Social mobility

Social mobility
GDP PPP Per Capita IMF 2008.svg
General categories
Microeconomics · Macroeconomics
History of economic thought
Methodology · Mainstream & heterodox
Technical methods
Mathematical economics
Game theory  · Optimization
Computational · Econometrics
Experimental · National accounting
Fields and subfields

Behavioral · Cultural · Evolutionary
Growth · Development · History
International · Economic systems
Monetary and Financial economics
Public and Welfare economics
Health · Education · Welfare
Population · Labour · Managerial
Business · Information
Industrial organization · Law
Agricultural · Natural resource
Environmental · Ecological
Urban · Rural · Regional · Geography


Journals · Publications
Categories · Topics · Economists

Business and Economics Portal
This box: view · talk · edit

Social mobility refers to the movement of people in a population from one social class or level to another.[1] It typically refers to vertical mobility -- movement of individuals or groups up (or down) from one socio-economic level to another, often by changing jobs or marrying; but can also refer to horizontal mobility -- movement from one position to another within the same social level. Social mobility can be the change in socio-economic status between someone (or some group) and their parents/previous family generations ("inter-generational"); or over the change over the course of a lifetime ("intra-generational").[2] It can be "absolute" -- i.e. total amount of movement of persons between classes, usually over one generation (such as when education and economic development raises the socio-economic level of a mass of people); or relative -- an estimation of the chance of upward (or downward) social mobility of a member of one social class compared with someone from another class.[3]

Mobility is enabled to a varying extent by economic capital, cultural capital (such as higher education), human capital (such as competence and effort in labour), social capital (such as support from one's social network), physical capital (such as ownership of tools, or the 'means of production'), and symbolic capital (such as the worth of an official title, status class, celebrity, etc.).

In modern states, policy issues such as welfare, education and public transport exercise influence. In other societies religious affiliation, caste membership, or simple geography may be of central importance. The extent to which a nation is open and meritocratic is fundamental: a society in which traditional or religious caste systems dominate is unlikely to present the opportunity for social mobility. The term is used in both sociology and economics.


Inter- and Intra-generational mobility

Intra-generational mobility ("within" a generation) is defined as change in social status over a single life-time. Inter-generational mobility ("across" generations) is defined as changes in social status that occur from the parents' to the children's generation.[4] These definitions have proven particularly useful when analyzing how social status changes from one time-period to another, and if a person's parents' social status influences that of their own. Sociologists usually focus on intergenerational mobility because it is easier to depict changes across generations rather than within one. This information helps sociologists determine whether inequality in a culture changes over time.

Intra-generational mobility occurs when a person strives to change his or her own social standing. In some societies, this type of change is easier than in others. In social systems where people are divided into castes or ethnic groups, social mobility is limited. Any persons born into a certain caste or ethnic group will remain a member of that group for their entire life. However, in cultures where social standing is determined by factors that can change across generations, such as merit, education, skills, abilities, actions or wealth, people can move up and down the social ladder.

Intra-generational mobility can move a person either higher or lower in the social ladder. If a person starts at a low level, they may improve their status by (for example) working hard, getting a better job, or becoming more culturally sound, to name a few possible approaches. Pierre Bourdieu describes three types of capital that place a person in a certain social category. These are economic capital, social capital, and cultural capital. Economic capital is command over economic resources such as money and assets. Social capital is resources one achieves based on group membership, relationships, networks of influence, and support from other people. Cultural capital is any advantage a person has that gives them a higher status in society, such as education, skills, and any other form of knowledge. Usually, people with all three types of capital have a high status in society.

Inter-generational mobility occurs across generations. This mobility is both merit- and non-merit-based. Ability and hard work affect social mobility, but so do race, gender, luck, and parents' wealth,. Fiona Devine wrote a book, Class practices: how parents help their children get good jobs, specifically on inter-generational mobility and how parents' influence can affect the child's social mobility. Nearly every chapter emphasizes the importance of a good education in order to become successful. Parents also help children make important connections with people in order to expand their social network. Parents that can create social capital for their children tend to increase their children's social mobility.

Research published in 2006 and based on collecting data on the economic mobility of families across generations looked at the probability of reaching a particular income-distribution with regard to where their parents were ranked. The study found that 42 percent of those whose parents were in the bottom quintile ended up in the bottom quintile themselves, 23 percent of them ended in the second quintile, 19 percent in the middle quintile, 11 percent in the fourth quintile and 6 percent in the top quintile.[5] These data indicate the difficulty of upward intergenerational mobility.

