Sociology Index

Social Mobility

Social mobility is the movement of an individual or group from one social class or social status to another. Social mobility facilitates democratization by reducing the conflict over redistribution between the rich and the poor. Social mobility is the upward or downward movement within a stratification system. Sociologists see social mobility as a useful way to measure equality of opportunity. Social mobility is typically measured by comparing the social status positions of adult children to that of their parents (intergenerational mobility), but social mobility can be measured by comparing a person's status position over their own lifetime (intragenerational mobility). Horizontal Social Mobility is the transition of an individual from one position to another situated on the same level.

Capitalist societies have open-class ideology and therefore one can expect a high degree of social mobility. According to liberal theory social mobility within a stratification system should result from a person's achievements and should not be based on ascribed characteristics such as sex, race, region of birth, and parent's class position.

Usually, the point of reference is an individual's class or status of social origin and social mobility occurs when later class or status positions differ from those of origin. Social mobility would be high where individuals have equal opportunity to achieve new statuses and low where there is inequality of opportunity and processes of ascribed status. In social mobility we have movement of individuals or groups from one position to another. Social mobility can be horizontal social mobility or vertical social mobility .

Horizontal Social Mobility is the transition of an individual from one position to another situated on the same level, that is, moving from one company to another in the same occupational status (blue-collar worker in one company to blue-collar worker in another company).

Vertical Social Mobility is the transition of an individual from one position to another, situated at a different level. It can be a move up (upward social mobility) or a move down (downward social mobility). There have been few societies whose strata were absolutely closed, or in which vertical social mobility was not present..

Depending on the nature of the stratification, there are ascending and descending currents of economic, political, and occupational mobility.

Social mobility concentrates on changes in the socio economical status. Social mobility can be the result of structural changes in the working population, new positions become available or some positions experience a lack of people or efforts of individuals, to generate a certain position. (Vincke, 1998, p. 265).

There has never existed a society in which vertical social mobility has been absolutely free and the trasition from one social stratum to another has had no resistance. Every organized society is a stratified body. If veritcal social mobility were absolutely free, in the resultant society there would be no strata.

Social Mobility Abstracts

Social Mobility and Political Transitions Bahar Leventolu - Political Science from the University of Rochester - Journal of Theoretical Politics, Vol. 17, No. 4, 465-496 (2005).

I address the role of social mobility in political transitions. I develop a political economy model of regime transitions that incorporates social mobility as a key feature of the economy capturing the political attitudes toward redistribution.

I show that social mobility facilitates democratization by reducing the conflict over redistribution between the rich and the poor. Furthermore, it facilitates democratic consolidation by reducing the likelihood of a coup under democracy. On the other hand, social mobility helps to keep an authoritarian regime stable by reducing the likelihood of mass movements against political elites.

Social Mobility and Modernization: A Journal of Interdisciplinary History Reader. Edited by Robert I. Rotberg. Cambridge, Mass., London: The MIT Press.
Modern social history is looking back to thirty years of rising activity. It changed dramatically during this period and was definitely broadened by the cultural history of the 1980's and 1990's. In recent years the debate on social history calmed down. This is a good moment to look back and to reflect on what has been reached and what has been missed. The volume by Robert I. Rotberg illustrates the merits. The dozen articles of the volume can be seen as a tour d'horizon of thirty years of social history of the American study of social history covering primarily Europe. They are a selection of the best articles of the Journal of Interdisciplinary History by Robert I. Rotberg, the co-editor of the journal. They treat various standard themes of social history such as social mobility, class structure, industrialization industrialization.

Alcohol Consumption Behaviours and Social Mobility in Men and Women of the Midspan Family Study - Carole L. Hart, George Davey Smith, Mark N. Upton and Graham C. M. Watt - Alcohol and Alcoholism 2009 44(3):332-336.
Abstract: Aims: The aim of this study was to investigate relationships between alcohol consumption and social mobility in a cohort study in Scotland. Conclusions: Downward mobility was associated with less favourable alcohol behaviours, especially in men. Wine consumption was more closely related to the social mobility groups than beer and spirits consumption. Drinking patterns could both influence and be influenced by social mobility.

SOCIAL MOBILITY WITHIN AND ACROSS GENERATIONS IN BRITAIN SINCE 1851 JASON LONG - Department of Economics, Colby College and Department of Economics and Nuffield College, University of Oxford
In this paper, I use a rich new data source to provide new measures of social mobility in England and Wales from 1851 to 1901. Existing measures of intergenerational mobility derived from marriage registries fail to control for life-cycle differences between father and son.

Migration Enclaves, Schooling Choices and Social Mobility
Piacentini, Mario (2008).
Abstract: This paper investigates the presence of a network externality which might explain the persistence of low schooling achievements among internal migrants. A simple analytical framework is presented to show how an initial human capital disparity between migrants and non migrants can translate into persistent skill inequality if origin shapes the composition of social networks.

