There is a long tradition of studying the significance of occupations for social inequality. In this introductory article, we outline the contributions to this special issue of Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie in the context of the research into occupations carried out so far. The idea of the special issue is not to view occupation as a “black box”, as done elsewhere, but to specifically ask what social mechanisms give occupations their inequality-generating effects. The first thematic block of the special issue provides the reader with an overview of theoretical perspectives and measures used in the research field of occupations and social inequality. The subsequent thematic blocks address specific research questions in order to illustrate the potential of emphasizing social mechanisms in the research area of occupations and social inequality. The thematic blocks cover the issues of occupational choice and careers, the connections between occupations and gender inequality, the significance of occupations in the context of the debates on migration and immigration, as well as the theme of occupations in the age of digitisation and globalisation. Our special issue brings together theoretically sound, empirical contributions that simultaneously demonstrate the diversity of the data bases and the methodological approaches that can be used for these types of analyses.