ACSPRI Conferences, RC33 Eighth International Conference on Social Science Methodology

Font Size:  Small  Medium  Large

Women work histories over two generations: a dyadic sequence analysis approach to uncover patterns of mothers and daughters careers

Nicolas Robette, Eva Lelièvre, Xavier Bry

Building: Law Building
Room: Breakout 4 - Law Building, Room 106
Date: 2012-07-10 01:30 PM – 03:00 PM
Last modified: 2011-12-12


From an empirical point of view, conventional social mobility research measures individuals’ social position relative to that of their father’s characteristics, often neglecting mother’s contribution to social class. Alternatively, career mobility studies compare occupational statuses at two points in time, e.g at the beginning of the career and at the time of the survey. However, careers may encompass many moves, exits and re-entry into the labour force, especially for women whose mothers’ type of involvement in the labour market is bound to be of great influence. Keeping an ‘holistic’ perspective on occupational careers and social mobility, and even though sequence analysis has allowed to appropriately describe the complex patterns of life event histories, technical as well as conceptual questions remain to be solved to take into account partially concomitant trajectories, that of two generations, parents and their children.
The intertwining of historical time (when do careers unfold?) and biological or social age (at what point of the career do moves happen?) of the two linked careers, as well as their overlapping, makes a standard sequence analysis of intergenerational mobility problematic.
This paper presents the findings based on a French life event-history survey: Biographies et entourage, which collected occupational careers of interviewees (born between 1930 and 1950) as well as those of their parents (born between 1885 and 1935). Our study develops a “Dyadic Sequence Analysis” approach (DSA), unfolding in stages: starting with an Optimal Matching Analysis (OMA) of the employment histories of women and that of their mothers, we reduce the two dissimilarity matrices by Multidimensional Scaling (MDS), we then compute the structural links between the mothers' and daughters' careers (using canonical PLS) and finally identify patterns of intergenerational dyads of female careers (formed by sequences of a mother's activity history and that of her daughter) by clustering techniques.
The typologies obtained shed new light on transmission, leaving aside a basic determinism and showing the relative multiplicity of career pathways open to children starting from the same family background. From a methodological point of view, DSA provides a flexible way to uncover patterns of dyads of sequences, with very few constraints about the data: sequences within the dyads do not have to be contemporaneous, nor to be of the same length or even of the same nature (e.g. to have the same state space). The range of potential applications for DSA thus largely exceeds intergenerational social mobility studies.