What Is Your Occupation?

  • A. J. Jaffe


People who have jobs that society deems to be less desirable generally receive less pay for their work. Included as “undesirable” are unskilled work, farm laborers, and the like, jobs often associated in the public mind with illegal foreign entrants into a country Hence, the occupation reported may be considered as an indicator of the economic position of the person or group relative to others, that is, better or worse off than others. In addition to the economic or money payoff, an occupation may have more or less status in the public eye; compare, for example, an engineer versus a laborer on a construction job. Hence, by observing the occupations that the Amerindians had and have now we obtain clues regarding their changing economic and status positions (if they are changing) in the United States and Canada.


Native People White Collar Blue Collar Farm Laborer Occupational Structure 


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  1. 1.
    There is a vast literature on definition, classification, and numbers for occupation, industry, class of worker, labor force, gainfully occupied, working force, employment and unemployment, and so forth. For a quick review, see, for example, Jaffe and Stewart (1951), the several articles in the International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, the definitions and explanations in the Canadian and U.S. census volumes, and the annual volumes of the Statistical Abstract oj the United States; for Canada, see Urquhart and Buckley (1965). For further information, see Appendix 5.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Presumably, some of the pre-Columbian Indians who sought copper could have been classified as miners.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Josephy (1982).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    For descriptive information about how some natives, the Métis, for example, earned their living, see Hanson (1985). For some time buffalo hunting was a lucrative occupation. As the herds diminished, some Métis took on the white man’s occupations.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    These are the people listed in the 1981 census (Catalogue 92–918, Table 1) as “Native People of Single Origin.” Most of these people, we believe, are status Indians, probably living on reserves.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Canadian dollars. See Canada’s Native People. Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Canadian classification Major Group 21 plus group 231.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Major Groups 233 to 239 inclusive, 251, 273, and 33. The category “medicine and health,” 31, was omitted because it appears to be too varied.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. J. Jaffe
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Columbia UniversityNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.National Museum of the American IndianNew YorkUSA

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