Annette Lareau disusses child-raising in her book, Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life (2003). She describes two different ways to raise children: concerted cultivation and natural growth:

  1. Concerted cultivation, normally used by middle-class families, incorporates scheduling many structured, organized activities for the child. Such children learn to use their language to reason with parents and other adults, and they often adopt a sense of entitlement.
  2. Natural growth is almost the exact opposite of concerted cultivation. Occurring mainly in poor or working-class families, this style of childrearing does not include organized activities, and there is a clear division between the adult and the child. Children usually spend large amounts of their day creating their own activities, and they hardly ever speak with adults. In fact, adults use language in order to direct or order the children, never to negotiate with them.

These two different types of childrearing can affect inter-generational mobility. Children who grow up with a concerted cultivation style of childrearing learn from their parents how to talk with adults as equals and negotiate to get favorable outcomes in any situation. This skill helps them create powerful social networks, which can improve their social standing. Children with natural growth accomplishment tend to have a more difficult time improving their social standing. They lack the social skills and sense of entitlement that children raised with the concerted cultivation method have, and therefore are less likely to acquire good jobs (and therefore, improve their social standing). Children who have been raised with natural growth do learn to comply with authority figures, instead of arguing with them, which gives them an advantage over concerted cultivated children in certain fields of employment. However, those are generally the entry-level fields (which pay people to follow orders and not to think) and are therefore the lower-paying ones, whereas the middle-class concertedly cultivated children's reasoning skills aid them in attaining the higher-paying, higher-prestige white-collar jobs.

Absolute and Relative Mobility

Absolute mobility means that living standards are increasing in absolute terms: You are better off than your parents, and your children will be better off than you.[6] Structural changes, such as changes in occupational structure rates, mean that there is more room at the top, which leads to high absolute mobility rates.[6] For example, suppose a person begins their working career with an income of $32,000. If a decade later their income is $36,000 (adjusted for inflation), they have experienced upward absolute income mobility.

Relative mobility refers to the degree to which individuals move up or down compared to others in their cohort.[6] In other words, relative mobility means that if your family is poor, you have a decent chance of moving up the relative income ladder. That is, the rank order of people in society is malleable. Relative mobility relates to the openness or fluidity of society and is insensitive to the impact of structural changes.[6] For example, suppose a person’s income increases from $32,000 at the start of his working career to $36,000 a decade later, whereas most other people who began their work life around the same time experienced a larger increase. The person has experienced upward absolute mobility but downward relative mobility. Because relative mobility depends on one’s place in the distribution, it is a zero-sum phenomenon.[6] In other words, if one person moves up in relative terms, another by definition must have moved down. In contrast, absolute mobility is not zero-sum.

Although both absolute and relative mobility are both forms of intragenerational mobility, these two have very little to do with each other. High absolute mobility rates can co-exist with highly unequal relative mobility chances. Thus, you can have an economy with a lot of absolute mobility, and little relative mobility or an economy with a lot of relative mobility, and little absolute mobility. Social mobility is an act of moving from one social class to another. The amount of movement up and down the class structure would indicate the extent of social mobility prevalent in the society. The social mobility is greatly influenced by the level of openness of the society. An open society is the one where people attain their status primarily by their own efforts.

The extent of mobility may be taken as an index of openness of a society indicating how far talented individuals born into lower strata can move up the socio-economic ladder. In this respect, social mobility is an important political issue, particularly in countries committed to a liberal vision of equality of opportunity for all citizens. In this perspective industrial societies are mostly open societies exhibiting high social mobility. Compared with them, pre-industrial societies have mostly been found to be closed societies where there has been low social mobility. People in such societies have been confined to their ancestral occupations, and their social status has mostly been ascribed.

