CAMSIS: analysing inequality

The study of inequality and stratification of society has a long tradition within the social sciences. Many 'stratification models' looking at the distribution of resources are based on the premise that people sharing a similar social position are more likely to interact socially with each other than with members of other groups. By analysing the interaction between members of these groups you can build a picture of how resources are distributed in society.

The Cambridge Social Interaction and Stratification (CAMSIS) project turned this on its head by instead looking at the interactions between people, and seeing what kind of social structures emerged. According to this model, different social strata and inequality are not shaped by static structures, but by relationships within dynamic networks which define people's 'social spaces' and how resources are distributed. The resulting CAMSIS scale of social stratification is constructed from measures of similarity and difference between occupations, as seen in the interaction patterns.

CAMSIS challenged conventional ideas about the nature of social classes, and of the traditional distinction between social class and social status. Originally developed in the 1970s, the model was expanded through the ESRC-funded CAMSIS project to include a range of countries and time periods - leading to the development of around 20 national scales.