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Working paper

Social Stratification by Life Chances: Evidence from Russia

Sociology. WP BRP. National Research University Higher School of Economics, 2017. No. 80/SOC/2017.
The present paper operationalizes one of the oldest concepts in the sociological literature about social stratification. Relying on Weber’s theory, the authors consider life chances in terms of positive and negative privileges. This framework is fertile ground for constructing a series of indices measuring opportunities and risks in key areas of life such as economic conditions, work situation, human capital accumulation, and consumption and leisure activities. Drawing on empirical data from three 2015 representative Russian surveys, the authors classified the Russian population on a continuum of life chances. The majority of Russians obtain just one third of the maximum scores on the life-chance scale. It is also shown that the life-chance scale has a strong correlation with the peaks of income distribution; however, the relationship between lower- and middle-income groups are not that salient. Finally, we show that life chances are uniquely distributed across different localities in contemporary Russia. We admit therefore the high analytical power of the neo-Weberian concept of life chances in stratification studies. Measured via a multidimensional index, life chances appear a good alternative to a gradational approach and the relational stratification schema developed particularly for the working population.