The movement of people up or down the social hierarchy can be looked at either within one generation called intra-generational mobility or between generations labeled as inter-generational mobility. Intra-generational mobility consists of movement up and down the stratification system by members of a single generation (the-social class in which you began life compared with your social class at the end of your life). Inter-generational mobility consists of movement up and down the stratification system by members of successive generations of a family (your social class location compared with that of your parents, for example). Comparison is usually made between social class status of son and father. Mobility is functional. Open societies provide opportunities to their members for the development of their talents and working toward their individual fulfillment. At the same time a person can select the best person for doing a particular job

Social mobility can be classified as:

  • Vertical mobility: The movement of individuals and groups up or down the socioeconomic scale. Those who gain in property, income, status, and position are said to be upwardly mobile, while those who move in the opposite direction are downwardly mobile.
  • Horizontal mobility: The movement of individuals and groups in similar socio-economic positions, which may be in different work situations. This may involve change in occupation or remaining in the same occupation but in a different organization, or may be in the same organization but at a different location.
  • Lateral mobility: It is a geographical movement between neighborhoods, towns or regions. In modern societies there is a great deal of geographical mobility.[citation needed] Lateral mobility is often combined with vertical as well as horizontal mobility.

Rules of status: ascription and achievement

Achieved status is a position gained based on merit, or achievement (used in an open system). An open system describes a society with mobility between different social classes. Individuals can move up or down in the social rankings; this is unlike closed systems, where individuals are set in one social position for life despite their achievements. Ascribed status is a position based on who a person is, not what they can do (used in a closed system). When this ascriptive status rule is used (Medieval Europe), people are placed in a position based on personal traits beyond their control. Mobility is much more frequent in countries that use achievement as the basis for status. However, societies differ on the amount of mobility that occurs due to the direction of structural changes in their overall status systems. The process by which an individual alters the ascribed social status of their parents into an achieved social status for themselves is called Social Transformation.

The ability of an individual to become wealthy out of poverty does not necessarily indicate that there is social mobility in his or her society. Some societies with low or nonexistent social mobility afford free individuals opportunities to initiate enterprise and amass wealth, but wealth fails to "buy" entry into a higher social class. In feudal Japan and Confucianist China, wealthy merchants occupied the lowest ranks in society (at least in theory). In pre-revolutionary France, a nobleman, however poor, was from the "second estate" of society and thus superior, at least in theory, to a wealthy merchant (from the "third estate").

Mobility regimes can be positive and/or an negative sum. Structural mobility is mobility resulting from changes in the number and kinds of jobs available in a society. Examples: Great Depression, many job losses, the government and many people in need of major help. According to sociologist John H. Goldthorpe, social mobility is normally seen in two ways. The first being that it is a basic source of social "structuration." The second is that the extent of mobility may be a strong indicator of the balance of power and different characteristics within a society.

Structural and exchange mobility

Structural mobility is a type of forced vertical mobility that results from a change in the distribution of statuses within a society. It occurs when the demand for a particular occupation reaches its maximum and more people are needed to v means trade-off. This means instead of positions reaching the maximum and more people being needed, positions are dropped and someone else must step up to fill the position. When ascriptive status is in play, there is not much exchange mobility occurring.

Upward and downward mobility

Upward social mobility is a change in a person's social status resulting in that person receiving a higher position in their status system. Likewise, downward mobility results in a lower position. A prime example of an opportunity for upward mobility nowadays is athletics. There is an increased number of minorities seeking careers as professional athletes[citation needed] which can either lead to improved social status or could potentially harm them due to neglecting other aspects of their life (e.g. education). Transformative assets would also allow one to achieve a higher status in society, as they increase wealth and provide for more opportunity. A transformative asset could be a trust fund set up by family that allows one to own a nice house in a nice neighborhood, instead of an renting an apartment in a run-down community. This type of move would allow the person to develop a new circle of friends of the same economic status.

In 2005, The Economist wrote that

evidence from social scientists suggests that American society is much "stickier" than most Americans assume. Some researchers claim that social mobility is actually declining.[7]

A CAP study of 2006 found that:

By international standards, the United States has an unusually low level of intergenerational mobility… Among high-income countries for which comparable estimates are available, only the United Kingdom had a lower rate of mobility than the United States.[8]

Mobility in the American workforce


Popular examples of upward social mobility from America include Abraham Lincoln and Bill Clinton, who were born into working-class families yet achieved high political office in adult life, and Andrew Carnegie, who arrived in the U.S. as a poor immigrant and later became a steel tycoon. Examples from other countries include Pierre Bérégovoy who started working at the age of 16 as a metal worker and later became Prime Minister of France, Ramsay MacDonald the illegitimate son of a farm labourer and a housemaid who became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and Sir Joseph Cook, an Englishman who had no schooling and worked as a coal miner at the age of nine and went on to become Prime Minister of Australia. Intra-generational mobility refers to the social mobility within a single generation. It measures shifts in career at some point in the individual’s lifetime, where your occupational status is determined by individual merit. Thus, irrespective of family background, one can theoretically move from being an unskilled blue collar worker to becoming a CEO of a multi-million dollar corporation.

