Abstract

Egerton M, Savage M. Age stratification and class formation: a longitudinal study of the social mobility of young men and women 1971-1991. Work, Employment and Society 2000; 14 (1): 23-49.

This paper examines the relationship between processes of demographic class formation, gender inequality and age stratification in England and Wales between 1971 and 1991. Existing research shows that the complex process of class restructuring which took place in these years is linked to considerable changes in the position of women, especially related to their growing numbers in professional and managerial occupations. We seek to show that changing processes of age stratification were also related to the remaking of class and gender relations in these years. Data from the Longitudinal Study (approximately 193,000 men and 203,000 women aged 23-57 in two age cohorts; 1971 and 1981), Samples of Anonymised Records (approximately 121,500 men and 126,000 women aged 23-57 in 1991), General Household Survey 1983-1992 (32,609 men and 16,191 women aged 23-57 in fulltime employment) and from the National Child Development Study, 1981 and 1991 (2205 men and 887 women aged 23 and 33, in fulltime employment) were used to examine the movement of individuals through changing opportunity structures over the twenty-year period. We found a distinct hardening of the relationship between age and class in these two decades for men, with a marked increase in social polarisation between young men and older men, but for women this relationship was very different, with young women seeing considerable evidence of an improvement in their fortunes.