Most research on intergenerational social reproduction has been concerned with upward and downward movements across rank-ordered, “big-class” categories or along continuous gradients of status, income, or skill. An exception is the more nominal conceptualization of the social structure offered in recent research that focuses on qualitative differences in life conditions across occupational “micro classes.” The present analysis broadens this nominal approach by considering social reproduction across an important qualitative dimension that bridges multiple occupations: whether or not one’s work centrally involves care. Based on data from the U.S. General Social Surveys, results provide little evidence that care work is transmitted from parents to children. While women and men whose parents worked in care are more likely to do so themselves, this association is attributable to a general tendency for people to work in the same detailed occupation as their parents. Parents pass along their vertical status positions, and sometimes their specific occupations, but not care work as such. Parent–child similarity in caring outcomes likely reflects transmission of values, skills, knowledge, and network ties that are specific to detailed occupations, rather than attributable to care work broadly defined.
© 2015 The Authors. This open-access article has been published under a Creative Commons Attribution License, which allows unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction, in any form, as long as the original author and source have been credited.
Charles M, Ellis C, England P. 2015. Is there a caring class? Intergenerational transmission of care work. Sociological Science 2: 527-543. http://dx.doi.org/10.15195/v2.a25