Intra-generational mobility within the work force is a concept that has been heavily influenced by the American dream. Meritocracy, the idea that everybody who has a good work ethic can succeed and move up in class, is a notion that has been put into question using statistics through sociological research. There are several factors which complicate a strictly meritocratic view of an individual's ability to "climb the corporate ladder." These factors primarily include education, gender and race, and social networks.

Sociologists Blau and Duncan collected mobility data along with the U.S. Bureau of the Census in 1962. The data included information on occupational family backgrounds. In 1962, 56.8% of sons with fathers who had occupations in upper nonmanual ended up with occupations in the same level. Only 1.2% of sons with fathers who had farming occupations ended up in upper nonmanual occupations. In 1973, these differences increased. 59.4% of sons with fathers in upper nonmanual occupations achieved occupations of this same level and 0.9% of sons with fathers in farming occupations ended up in upper nonmanual occupations. However, the occupational structure is more rigid towards the top and bottom. Those in lower nonmanual occupations, and upper and lower manual occupations were more likely to be vertically mobile. Upper nonmanual occupations have the highest level of occupational inheritance.[9]

Educational factor

Wages and earnings tend to correlate with the amount of education a person has obtained. In 2003, those workers with less than a high school diploma earned a median income of $21,000; while those workers with a four year college degree earned a median income of $53,000 (James 2005). The poverty line in 2005 according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services was $19,350 for a four-person household; therefore, those with less education are more likely to be bordering on this line than those with more education. With a college degree, one is more likely to attain a professional-level job wherein he or she may earn a higher salary in comparison to someone working in a secondary, service-based job.[citation needed]

Higher educational opportunities are necessary in order to pull away from the poverty line. Of the 30 fastest growing occupations, more than half require an associates degree or higher. Yet, these occupations are less likely to supply additional jobs to the labor market; meaning, the majority of job growth is found in low-wage occupations(Jacobs 2005). These low-wage jobs are associated with those people who have less education. Workers in these areas are deemed unskilled because a great amount of education is not required in order to perform these jobs, so the stereotype goes.[citation needed] White collar jobs, however, necessitate more human capital and knowledge and therefore produce higher earnings and require greater education. Therefore, it can be understood that education is a main determinant for potential social mobility in the American workforce.[citation needed]

Gender and race factor

When examining status mobility within the American labor force, race and gender inevitably come into play. History has shown that women and minorities have a disadvantage in earning promotions; thus, being a woman or in a minority is one of the main determinants in hindering status mobility within the labor market.[citation needed] Women and minorities hold jobs with less rank, authority, opportunity for advancement, and pay than men and whites (Federal Glass Ceiling Commission 1995; Reskin & Padavic 1994). This concept is considered to be the "glass ceiling" effect. Despite the increased presence of blacks and women in the work force over the years, there remains a very small percentage that holds top managerial positions, implying the "glass ceiling."

One explanation is seen in the networks of different genders and minorities. The more managers there are in an employees' immediate work environment, the higher their chances of interacting and spending time with high status employees. The race and sex composition of employees' immediate work environment should indirectly affect the status of their network members. For instance, the more women employees work with, the more women they will interact with, and thus the more women they will have in their networks.

The more women and minorities employees have in their networks, the more low-status network members they should have because women and minorities tend to occupy low-level positions in work organizations (Brass 1985; Ibarra 1992). Less than half of all managers are women, whereas the vast majority of all clerical and office workers are women. Furthermore, less than fifteen percent of all managers were minorities, whereas roughly a quarter of all clerical and office employees were minorities. The networks of women and minorities are simply not as strong as those of males and whites. Therefore, women and minorities have a clear disadvantage in status mobility from the beginning.

With regard to women, another explanation for this "glass ceiling" effect in the American work force is due to the job-family trade off that women face compared to men. Data from the 1996 General Social Survey examined the trade-offs that women and men made as they attempted to balance their employment and family obligations, and the multiple ways that gender affects those trade-offs (Davis & Smith 1996). Evidence suggests that both parents face job-family conflict, and that men and women are almost equivalent in feeling that such a conflict exists.

