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The Wisconsin model of socio-economic attainment is essentially a tool developed in an attempt to measure certain sociological and psychological characteristics that influence an individual's social mobility. The logistics of this model are primarily asserted by the sociologist William H. Sewell, as well as his colleagues Archibald Haller and Alejandro Portes. The model receives its name based on the state, Wisconsin, in which a significant amount of research and analysis was completed. Unlike the previous research contributed to this topic by Peter Blau and Otis Dudley Duncan, this model encompasses more than just educational and occupational factors and their effect on social mobility for American males.

Prior researchEdit

Before the framework for the Wisconsin model was constructed, Peter Blau and Otis Duncan established the first model of its kind. However, the Blau-Duncan model was only made up of five variables. These five variables include father's education and occupation, the subject's education and first job, and the subject's job several years later.


Essentially, Sewell and his counterparts aimed to contribute to the original model of status attainment by adding variables. Because the results given by the Blau-Duncan model were based heavily on "structural factors as explanatory variables," the Wisconsin model was created in order to account for "social-psychological factors on educational and occupational attainment" and, in turn, provide more accurate results.

Model variablesEdit

The eight characteristics that would most effectively link socio-economic background with the ability to attain status and process of measurement. According to the model, the 0 to 1 correlation between each of these eight variables will determine possible status attainments.

Occupational attainmentEdit

Measured by Otis Dudley Duncan's socio-economic index of occupational status.

Educational attainmentEdit

Achieved by assigning a point value to certain levels of education that a subject has reached. In more recent studies using this model, educational attainment was classified into four levels: no post high school education, vocational school, college attendance, and a college degree. Earlier studies only classified subjects into those who went to college and those who did not.

Level of occupational aspirationEdit

The subject's level is calculated by again categorizing Duncan's socioeconomic index scores in association with the occupation that the subject hope to hold in the future.

Level of educational aspirationEdit

This is classified by the education level that each subject originally indicates that they hope to secure. Once again, some recent studies have assigned point values for three levels of desired education level: not continuing education after high school, vocational school, or college. Previous studies only categorized students based on which type institution they planned on attending prior to high school graduation.

Significant others' influenceEdit

This variable can be determined by evaluating three perceptions of the subject including: parental and teacher encouragement to attend college, as well as friends' college plans.

Academic performanceEdit

This value is calculated by the subject's high school class rank.

Socioeconomic statusEdit

In the original study, socio-economic status was determined by a weighted combination of mother's and father's education, father's occupation, and average annual income from 1957-1960.

Mental abilityEdit

This variable is determined by the analysis of standardized testing. In previous studies, statewide test results for high school juniors and seniors are compared with state intelligence norms.

Effects of social psychology and stratification research on the process of status attainmentEdit

Interpersonal influenceEdit

Primarily, the significant others' direct influence on the subject specifically relates to one's educational and occupational aspirations and also educational attainment. Basically, this implies that those who are constantly involved with a subject (mother, father, friend) will have a direct outcome on what type of education the subject receives.

Self-reflexive actionEdit

Essentially, this implies that a person's status attainment can only be limited by one's own "perceived ability."

Status aspirationsEdit

One's desire to attain status is an obligation for educational and occupational attainment.

Resulting hypothesesEdit

Because this model organizes how status aspirations are formed and the way in which they influence "attainment-oriented behavior" the following conclusions can be drawn from the model:

"Status aspirations are complex forms of attitudes whose translation into attainment levels is affected by the context in which individuals attempt to enact them."

"Attitudes - including levels of aspiration - are formed and altered through two basic mechanisms; interpersonal influence, including reflexive adjustment of others' expectations, and including self-reflexion."

See alsoEdit


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