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 are open-class 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 are inequalities of opportunity and processes of status ascription.

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..

We usually speak of moves up or down taking into account factors such as occupation or education. For instance, upward occupational mobility means moving from a lower status occupation to a higher status occupation. Downward occupational mobility means moving from a high status occupation to another, situated at a lower level.

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). The role of social mobility in political transitions. A political economy model of regime transitions that incorporates social mobility as a key feature of the economy.

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.
Abstract: Aims: To investigate relationships between alcohol consumption and social mobility in a cohort study in Scotland. Wine consumption was more closely related to the social mobility groups. Drinking patterns could both influence and be influenced by social mobility.

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.

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.
Existing measures of intergenerational mobility fail to control for life-cycle differences between father and son. It is as important to consider the rate of social mobility not of outcome but of opportunity. It is as important to consider the rate of social mobility not of outcome but of opportunity.

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: Support for liberal, redistributive governments should fall as income rises. Weak empirical evidence for these voting patterns might suggest perceptions of social mobility from within-family learning.

Kin Networks, Marriage, and Social Mobility in Late Imperial China
Cameron Campbell and James Lee - Social Science History 2008.

The Consequences of Immigration for Social Mobility: The Experience of Israel
Meir Yaish, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Haifa, Haifa 31905, Israel.

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).

Measuring Social Mobility as Unpredictability
Simon C. Parker & Jonathan Rougier, University of Durham - The London School of Economics and Political Science.
ABSTRACT: New measures of social mobility may be constructed by associating mobility with the unpredictability of social states.

Family Patterns Of Social Mobility Through Higher Education In England In The 1930s
Journal of Social History, Summer, 2001 by Carol Dyhouse
Patterns of social mobility as experienced differently by men and women graduates.

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. Describes poverty in Lebanon and aims at measuring social mobility in Lebanon.

Social Mobility in Latin America - How is social mobility related to education policy in Latin America? A schooling gap regression analysis - Andersen, L.E. / Instituto de Investigaciones Socio-Economicas (IISEC). This paper proposes a new measure of social mobility based on schooling gap regressions.

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

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.

Making It in America: Social Mobility in the Immigrant Population
Journal article by George J. Borjas; 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 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 (Editor), Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (Editor), Carol Graham (Editor)

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).