However, there is information that suggests women adjust their jobs around their family responsibilities more than men do. Some of these adjustments include adding flex-time, changing jobs, or creating part-time work. Women with children, particularly married women, are more likely to either temporarily leave the labor force or cut back on employment by working part-time or part of the year (Carlisle 1994; Estes & Glass 1996; Shelton 1992). Unfortunately, part time employment generally applies to lower paying jobs. When women with children remain in these jobs, it reduces any chance they have of being promoted into a higher status job. Also, research shows that after a woman has had children and taken part-time employment, she is not very likely to return to full-time employment for at least a few years. This gap of time can often lead to a decrease in the number of jobs that will become available to her.

Taking a break from the work force tends to decrease human capital when it comes to finding a job.[10] Women are also more likely than men to take leave from their jobs to care for others rather than themselves (Gerstel & McGonagle 1999; Sandberg 1999; Sandberg & Cornfield 2000). This evidence makes employers wary of hiring and promoting women in the work force.[citation needed]

Others have pointed out that men have statistically been willing to accept job conditions that women were not, such as working outside in extreme weather, working where you can become physically dirty on a regular basis, working more hours, etc. This is based on survey information,[citation needed] not speculation or stereotype, and shows that it is difficult to make direct comparisons ('apples to apples'). Economically, if it were less expensive to hire women for exactly the same duties, then every business interested in increasing profit margins would try to hire women exclusively; so it seems paradoxical that women have a harder time getting a job and also get paid less. This leaves doubt about the objectivity of the allegations.

Social mobility is especially difficult for immigrants in the United States. As George J. Borjas explains in his paper, Social Mobility in the Immigrant Population, the first generation of immigrants has the most difficult time adjusting to American society. They have to deal with language barriers in addition to trying to adjust to the new environment and culture. Second generation immigrants (those with at least one parent not born in the United States) adjust to life in the United States more easily. “There is significant economic ‘catching up’ between the first and second generations, with the relative wage of the second generation being, on average, about 5 to 10 percent higher than that of the first generation” states Borjas.

Since the second generation has access to American schools, they typically learn English in addition to their native language and understand the culture of their society better than their parents do. Borjas also argues that social mobility across generations depends on “ethnic capital,” characteristics of the ethnic environment where children are raised. “A highly advantaged ethnic environment—where most parents are college graduates for example, imbues the children who grow up in that environment with valuable characteristics that enhance the children's socio-economic achievement later in life,” Borjas explains. Especially true for immigrant families, ethnic capital largely affects the second generation’s social mobility.

Intergenerational mobility is particularly apparent in immigrant households. Every generation following the original immigrants appears to increase its income by 5 to 10 percent, thus creating social mobility. Thus, if a family started out very poor when it migrated to the United States, it will improve its position in society substantially with every generation. However, Borjas noticed a trend known as regression towards the mean. It “acts like a double-sided magnet,” pulling both extremes (very poor and very rich) towards the middle. For example, if parents in a family are very successful, it is likely that the children will also be successful but unlikely that they will be as successful as their parents were. Regression towards the mean creates more equality in the United States, regardless of where the parents start out.

The negative impact of incarceration on social mobility

Within the United States the prison population has been steadily increasing since the early 1970s and has now surpassed two million. This is the highest per capita rate in the world. This boom is largely fueled by the “War on Drugs” that was started with President Nixon in 1971 as an effort to help Vietnam veterans recover from their addictions. It wasn't until Ronald Reagan that the "War on Drugs" took on its modern meaning. This war has effectively created an underclass by providing a number of ways to deny one of the most important tools for social mobility, education.

  1. The drug war has combined with public school zero-tolerance policies to remove tens of thousands of adolescents from their public schools.
  2. Denial of higher education has been adopted as an additional punishment for drug offenders.
  3. The war on drugs siphons drug users out of society and into prison.[11]

The lack of education for convicted felons is compounded with difficulties in finding employment. These two factors contribute towards a high recidivism rate and downward social mobility.

Class cultures and networks

Cultural capital, a term first coined by French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu is the process of distinguishing between the economic aspects of class and powerful cultural assets. Bourdieu found that the culture of the upper social class is oriented more toward formal reasoning and abstract thought. The lower social class is geared more towards matters of facts and the necessities of life. He also found that the environment that a person is developed in has a large effect on the social class that a person will have.

