opportunity structure

opportunity structure

the social patterning of opportunities that are available to different individuals. Although originally conceived within deviancy theory (Cloward and Ohlin, 1960) as a way of developing Robert MERTON's work on ANOMIE by identifying variations in opportunities to engage in different kinds of illegitimate activity, the concept is now often employed in a general way to draw attention to the fact that social opportunities are rarely evenly or equally distributed. For example, the paucity of women in ÉLITE positions in society generally, as well as in particular organizations, is due to the fact that they confront a different opportunity structure compared with men; working-class under achievement in education is a product of the different opportunity structure which the home and school present to manual workers children compared with those from professional backgrounds, etc. see also EQUALITY OF OPPORTUNITY.
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