Stockholm university

Erik BihagenProfessor

About me

Erik Bihagen is professor of sociology at the Swedish Institute for Social Research (SOFI), Stockholm University. He teaches organizational theory at our educational unit (AKPA) and conducts research at the unit for the Level of living survey (LNU). His research is broadly in the field of social inequality and social stratification and more specifically about class and gender differences in incomes, careers and social mobility.


Research projects


A selection from Stockholm University publication database

  • Does Your Class Give More than a Hint of Your Lifetime Earnings?: Assessing Indicators for Lifetime Earnings Over the Life Course for Sweden

    2022. Roujman Shahbazian, Erik Bihagen. European Sociological Review 38 (4), 527-542


    From a sociological stratification perspective, we would expect occupationally based measures to be valid proxies for lifetime earnings, but recent research suggests that annual earnings outperform occupational measures. In this article, we examine how class, occupation, education, and annual earnings are associated with lifetime earnings across almost complete working lives, at ages of around 20–65 years for Swedish cohorts born in the 1940s. Our results indicate that while annual earnings are considerably more accurate proxies for the lion’s share of working life, occupational measures are as expected more stable and somewhat better at the start and end of working lives. Our results also support the idea that micro-classes are better proxies of lifetime earnings than big classes. Contrary to some previous research, occupational measures perform better for women than for men in this respect, and occupational measures are better than education. Our main conclusions are that proxies for lifetime earnings have life-cycle biases that should be considered in, for instance, analyses of intergenerational mobility, and that occupationally based measures are more stable than annual earnings but, overall, are not very valid as indicators of lifetime earnings compared to annual earnings.

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  • Can class and status really be disentangled

    2018. Erik Bihagen, Paul Lambert. Research in Social Stratification and Mobility 58, 1-10


    Tak Wing Chan and John Goldthorpe (CG) have argued that it makes theoretical and empirical sense to use indicators of both class and status in analyses of cultural consumption, political attitudes and labour market outcomes in order to disentangle different mechanisms of stratification. However, we argue that class and status measured by occupationally based stratification variables are too strongly mutually associated for this to be a reliable approach. We provide empirical analyses, using secondary survey data from the UK’s BHPS, that indicate that the measures of class and status largely tap the same form of stratification. It turns out that class accounts for around 75% and more of the variation in status and even more if excluding outliers. Moreover, class and status are similarly associated with earnings, have similar experience-earnings curves, and patterns in relevant model residuals are not consistent with the theoretical differences between class and status. In conclusion we point out alternative and more accurate usages of Weber’s concepts of status and also suggest a more realistic and pragmatic view on occupationally based stratification variables.

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  • Elite mobility among college graduated men in Sweden: Skills, personality and family ties

    2017. Erik Bihagen (et al.). Acta Sociologica 60 (4), 291-308


    Using Swedish registry data, we study the chances of mobility into the Swedish labour market elite for men who graduated in the years 1985-2005. The elite is defined as top earners within mid- and large sized firms and within the public sector organisations (henceforth, we use organisation for both firms and public organisations). Using discrete time event history models, we study the incidence of elite entry in terms of external recruitment and internal promotion. The choice of field of study and of college or university are important, as are personality and, to a limited extent, cognitive ability. What is most striking is that having kin in elite positions increases the chance of elite entry in general, and having parents in top positions in the same organisation increases the likelihood of internal promotion. In sum, elite entry among college-educated males is associated with a diversity of factors, suggesting that complex explanations for labour market success should be considered, where skills, personality, and family ties all seem to matter.

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Show all publications by Erik Bihagen at Stockholm University