Social system

Societies which use slavery are an example of low social mobility because, for the enslaved individuals, upward mobility is practically nonexistent, and for their owners, downward mobility is practically outlawed.

Social mobility is normally discussed as "upward only", but it is a two-sided phenomenon - where there is upward mobility, there can also be relative downward mobility. If merit and fortune play a larger role in life chances than the luck of birth, and some people can manage a relative upward shift in their social status, then some people can also move downward relative to others. This is the risk that motivates people in power to increasingly devise and commission political, legal, educational, and economic mechanisms that permit them to fortify their advantages. However, by controlling that inclination, it is possible in a growing economy for there to be greater upward mobility than downward - as has been the case in Western Europe[citation needed].

Official or legally recognized class designations do not exist in modern western democracies and it is considered possible for individuals to move from poverty to wealth or political prominence within one generation. Despite this formal opportunity for social mobility, recent research suggests that Britain and particularly the United States have less social mobility than the Nordic countries and Canada. These authors state that "the idea of the US as ‘the land of opportunity’ persists; and clearly seems misplaced."[12][13][14] However social mobility is likely to be much higher in all wealthy societies that offer free secondary and tertiary education than in poorer countries that do not.

Not only does social mobility vary across types of countries, it can also change over time. Comparing the United States to the United Kingdom, there was social mobility of different degrees existing between the two countries during different historical periods. In the United States in the mid-19th century inequality was low and social mobility was high. In the late 19th century, the U.S. had much higher social mobility than in the UK, due to the common school movement and open public school system, a larger farming sector, as well as higher geographic mobility in the United States. However, during the latter half of the 20th and early 21st centuries, the difference between the social mobilities of the two countries has narrowed, as social inequality has grown in both countries, but particularly in the United States. In other words, the individual's family background is more predictive of social position today than it was in 1850.[citation needed]

In market societies like the modern United States, class and economic wealth are strongly correlated. However, in some societies, such as feudal societies transitioning to market societies, there is a reduced probability that class status and wealth overlap. Usually, though, membership in a high social class provides more opportunities for wealth and political power, and therefore economic fortune is often a lagging indicator of social class. In newly-formed societies with little or no established tradition (such as the American West in the 19th century) the reverse is true: Made wealth precipitates the elite of future generations.

Symbols and on social mobility

Social science and understanding segmentation

Theory suggests that there is a connection between Social Psychologists' understanding of collective identity and the way sociologists conceive it. Individuals are always seeking ways to define themselves with regard to the world around them and they can do this with the meaning given to community and the concept that people are different from others because of arbitrary differences.

Boundaries could be sexual, racial, or linguistic, or they could look at other definitions of boundaries. Geographical boundaries are an example that is strongly reinforced but not as apparent without extra symbols. Sports teams are an excellent example of symbols that define geographic boundaries. When people place themselves, they must find a balance between their community or subgroup and larger communities and out-groups (which are groups that can be perceived as having a distinct difference). Scientists “have been studying the segmentation between ‘us’ and ‘them.’”

The social definition of groups creates entry and exit barriers that can help us understand the reasons why social mobility across group boundaries can be difficult. With symbols ranging from tattoos to elite prep schools, the concept of a boundary is readily apparent and seems to be instinctive. The interplay of ‘achievement’ with status and with actual economic success depends largely on the way that the in-group perceives these values. The nonparallel views of different groups at different points on the economic scale mean that advancement in some groups could be counter to the goals and directions of another group. High-income urban culture can define itself with multiple symbolic boundaries stemming from prejudice against other groups that they perceive to be of a different economic status. These actions make it difficult for others to interact with people who may be geographically very close. When groups consider themselves mutually exclusive, it is unlikely that they will worry about the well being of the others and are unwilling to share resources (In the form of social capital in this case)[15]

An urban planning perspective on group boundaries

Kevin A. Lynch touches on the concept of geographic boundaries and their social impact, as well as ways they can be manipulated in his book Image of the City. This work addresses the visible and invisible boundaries that are created in urban environments from an urban planner's perspective. The spatial information people use to create boundaries can be as important to perception as other more culturally entrenched symbols. To use some of Lynch’s own terms, the Paths that people use dictate their flow in every day behavior, and what is accessible to them easily. Districts are large sections of the city that have some specific character; these create a means of building individual identity that is shared by those who live and work inside them, and (is) felt by those that must cross Edges for various reasons. When seeking jobs or healthcare for instance.[16]

How sociology views neighborhood boundaries

According to Sampson, Morenoff, and Gannon-Rowley’s article Assessing “Neighborhood Effects”: Social Processes and New Directions in Research on the relationship between adolescent behavior and indicators of residential differentiation, “Robert Park and Ernest Burgess laid the foundation for urban sociology by defining local communities as 'natural areas' that developed as a result of competition between businesses for land use and between population groups for affordable housing.” This indicates that resources that are available to the community will largely be affected by the wealth of the population.

