Sociology Index


Opportunity structure refers to the notion that opportunity, the chance to gain certain rewards or goals, is shaped by the way the society or an institution is organized or structured.

The opportunity structure for girls to succeed in mathematics is different because it may be structured by the fact that all of the mathematics teachers are men, all teachers tend to discourage such an endeavor or suggest that girls are not good at this subject.

There may be a sexist structure in the school which shapes opportunity. Attitudes that foster stereotypes of gender roles. Opportunity structure can also be a framework of rules people are encouraged to follow in order to achieve what their culture considers to be success.

Political opportunity structure - Five key components of the political opportunity structure: Tarrow
the relative openness or closure of the institutionalized political system;

the stability or instability of that broad set of elite alignments that typically undergird a polity;
the divided elites;
the presence or absence of elite allies; and
the state’s capacity and propensity for repression.

Political opportunity structures can constrain or expand the field of collective action in four ways:
A. they expand the group’s own opportunities;
B. they expand opportunities for others;
C. create opportunities for opponents
D. and create opportunities for elites

Theory of occupational allocation (Opportunity structure)
Apart from a privileged minority of the population individuals are (more or less) constrained in their choice of occupations by social variables that are outside their control e.g. gender, ethnicity and social class.

The opportunity structure model was first proposed by Roberts (1968, p176) as an alternative to theories of career development advanced by Ginzberg and Super. On the basis of a survey involving 196 young men aged between 14 and 23 selected by a random canvas of households in a part of London, Roberts (1968) suggested that the:
'momentum and direction of school leavers' careers are derived from the way in which their job opportunities become cumulatively structured and young people are placed in varying degrees of social proximity, with different ease of access to different types of employment' (p179)
He challenged the relevance of the concept of choice embedded in psychological theories, emphasising the structure of constraints:
'An adequate theory for understanding school-leavers' transition to employment in Britain needs to be based around the concept not of `occupational choice', but of `opportunity structure' (Roberts, 1977, p183)

Criminal Careers in Organized Crime and Social Opportunity Structure
European Journal of Criminology, Vol. 5, No. 1, (2008), Edward R. Kleemans, Christianne J. de Poot - Research and Documentation Centre, The Netherlands
This paper presents the main findings of quantitative and qualitative research into the criminal careers of about 1000 offenders who were involved in 80 extensively analysed cases of organized crime. The paper analyses how and when offenders become known to the criminal justice authorities, studies in depth the criminal careers of `starters' and analyses in detail the criminal careers of (ring)leaders and `nodal' offenders. Because social ties play an important role in organized crime, the paper emphasizes that the social opportunity structure, defined as social ties providing access to profitable criminal opportunities, is extremely important for explaining involvement in organized crime. It explains why certain offenders `progress' to certain types of organized crime whereas others become involved only later on in life. Social opportunity structure may also explain interesting phenomena such as `late starters', people without any appreciable criminal history, and people in conventional jobs who switch careers.

Upward mobility in organizations: the effects of hierarchy and opportunity structure 
This article investigates hierarchical promotion processes. Following the ‘structural approach’ in social mobility research and aiming at the organizational level, we attempt to make this approach more ‘concrete’ than other studies in this tradition. That is, we analyse the effects of both organizational opportunity structure and hierarchical levels on vertical social mobility. By neglecting these structural factors, studies of mobility processes not only distort the effects of individual factors influencing mobility, but also preclude the analysis of the various ways in which structural factors affect the mobility chances of different social groups.

Between the State and the Market 
Expanding the Concept of Political Opportunity Structure

Mattias Wahlstr�m, Department of Sociology, University of G�teborg, G�teborg, Sweden 
Abby Peterson, Department of Sociology, University of G�teborg, G�teborg, Sweden 
This article brings together two research traditions: social movement theory and theories of corporate social responsibility. The study is an attempt to widen the perspective on the relationship between a business/business sector and its external stakeholders in order to include social movements. We depart from a three-part model of political opportunity structures, including state, cultural and economic opportunity structures. In order to illustrate our model, the article is centred on the case of the Swedish animal rights movements’ political pressure on domestic fur-farming. The animal rights movement has had considerable success by engaging with a relatively open cultural opportunity structure, winning a framing war in regard to the moral issues raised. Despite the fur industry’s attempts to counter-mobilize, the animal rights movement has found a hearing in formal political channels and has achieved considerable success. However, since the movement is faced with an economic opportunity structure that is not vulnerable to the demands of stakeholders, and where there is great inconsistency between the interests of the industry and the demands of the stakeholders, it is not surprising that the farmers have been non-compliant.