The impact of social mobility and within-family learning on voter preferences: Evidence from a sample of twins
Harry Krashinsky
Centre for Industrial Relations, University of Toronto
Journal of Public Economics Volume 91, Issues 1-2, February 2007, Pages 97-116
Abstract: Income-maximizing consumers should vote in predictable ways: support for liberal, redistributive governments should fall as income rises. But weak empirical evidence for these voting patterns might suggest that voters are influenced by alternative factors, such as perceptions of social mobility from within-family learning. To examine these effects, this paper uses a data set of twins and a recently-developed econometric approach to show that within-family learning and family-specific effects are important determinants of voting preferences and preferences for redistribution.

Social Mobility and the Demand for Redistribution: The POUM Hypothesis
Roland Benabou, Efe A. Ok
Journal of Economics, 2001, v116(2,May), 447-487.
Abstract: Even relatively poor people oppose high rates of redistribution because of the anticipation that they or their children may move up the income ladder. This hypothesis commonly advanced as an explanation of why most democracies do not engage in large-scale expropriation and highly progressive redistribution. But is it compatible with everyone, especially the poor, holding rational expectations that not everyone can simultaneously expect to end up richer than average? This paper establishes the formal basis for the POUM hypothesis.

Kin Networks, Marriage, and Social Mobility in Late Imperial China
Cameron Campbell and James Lee
Social Science History 2008 32(2):175-214.
To assess claims about the role of the extended family in late imperial Chinese society, we examine the influence of kin network characteristics on marriage, reproduction, and attainment in Liaoning Province in Northeast China in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Social Mobility and Intergroup Antagonism - A Simulation - Burton B. Silver
Department of Sociology and Social Psychology Florida Atlantic University
Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 17, No. 4, 605-623 (1973)
This paper reevaluates certain aspects of Dahrendorf's conflict theory in relation to social mobility. Specifically, the relationship between the degree of openness or closedness of the mobility opportunity structure of society and the degree of intergroup antagonism is examined. A game simulation is initiated whereby the researcher is able to create simulated situations of varying mobility opportunity and observe, by means of pre- and posttest questionnaires, the relative antagonism between groups within the situation and the participants' latent antagonism outside the simulated situation. The findings provide support for Dahrendorf's hypothesis, but also indicate that further dynamics are involved in the structure of mobility systems.

The Consequences of Immigration for Social Mobility: The Experience of Israel
Meir Yaish, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Haifa, Haifa 31905, Israel. European Sociological Review 18:449-471. 2002 Oxford University Press.
A commonly held view argues that immigration is a major force propelling social mobility. Since, by definition, the immigration process entails a separation of individuals from their communities, it is argued that a relatively weak association exists between the immigrant's social position (in their country of origin) and that of their offspring (in the ‘new’ society).

Family Patterns Of Social Mobility Through Higher Education In England In The 1930s
Journal of Social History, Summer, 2001 by Carol Dyhouse
I focus on patterns of social mobility as experienced differently by men and women graduates, both in their family situations and in their working lives. Further, in exploring the question of parental aspirations and support for higher education, I shall highlight some of the ways in which mothers and fathers sometimes nurtured different aspirations for their families, or contributed differently to the educatio nal careers of their children. Education has often been seen as having represented "a central element in the creation and reproduction of cultural capital" amongst the upwardly mobile, and an understanding of the role played by mothers in encouraging their children into higher education may be seen as going some way towards restoring visibility to women in patterns of social mobility in history.

Measuring Social Mobility as Unpredictability
Simon C. Parker & Jonathan Rougier, University of Durham - The London School of Economics and Political Science
ABSTRACT: By associating mobility with the unpredictability of social states, new measures of social mobility may be constructed. We propose a family of three state-by-state and aggregate (scalar) predictability measures.

IQ, Social Mobility and Growth
John Hassler and Jose V. Rodriguez Mora
Abstract: The allocation of talent depends on the relative award the market assigns to intelligence versus other individual merits, which will also influence intergenerational social mobility. When growth is low, the equilibrium in the labor market implies that the reward to entrepreneurs depends more on social assets than on intelligence. This gives children of entrepreneurs a large ex-ante advantage over children of workers when working as entrepreneurs, which will cause low intergenerational social mobility and an ineffcient allocation of human resources and, consequently, low growth. On the other hand, there is also a stable equilibrium with high growth which mitigates the ineffciencies generated by the labor market and implies high intergenerational social mobility.

Social Mobility in Latin America - How is social mobility related to education policy in Latin America? A schooling gap regression analysis - Andersen, L.E. Boliviana, La Paz, Bolivia - This paper proposes a new measure of social mobility, It is based on schooling gap regressions and uses the Fields decomposition to determine the importance of family background in explaining teenagers' schooling gaps. -

Poverty and social mobility in Lebanon: a few wild guesses - Inequality and poverty: a feature of the Shiite and the Sunni in Lebanon - Khoury El, M.; Panizza, U. / Workshop on the Analysis of Poverty and its Determinants in the MENA Region - The purpose of this paper is twofold. First of all, the paper aims at describing poverty in Lebanon and second the paper aims at measuring social mobility in Lebanon. Given that the only available household survey did not include data on income or expenditure, it measures poverty with a proxy for household wealth obtained by applying principal component analysis to a set of indicators of asset ownership.-

Conventions and Social Mobility in Bargaining Situations - in ELSE working papers from ESRC Centre on Economics Learning and Social Evolution - Giovanni Ponti and Robert M. Seymour - We find that, although any custom (when it operates alone) generates the same limiting class distribution as any other, these limiting distrbutions can be ranked with respect of their social mobility. If players are allowed to change their custom when they find it unsatisfactory, then social mobility appears to be the key variable to predict the type of custom which will predominate in the long run even though, in general, no one custom is dominant. In particular, customs which promote social mobility appear to exhibit, in all the cases we have analysed, stronger stability properties.

