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Social inequalities in occupational outcomes: using sibling data to estimate the effect of family of origin and the role of education

Iannelli, C., Breen, R. and Duta A.

Building on our previous work ‘Social inequalities in attaining higher education in Scotland: New evidence from sibling data’, this research uses the Scottish Longitudinal Study (SLS) sibling data to investigate social inequalities in occupational outcomes.

The study focuses on the following research questions: (1) What is the overall effect of family of origin on children’s occupational status? (2) Does the importance of family effect differ by social class of origin and by other family characteristics? (3) How much of the total variance between families is explained by parental social class, parental education and other family-level characteristics? (4) To what extent do educational qualifications explain between- family and within-family differences in siblings’ occupational outcomes?

Types of inequalities

Sources of inequalities: People from more or less socially advantaged families are identified through measures of parental social class, parental education and housing tenure collected in 1991 when siblings were living in the parental home.

Inequalities of outcomes: a) Occupational status (International Socio-Economic Index); b) attaining Managerial & Professional occupations (National Statistics Socio-economic Classification 1 & 2).


We use random-effects models to analyse the relative importance of individual and family characteristics and fixed effects models to investigate differences between siblings within the same family.


Preliminary results show that about 36% of the variation in occupational status is explained by family-level characteristics shared by siblings. Parental social class, parental education and housing tenure explain about 28% of the total family-level variance in occupational status. Education emerges as a very powerful means through which families transmit their advantage/disadvantage to their children. Almost all the variance in occupational outcomes between siblings from different social origins can be explained by differences in educational attainment. We find no consistent evidence that the degree of sibling similarity in occupational outcomes differs by the socioeconomic status of the family of origin.

For further information contact Dr Adriana Duta.

Research Team