There is change that happens in communities however, and they evolve over time. This study suggests that longitudinal studies could observe trends in the community over time. As neighborhood dynamics change, there could be a movement of social groups into proximity with other similar groups creating a hybrid of the two cultures. Another possibility is that the groups in an area move around, but do not intermingle, and when they feel pressure that threatens their hold on an area, they could fight back at the local level, or choose to relocate to a place where economic conditions restrict entry.[17]

Influences that cross multiple boundaries

The benefits of having symbols that define social boundaries work to keep people from falling down as much as they can prevent others from moving up. The value of the work ethic, that is shared in many cultures, maintains an individual’s drive and prompts them to seek out and hold employment. Symbols of social status such as leadership roles are important for developing role models, and leadership models are often seen by children as bridging the more detrimental class boundaries. As shown here: “There are also cross-cultural differences in how symbolic boundaries are linked to social boundaries. The same social boundary can be coupled with different symbolic boundaries as class distinctions in Europe are tied to the symbolic boundary between high culture and popular culture.”[17]

Current research

In recent decades, new status hiearchies have emerged, leading to new opportunities for competition. India has seen a recent boom in employment, communication, distribution of goods, centralized administration, and urban living. This urbanization provides an escape from the ties of membership in rural based communities. Factors that would predetermine an individual's status are not as effective in urban areas. According to Harold Gould, the criteria for determining occupations in India are a person's skill and quality of performance rather than place of birth.

The status of any given role is based on its economic rewards and mobility. Studies have also shown that technological advances have both displaced certain groups as well as offered the chance for upward mobility. Some groups find themselves displaced by developing technology because their economic and social status have declined (ex. water carriers in parts of Northern India have been displaced by the introduction of handpumps). In other cases, individuals are finding new occupations with the opportunity for upward mobility. Most advances, however, appear to coincide with the opportunity for enhancement of social status.

In international comparisons, using the relationship between parents’ and children’s incomes as an indicator of relative mobility, data show that a number of countries including Denmark, Norway, Finland, Canada, Sweden, Germany, and France have more relative mobility than does the United States.[18] UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown has famously said that trends in social mobility "are not as we would have liked".[19]