Politics Determine Occupational Opportunity and Social Mobility in East Asia
A study has found that the pattern of social fluidity in East Asian countries differ substantially from their Western counterparts, thus rendering the Western research models inadequate for the Asian context.

Intergenerational Mobility for Women and Minorities in the United States
Journal article by Melissa S. Kearney; The Future of Children, Vol. 16, 2006

The Role of Higher Education in Social Mobility
Journal article by Robert Haveman, Timothy Smeeding; The Future of Children, Vol. 16, 2006

Early Childhood Development and Social Mobility
Journal article by W. Steven Barnett, Clive R. Belfield; The Future of Children, Vol. 16, 2006

Social Mobilization and Collective Violence: Vigilantes and Militias in the Lowlands of Plateau State, Central Nigeria
Journal article by Adam Higazi; Africa, Vol. 78, 2008

Making It in America: Social Mobility in the Immigrant Population
Journal article by George J. Borjas; The Future of Children, Vol. 16, 2006.

Social Mobility Journals

Research in Social Stratification and Mobility - Research in Social Stratification and Mobility is dedicated to publishing the highest quality, most innovative research on issues of social inequality from a broad diversity of theoretical and methodological perspectives. The journal is also dedicated to cutting edge summaries of prior research and fruitful exchanges that will stimulate future research on issues of social inequality. Edited by Kevin T. Leicht, Department of Sociology, Univ. of Iowa.

Social Mobility and Modernization: A Journal of Interdisciplinary History Reader. Edited by Robert I. Rotberg. Cambridge, Mass., London: The MIT Press.

Social Mobility Bibliography

Tyree, Andrea, and Moshe Semyonov. 1983. Social Mobility and Immigrants or Immigrants and Social Mobility. American Sociological Review 48(4): 583-585.

Goldthorpe, John H., Catriona Llewellyn, and Clive Payne. 1987. Social Mobility and Class Structure in Modern Britain, 2nd ed. Oxford: Clarendon. Pp. 40-43.

Goldthorpe, John H., and Keith Hope. 1972. "Occupational Grading and Occupational Prestige." Pp. 19-80 in The Analysis of Social Mobility: Methods and Approaches, edited by Keith Hope. Oxford Studies in Social Mobility Working Papers I. Oxford: Clarendon.

Simkus, Albert. 1984. "Structural Transformation and Social Mobility." American Sociological Review 49(3): 291-307.

Slomczynski, Kazimierz M. and Tadeusz K. Krause. 1987. "Cross-National Similarity in Social Mobility Patterns: A Direct Test of the Featherman-Jones-Hauser Hypothesis." American Sociological Review 52(5): 598-611.

Stevens. 1981. "Social Mobility and Fertility: Two Effects in One." American Sociological Review: 46(5): 573-585.

Duncan, Otis Dudley. 1966. "Methodological Issues in the Analysis of Social Mobility." Pp. 51-97 in Social Structure and Mobility in Economic Development, edited by Neil J. Smelser and Seymour Martin Lipset. Chicago: Aldine.

Seeman, Melvin. 1977. Some Real and Imaginary Consequences of Social Mobility. American Journal of Sociology 82(4): 757-782.

Social Mobility In Europe Book by Richard Breen (Editor)

Analyzing Inequality: Life Chances And Social Mobility In Comparative Perspective (Studies in Social Inequality) Stefan Svallfors.

Class-Passing: Social Mobility In Film And Popular Culture Book by Gwendolyn Audrey Foster

Social Mobility and Modernization: A Journal of Interdisciplinary History Reader Book by Robert I. Rotberg (Editor)

Social Mobility and Class Structure in Modern Britain Book by John H. Goldthorpe

Pathways to Social Class: A Qualitative Approach to Social Mobility Book by Daniel Bertaux, Paul Thompson

New Markets, New Opportunities?: Economic and Social Mobility in a Changing World Book by Nancy Birdsall, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Carol Graham.

Ethnicity, Social Mobility, and Public Policy : Comparing the USA and UK Book by Glenn C. Loury (Editor), Tariq Modood (Editor), Steven M. Teles (Editor)

Getting Ahead: Economic and Social Mobility in America Book by Daniel P. McMurrer, Isabel V. Sawhill

A Notion at Risk: Preserving Public Education as an Engine for Social Mobility
Book by Richard D. Kahlenberg (Editor).