Title page for ETD etd-0128103-151631

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Riden, Carl Marie
URN etd-0128103-151631
Title Staying In or Getting Out: Social Capital and Occupational Decision-Making Among Louisiana's Croatian Oyster Harvesters
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Department Sociology
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
F. Andrew Deseran Committee Co-Chair
Michael Grimes Committee Co-Chair
Mark Schafer Committee Member
Thomas Durant Committee Member
Abjit Biswas Dean's Representative
  • occupational community
  • fishing communities
  • social capital
Date of Defense 2003-12-06
Availability unrestricted
Social capital-resources embedded in social structures that can be accessed or mobilized by individuals in pursuit of some goal- is the most prominent in a long line of concepts developed by social scientists who wish to incorporate social and cultural elements into models of economic behavior. The research presented here is a qualitative exploration of social capital, its forms and functions, and its relationship to the occupational decision-making of current and former oyster harvesters in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana. Within this close-knit Croatian-American community, oyster harvesting has a long and rich history. As a result, extensive social capital through which individuals can access the equipment, financing, and knowledge necessary to enter the industry has been readily available to most young men who chose to take up the work. While families in this community have historically encouraged their children to pursue oyster harvesting as an occupation, conditions in the industry have changed in recent decades leading many Croatian oystermen to question their future in the industry. For those who decide to leave harvesting, successful transition into a new occupation is often facilitated through relationships with individuals outside the oystering community. Whether acquaintances made during earlier work experiences, friends met while attending college, or family members in other lines of work, these individuals provide needed information, reference, and job opportunities. Finally, neither current nor former oyster harvesters interviewed for this study state that they would encourage their children to enter the oyster business, rather they report advising their children to focus on high school completion and college attendance. In several cases they even describe actively discouraging their childrens’ involvement in the family oyster business. As a result, the occupational goals of the next generation, and thus the types of social capital they will need and have access to, are likely to be quite different than their parents or grandparents before them. This study demonstrates the importance of exploring each of these pieces- the formation of occupational goals and the availability and accessibility of social capital- if we are to understand how social capital operates within particular social contexts.
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