Homogamy in New Zealand




Foundation for Research, Science, and Technology


Stephen McTaggart


This study investigated patterns in New Zealand family/whānau formation, household structure, and social stratification/ interaction, using census data. This was novel in that it analysed the data at the level of the household and applied a relational and social distance model of stratification. The output from the study was in the form of a PhD thesis.

Stratification theory examines structured social inequality in cultural, social, and material formations. It provides a framework for analysing inequalities, including access to resources. Stephen investigated and contrasted a number of theoretical models of social stratification at the level of the family, including the works of the classics such as Marx (1867), Weber (1978), and Talcot Parsons (1964), as well as the contemporary works of Rytina (2000), Prandy (2004), Goldthorpe (1980), Bedggood (1981), Bourdieu (1994), and others.

Stephen also investigated existing national scales of social differentiation/stratification in New Zealand such as the Elley-Irving scale, NZSES, and NZDep. Earlier ‘class’ models of social stratification have been criticised for being overly economically deterministic and perhaps not inclusive enough in the areas of cultural identity, gender and ethnicity. It may also be the case that current 'poverty' based models of measuring social stratification (such as NZDep) preclude a necessary understanding of social relationships and the role they take in social formations and social outcomes. Therefore the principal theoretical approach to this work was that of social space/social distance theory, which offers an alternative explanation of social stratification and its reproduction.

This concept of stratification has elements of Bourdieu’s work on social space/distance/inequality. Rather than a static structuralist model, Bourdieu suggests a model of the reproduction of stratification based in social relationships and social associations (the ‘rules’ for which are held and reproduced within the individual habitus) (Bourdieu 1984). Bottero states: “Social distance approaches look at the way in which hierarchy and inequality are routinely reproduced through social interaction, and see such reproduction as the result of the indivisible influence of economic, cultural, and social resources on everyday social life” (Bottero 2003: 188).