a sustained policy of increased openness to international competitive forces. The functional requirements of the economy and a rapid increase in the supply of those with higher educational qualifications provided an ideal context in which to observe the predicted movement from ascription to achievement. However, while changes in the class structure and a rapid expansion of educational opportunity had significant consequences in terms of absolute mobility, there was no clear evidence of a significant shift towards meritocratic principles; indeed, the impact of educational qualifications on class destination diminished. Controlling for education, we find that the impact of class origin effects is substantial and shows relatively little sign of diminishing over time.

Keywords: achievement; ascription; growth; meritocracy; qualifications; Republic of Ireland

Chapter.  8376 words. 

Subjects: European Union

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