Between- and Within-Occupation Inequality: The Case of High-Status Professions

Yu Xie, Alexandra Killewald, Christopher Near

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


In this article, we present analyses of the roles of education and occupation in shaping trends in income inequality among college-educated workers in the United States, drawing data from two sources: (1) the 1960–2000 U.S. Censuses and (2) the 2006–2008 three-year American Community Survey. We also examine in detail historical trends in between-occupation and within-occupation income inequality for a small set of high-status professionals, with focused attention on the economic well-being of scientists. Our research yields four findings. First, education premiums have increased. Second, between-occupation and within-occupation inequality increased at about the same rates for college graduates, so that the portion of inequality attributable to occupational differences remained constant. Third, scientists have lost ground relative to other similarly educated professionals. Fourth, trends in within-occupation inequality vary by occupation and education, making any sweeping summary of the roles of education and occupation in the overall increase in income inequality difficult.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)53-79
Number of pages27
JournalAnnals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences


  • earnings inequality
  • high-status professions
  • occupation inequality
  • trends in earnings inequality
  • within-occupation inequality


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