Class structure in a deeply divided society: Class and ethnic inequality in Israel, 1974-1991

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Despite the fact that in many societies ethnicity plays an important role in stratification processes, a common view held by students of stratification argues that the role of ascriptive criteria in stratification processes is diminishing, and that the main axis of the modern stratification system is rooted in the division of labour in the marketplace. Despite this, most Israeli sociologists have taken the ethnic and national cleavages to be the main axes of stratification in Israel. This paper utilizes the 1974 and 1991 mobility surveys in Israel to examine changes over time in the association between ethnicity/nationality (i.e., Ashkenazi-Jews, Sephardi-Jews and Israeli-Arabs) and class position in the Israeli stratification structure. It also examines the extent to which inequality of opportunity within the Israeli class structure is affected by ethnicity/nationality. Here it is found that the ethnic/national cleavage in Israel appears to have played a less important role over time in the allocation of Israeli men to class positions. It is shown that class crystallization processes that result from the differentiation of employment contracts in the marketplace produce a relatively common level of inequality of opportunity in Israel, across sub-populations and over time. Any difference in the level of inequality of opportunity between the various sub-populations would appear to result, in part, from different historical process of, and government policy towards, the three sub-populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)409-437
Number of pages29
JournalBritish Journal of Sociology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2001


  • Class mobility
  • Class structure
  • Equality of opportunity
  • Ethnic inequality
  • Israeli society

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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