A Homogeneous Society or Three Different Areas?

The social structure of Palestinian society has been dramatically transformed by war, migration and the emergence of new venues of mobility, such as enhanced opportunities for work and education. This is reflected today by a socioeconomic distribution in which the majority of the HHs are located in the middle level of the status hierarchy. Although time-series data are unavailable, the "reverse diamond shaped" structural pattern revealed may technically be interpreted as a trend towards homogenization and class "levelling", enforced by factors like the monetization of the village economy and the loss of land as crucial determinants of social status.

Nonetheless this general picture of socioeconomic homogeneity covers considerable regional variations. Broadly speaking, the three main areas of Gaza, the West Bank and Arab Jerusalem in fact and in many ways appear as totally different areas. Disparities are significant, however, also between urban, rural and camp sectors within the main areas. Gaza camps are generally found to be worst off, with Arab Jerusalem taking the opposite position.

Concerning socioeconomic mobility, as measured by the transformation of social status into economic wealth, education not surprisingly seems to be a major vehicle to acquire high status jobs. But the effect of education and occupation on economic wealth is overridden by the effect of the locality of the HH.

While age and sex differences are difficult to interpret (see, however, also chapter 9), the regional variations observed, in addition to reflecting more or less permanent socio-structural patterns, coincide with the assumed tendency on the part of upwardly mobile professionals and businessmen to relocate from Gaza to the West Bank, and - whenever possible - to Jerusalem. A similar tendency of horizontal movement may also contribute to socioeconomic disparities observed between rural and urban areas.

Finally, the role of cultural factors should not be underestimated, although they have not been dealt with fully. A picture of consent is revealed, supported by the fact that most Palestinian HHs take moderate stands as to the existence of socioeconomic conflicts between different social groups within their society. Further, as seen from questions on the role of the family in respect to the origin and prevalence of socioeconomic differences, values and norms are shared within the population. Thus, family bonds may cut across stratification lines, contributing to a complex pattern of socioeconomic interdependence.


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