Sociology Index


Horizontal Social MobilityVertical Social Mobility, Demand Mobility, Sponsored Mobility, Contest Mobility

Occupational distance is the distance between one occupation and another where occupations are ranked on a hierarchy of social status. Social standards accord different prestige to persons in different occupations. These prestige differences account for vertical occupational distances.

The occupational distance concept is central to studies of social mobility because it permits some measurement of the extent of mobility. For example, to change one's occupation from unskilled labor to semi-skilled labor involves less occupational distance than to move from unskilled labor to professional accountant. Occupational distance is therefore an important measurement in determining the relevance of social mobility.

Occupational mobility is also a factor in occupational distance. What we mean by occupational mobility is the tendency of some occupations to move up or down the vertical scale of social prestige.

Vertical occupational distance and horizontal occupational distance is more due to culture differences. A professional occupation and an unskilled occupation are different in training requirements, educational standards and aspiration.

Occupational distance also varies with the complexity of the culture traits of the respective occupations. The more complex the culture traits of an occupation the greater the vertical distance from the occupations with less complex cultures.

There are two kinds of occupational distance: vertical occupational distance and horizontal occupational distance. The former indicates the differences in prestige accorded by cultural norms to members of various occupations; the latter indicates the lack of sympathetic understanding between occupations of similar or near-similar status because of the differences in background and training of the members of the two occupations. Bogardus devised a scoring scheme for measuring in terms of social distance the reactions of people to various occupations. In one study among 861 college students, it was found that persons preparing for teaching and the ministry "reacted against motion picture actors, vaudeville actors and jazz musicians, on the ground that these occupations were socially detrimental." In contrast, commerce and dentistry students reacted to these same occupations favorably because they "add zest to life." Thus, vertical distances between occupations are related to the prestige and social status which occupations possess among persons outside the particular groups. As Bogardus points out, there is a kind of occupational mobility which affects the status of occupations. For example, aviation seems to be rising, whereas it may be true that acting is declining slightly in the scale of prestige. - BOGARDUS, E. S., Occupational Distance. Sociol. and Soc. Res., 1928, 13, 73-81.

Br´┐Żlhart et al. (2006) use data on individual workers to estimate the impact of Intra-Industry Trade (IIT) on both the ‘sectoral distance’ and ‘occupational distance’ which a worker moves when trade expands, conditioning for a range of other industrial and worker characteristics. They report results that are consistent with the smooth adjustment hypothesis. In their industry level regressions, their results are less strong when their occupational mobility variables is used to measure adjustment. However, when individual level data is used, increases in marginal intra-industry trade significantly reduce both the sectoral distance and occupational distance of worker moves. Interestingly, the effects of trade on worker moves are small relative to other factors.