Quality & Quantity

, Volume 53, Issue 3, pp 1347–1367 | Cite as

A multidimensional measure of social origin: theoretical perspectives, operationalization and empirical application in the field of educational inequality research

  • Pia Nicoletta BlossfeldEmail author


This article describes the theoretical reasons and empirical operationalization of a multidimensional social origin measure. It is assumed that different parental resources are linked to social inequality through distinct mechanisms. This social origin variable can be used for the analysis of status inconsistencies as well as cumulating and compensating effects of social origin resources on inequality of opportunity. The proposed measure is easy to operationalize and to apply in cross-sectional, longitudinal or cross-national research. A great methodological advantage of the proposed origin measure is that it avoids the problem of multicollinearity that is prevalent in analyses that include various parental resources as separate covariates into a statistical model. To illustrate this social origin measure, we apply it to the field of educational inequality research and use data from the National Educational Panel Study in Germany. However, the approach can be easily generalized to other sociological or economic studies where social inequality is of interest (such as labor market, demographic, political, migration or ethnic research). The illustrative example combines the information of three family resources (parental education, parental class and parental status), but it can be extended to include further family resources such as income or wealth measures.


Multidimensional social origin measure CAMSIS Status inconsistencies Cumulating effects Compensating effects 



Funding was provided by the German National Academic Foundation.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institut für SoziologieUniversität LeipzigLeipzigGermany

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