Did the 1979 Iranian Revolution Matter? Social Mobility in Iran across Three Generations

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 18:00
Oral Presentation
Kevan HARRIS, University of California-Los Angeles, USA
Do social revolutions alter social mobility? It is often assumed so, but our selection of historical cases is small to begin with. Drawing from the 2016 Iran Social Survey, a large, nationally representative survey (N=5005) conducted over phone from Tehran in November/December 2016, this paper adds another case to the literature on intergenerational social mobility in developing country contexts as well as a post-revolutionary context. For the case of the 1979 Iranian revolution, anecdotal accounts often claim that poorer families experienced a form of upward mobility via affirmative action in the years after the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88) through special access to education and employment quotas. Yet this claim has never been balanced against more common forms of transmission of status through family ties such as wealth or cultural capital. How did war-linked upward mobility fare against less politicized forms of status and class preservation in the Islamic Republic of Iran?

The Iran Social Survey included questions about war participation in combat and non-combat roles for respondents, spouses, or fathers. As a result, Iran Social Survey data allows us to estimate the social demographics of war veterans, including family size, educational levels of parents, and occupational and educational status of male and female children. To preview the findings: processes of war-linked upward mobility did exist for a subset of families in the survey, controlling for other factors. Yet the degree of mobility is modest compared to two other processes of status transmission across three generations: grandparents' land ownership and parents’ class status. In sum, as with many revolutions and wars, mass mobilization left a legacy of “social leveling” in Iranian society but the effects varied alongside other powerful forms of social stratification and inequality.