After surveying many studies in occupational and social percolation, Nothaas reaches the following conclusion: 45Next Page
Manual workers have a relatively large share in the formation of the employed middle strata. On an average, they contribute between ten and twenty per cent, the proportion being considerably higher among saleswomen.
This observation is based on the assumption that white-collar workers are in the middle class, a presupposition of doubtful validity today. There is, nonetheless, a distinction between manual and non-manual employees, as Fairchild has pointed out: "As a single example of the prevalence of vanity over the economic motive, consider how young men flock into the white collar jobs at a fraction of the pay they could receive in less esteemed occupations." 46 The difficulties of distinction here are, however, clearly recognized by Nothaas. He states: 47
In the case of female descendants of the working class, social ascent is affected by their entering the (salaried) employee occupations. These women become salaried employees at a relatively early age, that is to say, after a comparatively short training period. In view of the present situation of the employees, the "rise" is rather questionable.
In this latter statement Nothaas clearly qualifies the former generalization.
According to Cooley's study only 2 out of 71 of the world's most prominent philosophers, poets, and historians came from the working class. "Out of 217 of the most eminent women of all countries and of all times . . . only 4 came from the labor class." 48
Further evidence of social class rigidity is shown, in that in all German universities and schools of engineering, in the winter semester of 1928 - 29 only 2.2 per cent of the students were from the working classes. 49
Clarke's study into the social class antecedents of American men of letters quotes Odin's study in France: 50
The results of this study show that French children brought up in economic security were forty to fifty times as likely to become men of letters as were those brought up in poverty. Odin also found out that, with very few exceptions, the authors brought up in poverty had enjoyed good educational advantages. In the few exceptional cases recorded, he showed they had possessed special advantages that had offset the lack of formal education.
Writing of American authors, Clarke states: 51
It is apparent that birth into one of the so-called higher social classes gave the literary aspirant exceptional opportunity. In many cases the parents themselves were well educated, and simple association with them was an education in itself. At any rate, such birth secured a relatively easy entrance into educational and educated circles, and must have been of great advantage in beginning a literary career.
Visher's study into the places of birth and occupations of fathers of subjects in Who's Who reveals the following statistics: 52
The fathers of 70 per cent of these persons (18,400 in number) belonged to the professional and business classes, 23.4 per cent were farmers, 6.3 per cent were skilled or semi-skilled laborers, and only 0.4 per cent were unskilled laborers.
According to the proportion of the population in 1870, the professional men had 2400 chances of seeing his son in Who's Who, the business man 600, the farmer 70, the skilled or semi-skilled worker 30, and the unskilled worker one chance. 53
Riemer's study into the social origins of economic leaders, made in 1930, is one of the few statistical studied which have attempted to evaluate social class mobility and rigidity. However, Riemer makes the obvious mistake of putting the middle and lower classes into one category. Among the leading German landowners and renters none came from the middle or lower strata. 15 per cent of the large industrialists, large merchants, businessmen, publishers, and bankers came from that dual category. 54 This shows some mobility among the middle economic classes, as has been pointed out above.
Riemer, like Sorokin, sometimes comes to the conclusion that there is much social mobility, and then, after reviewing other figures and theories, he reverses himself. However, his summary with regard to the chances of working classes entering the middle classes seems to be based on sound principles. He states: 55
A sociological analysis of the chances of ascent and of the sharp de-limitations of the different social strata discloses a peculiar and thought-provoking view of the present social structure. If we have not delay here with the working man's chances of advancement, the reason is not to be found exclusively in the limitation of the present article to the most essential problems. The attitude of the laborer towards his occupation is not the same as that of the business man, the civil servant, the master-artisan, or the intellectual. All these groups are characterized by the common endeavor to improve their economic and social status by demonstrating special ability in their chosen work. Conditions suffer when we study the manual worker. The usual road of promotion that the competent and dependable worker travels leads to the position of foreman. Then and there, after he has entered the petty bourgeoisie, upward mobility comes to a sudden stop . . . A steady movement of individuals from one social stratum to another is, therefore, characteristic only of a limited social sphere, namely, that of the middle classes in their broadest sense.
This is to be contrasted with the dream of rising to live in the Gold Coast area, as was cited above from Dawson and Gettys, as they write of the "skilled and semi-skilled workers."
Whether one takes the statistics of special studies of occupational and economic groups, or the theories of writers like North and Cooley, the more impressive figures and theories come out of the same place -- there is no overwhelming degree of social class mobility, no social class circulation of unlimited possibilities such as have been described by some. The modern world does not, in this sphere, differ so radically from the medieval, and vice versa, as might have been supposed.
45. Loc. cit.
46. Fairchild, op. cit., p. 00.
47. Nothaas, op. cit., p0. 28.
48. Noted in Sorokin, op. cit. (2), p. 290.
49. Nothaas, op. cit., p. 28.
50. E. L. Clarke, American Men of Letters, Their Nature and Nurture (New York, 1916) p. 73.
51. Loc. cit.
52. S. S. Visher, "A Study of the Type, of the Place of Birth, and of the Occupation of Fathers of Subjects of Sketches in Who's Who in America," in the American Journal of Sociology, vol. 30 (March, 1925) p. 551.
53. Loc. cit.
54. S. Riemer, Upward Mobility and Social Stratification, translated by S. Lissance (New York, 1937) p. 11.
55. Ibid., pp. 34 - 35.