Social Status and Economic Wealth

So far the education and occupation of the HH have been applied as indicators to ascribe HH "aggregate" socioeconomic status. At the same time, education and occupation can also be regarded as vehicles for economic mobility. Although we cannot here in any way offer a complete analysis of social mobility among Palestinian HHs, it may be fruitful to examine in more detail the causal relationship between the socioeconomic indicators and the relevant background characteristics.
Many Palestinians subscribe to the view that education provides the main road to economic well-being. If this belief is still well-founded, one can expect that those HHs who have the highest educational scores also will have disproportionally high shares of "high-status" occupations and be in possession of more capital goods than other HHs. This assumption has, however, been questioned recently, following changes in the relative role and impact of education. The job market appears to be saturated at the time being, both locally and abroad.

In table 8.2 we observe a slightly lower covariation between occupation and economic wealth as compared to education and economic wealth. The question arises as to whether education is in fact less important than so far assumed, when taking into consideration that education needs to be transformed into an occupation to be useful as a vehicle for economic mobility.

Further, it is reasonable to assume that the transformation of education and occupation into economic wealth will be different for the various age, sex and locality categories of HH. Hence it is relevant to isolate statistically the "net" effect of each background factor, always taking into account the simultaneous effects of other factors. A multivariate analysis has been carried out to shed some light on these phenomena, with a view to explaining variations in economic status among Palestinian HHs as measured by the capital-goods indicator developed in table 8.1. Due to the confounded effects of locality and refugee status - most refugees are living in refugee camps - we have let the urban-rural indicator from figure 8.4 represent locality.19

The successive introduction of age, sex, locality, education and occupation into the statistical equation reveals the following complex picture:20 The age and sex (absence of a male HH) of the HH generally only explain a small amount of the economic variation among HHs. Locality, on the other hand, turns out to have vital significance (representing 60% of totally explained variations). The effect of education and occupation is much stronger than the effect of age and sex, but again, not as strong as that of locality. In fact, it can be shown that the effect of age and sex to a large degree is attributable to educational variations between different cohorts and between men and women (age and sex differences between localities are small). Likewise, while the effect of education and occupation is quite strong taken individually, close to half of their effect can be ascribed to the other background characteristics. Educational variations are, as noted above, to a large extent due to differences in educational attainment among different cohorts. The strong covariation between education and occupation (Table 8.2) suggests that part of the effect of these background characteristics is in fact attributable to the very same phenomenon, i.e. instances of being both highly educated and having a high status job, or vice versa. The effect of locality is, however, still dominant - again with Gaza camps and Arab Jerusalem as opposite poles - and seems to be the single most important factor determining economic wealth (see also chapter 6, on Household Income and Wealth).21

This finding may support a general tendency of geographical mobility observed among persons who are socially upwardly mobile, tending to move to their preferred habitat: from village to urban residence, and from Gaza to the West Bank. It probably also applies to West Bank to Jerusalem movement, except that it is illegal, and to the degree that it does happen, it would be difficult to monitor.


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