Urban Field Education: An Opportunity Structure for Enhancing Students' Personal and Social Efficacy 
Judith Beinstein, Department of Communication Studies, Oberlin College, Oberlin, Ohio 44704. 
Undergraduates' transitions to adult working roles can befacilitated by off-campus field education programs. An evaluation study of one such program, a work internship program in Philadelphia, indicated that student participants had experienced significant positive changes in feelings of per-sonal and social efficacy.

Urban Black Youths' Educational and Occupational Goals 
The Impact of America's Opportunity Structure 

Elaine M. Walker, Newark Board of Education 
Marcia E. Sutherland, State University of New York, Albany 
An attitude formation model was developed to test the processes through which economically disadvantaged Black students form their educational and occupational goals. The model assumed that the development of aspirations among urban youths represents an interplay of structural and subjective factors. The model predicted that urban Black youths' goals would be influenced by their perceptions of the structural limitations of American society. The model was tested on 175 African-American male and female 12th graders in an urban school district. Results from regression equations revealed that the model accounted for up to 51% of the variance in students' aspirations. Finings indicated that Black males held more negative perceptions of the opportunity structure and had lower aspirations than Black females. Indeed, Blacks males' perceptions of the opportunity structure carried the same weight in influencing the type of educational plans that they established for themselves as did how well they performed in school.

Globalization, Environmental Movements, and International Political Opportunity Structures - Hein-Anton Van Der Heijden, University of Amsterdam 
Political opportunity structure refers to the specific features of a political system (e.g., a country) that can explain the different action repertoires, organizational forms and impacts of social movements, and social movement organizations in that specific country. With the globalization of environmental problems and solution strategies, important parts of the environmental movement have also become global. To what extent could the concept of international political opportunity structure (IPOS) be useful for analyzing transnational environmentalism in the 21st century?

Unequal Opportunity Structure and Labour Market Segmentation 
Reinhard Kreckel, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg 
Sociology of social stratification and labour market economics have developed in isolation from one another. The present paper attempts to bring these two traditions closer together. The starting point is a critique of the very notion of social `stratification'. A return to Max Weber's idea of 'class situation as market situation' and to his concept of `social closure' is advocated. On this basis, a conception of structured social inequality in advanced capitalist societies is developed which is open for conceptual innovations to be taken from labour market economics. A number of approaches to labour market analysis are discussed, and the special significance of several recent contributions related to the so-called 'dual labour market theory' is emphasized. This leads up to the construction of a typological model supposed to supersede the traditional notion of social inequality as a system of hierarchically superposed strata. This model comprises eight levels of labour market structuration characterizing structured social inequality in advanced capitalist societies.

On Social Structure and Science - by Robert King Merton, Piotr Sztompka - 1996 - Page 153. Opportunity Structure (1995) Emergence of the Concept of Opportunity Structure in the Columbia Micro-environment of the 1950s. Building on Robert Merton's theory of delinquency, this term was developed by Richard A. Cloward and Lloyd B. Ohlin in Delinquency and Opportunity (1960), to further elucidate the pathways to success in American culture. When such pathways are blocked (for example through failed schooling), other opportunity structures may be found, and these could lead to diverse patterns of deviance. In this characterization, a combination of anomie theory and cultural transmission theory, there were three major delinquent opportunity structures: criminal, retreatist, and conflict.

Unequal opportunity structure in Israel's education system
The opportunity structure in Israel's education system is unequal. At the countrywide level there is inequality of opportunity between students in the Jewish sector and their Arab counterparts. This inequality is also manifested at the local level; inequality of opportunities is the rule within the Arab sector itself, i.e., between private Arab schools and public schools, which include Arab state schools that belong to municipal authorities and the Ministry of Education. Another manifestation of unequal opportunity at the local level is the existence of two main scholastic "majors" or specializations in Arab state schools: one that enrolls a small number of students and leads to a good matriculation certificate. The opportunity structure that the Arab student faces is also unequal. Only a small proportion of students pursue a program of studies that leads to matriculation.

The Opportunity Structure: Implications for Career Counseling.
Authors: Miller, Vaughan Marshall, Journal of Employment Counseling, v36 n1 p2-12 Mar 1999
Abstract: A brief narrative description of the journal article, document, or resource.
Discusses traditional career counseling methods which are based on the assumption that matching clients' interests, values, abilities, and aptitudes to a suitable occupation will result in opportunities for self-actualization and personal expression. Contends that vocational psychology has focused almost exclusively on individuals to the neglect of social, economic, and political realities, as well as the opportunity structure.