Class and ambition in the status attainment process: A Spanish replication

William Haller, Alejandro Portes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


There are two principal theoretical schools that seek to explain status outcomes in early adulthood: those focusing on intergenerational transmission of class privilege and those emphasizing individual characteristics, particularly ambition. The first may be called the structuralist school and the second the psycho-social school, following the Wisconsin Model of Status Attainment. A second structuralist perspective, Segmented Assimilation, highlights transmission of socio-economic status across immigrant generations, but emphasizes the positive role of co-ethnic resources for upward mobility and preventing downward assimilation. We examine these alternative predictions using a large longitudinal sample of youths in Spain that includes both children of native parentage and children of immigrants. Spain possesses characteristics that make it uniquely suitable to examine these predictions. Results show that both family socio-economic status and ambition, measured by adolescent educational aspirations and expectations, play important roles in educational and occupational attainment, but the influence of family status persists even after controlling for ambition. The influence of co-ethnic nationalities disappears after these controls, except among Chinese and Filipino youths, a result consistent with segmented assimilation. Predictive models of status attainment yield identical results for children of immigrants and children of natives, indicating that in Spain, they have become part of a common youth universe. Theoretical and practical implications of the analysis are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1825-1849
Number of pages25
JournalBritish Journal of Sociology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019


  • immigration
  • second generation
  • social stratification
  • Spain
  • Status attainment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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