See also


  1. ^ Random House Unabridged Dictionary second edition.
  2. ^ . between within a generation intra-generational mobility
  3. ^ Glossary from
  4. ^ Lopreato, Joseph and Hazelrigg, Lawrence E. (December 1970). "Intragenerational versus Intergenerational Mobility in Relation to Sociopolitical Attitudes". Social Forces (University of North Carolina Press) 49 (2): 200–210. doi:10.2307/2576520. JSTOR 2576520. 
  5. ^ Data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID). (2006). Institute for Social Science Research, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  6. ^ a b c d e Grusky, D., & Manwai, C. (2008). Social Stratification: Class race and gender in sociological perspective. Westview Press.
  7. ^ via Brendan Nyhan's Blog
  8. ^ CAP: Understanding Mobility in America - April 26, 2006
  9. ^ Kerbo, Harold. "Social Stratification and Inequality" (1996) pg 331-332 ISBN 0-07-034258
  10. ^ [1] Jacobs, Sheila. "Trends in Women's Career Patterns and in Gender Occupational Mobility in Britain." Gender, Work, & Organization 6 (1999): 32-46. InterScience. Wiley. 19 Nov. 2008
  11. ^ Blumenson, Eric; Eva S. Nilsen (2002-05-16). How to construct an underclass, or how the War on Drugs became a war on education (PDF). Drug Policy Forum of Massachusetts.
  12. ^ Jo Blanden; Paul Gregg and Stephen Machin (April 2005). "Intergenerational Mobility in Europe and North America" (PDF). The Sutton Trust. 
  13. ^ Matthew Taylor (25 April 2005). "UK low in social mobility league, says charity". London: The Guardian.,2763,1469685,00.html. 
  14. ^ Obstacles to social mobility weaken equal opportunities and economic growth, says OECD study, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Economics Department, 10/02/2010.
  15. ^ Michele Lamont; Virag Molnar (2002). [ "the study of boundaries in the social sciences"] (PDF). 
  16. ^ Kevin Lynch (1960), The Image of The City, The MIT Press 
  17. ^ a b Robert J. Sampson; Jeffery Morennoff and Thomas Gannon-Rowley (2002), Assessing Neighborhood Effects: Social Process and New Directions in Research, Annual Review of Sociology 
  18. ^ Sawhill, Isabel (12007). "Economic Mobility: Is the American Dream Alive and Well?". The Brookings Institution. Washington DC. 
  19. ^ Clark, Tom (10 March 2010). "Is social mobility dead?". The Guardian (London). 
  • Stark, Rodney. 2007 Sociology Tenth Edition. Belmont, CA: Thomson Higher Education
  • 2006 Social Mobility <>
  • Bertaux, Daniel and Thompson, Paul.1997 Pathways To Social Class. A Qualitative Approach To Social Mobility. Clarendon Press, Oxford
  • Bourdieu, Pierre. 1984. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. London: Routledge.
  • Borjas, George J. "Working Paper 12088." Making It in America: Social Mobility in the Immigrant Population. 2006. National Bureau of Economic Research. <>.
  • Devine, Fiona. Class Practices: How Parents Help Their Children Get Good Jobs. Cambridge University Press, 2004.
  • Eitzen, D S."Upward Mobility Through Sport?."1 26 Sep. 2007 <>.
  • Francis, David R."'Upward Mobility' In Real Decline, Studies Charge." The Christian Science Monitor.27 Jan. 2003. 26 Sep. 2007 <>
  • Goldthorpe, John H. 1987 Social Mobility and Class Structure in Modern Britain. New York: Oxford, Clarendon Press
  • Jacobs, Eva E. (ed). "'Handbook of U.S. Labor Statistics: Employment, Earnings, Prices, Productivity, and other Labor Data.'" Lanham, MD. Bernam Press. 8th ed. 2005.
  • Lareau, Annette. Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life. University of California Press, 2003.
  • Maume, David J. "'Glass Ceilings and Glass Escalators: Occupational Segregation and Race and Sex Differences in Managerial Promotions.'" Work and Occupations vol. 26. November 1999: 483-509.
  • McGuire, Gail M. "'Gender, Race, Ethnicity, and Networks: The Factors Affecting the Status of Employees’ Network Members.'" Work and Occupations vol. 27. November 2000: 500-523.
  • Western, Bruce. Punishment and Inequality in America. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2006.
  • Levinson, Paul. "Cellphone". ROutledge, New York, 2004

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Поможем написать курсовую

Look at other dictionaries:

  • social mobility — mobility (def. 2). [1925 30] * * *       movement of individuals, families, or groups through a system of social hierarchy or stratification. If such mobility involves a change in position, especially in occupation, but no change in social class …   Universalium

  • social mobility — mobility (def. 2). [1925 30] * * * social mobility noun The upward or downward movement of an individual or group within a social hierarchy • • • Main Entry: ↑social * * * social mobility UK US noun [uncountable] the ability to move easily from a …   Useful english dictionary

  • social mobility — social mo bility noun uncount the ability to move easily from a lower social class to a higher one …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • social mobility — noun The degree to which, in a given society, an individuals, familys, or groups social status can change throughout the course of their life through a system of social hierarchy or stratification. See Also: economic mobility …   Wiktionary

  • social mobility — See mobility, social …   Dictionary of sociology

  • social mobility — so′cial mobil′ity n. soc mobility 2) • Etymology: 1925–30 …   From formal English to slang

  • social mobility — UK / US noun [uncountable] the ability to move easily from a lower social class to a higher one …   English dictionary

  • social mobility — being able to move from place to place, ability to change positions …   English contemporary dictionary

  • social mobility — /soʊʃəl moʊˈbɪləti/ (say sohshuhl moh biluhtee) noun the movement of individuals or groups from one socio economic grouping to another of higher status, or the ability or potential for such movement …  

  • Social class in American history — Social class has been an important theme for historians of the United States for over 100 years. Colonial periodHistorians in recent decades have explored in microscopic detail the process of settling the new country and creating the social… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”