Social mobility | patterns of mobility

Patterns of mobility

While it is generally accepted that some level of mobility in society is desirable, there is no consensus agreement upon "how much" social mobility is "good" or "bad" for a society. There is no international "benchmark" of social mobility, though one can compare measures of mobility across regions or countries or within a given area over time.[16] While cross-cultural studies comparing differing types of economies are possible, comparing economies of similar type usually yields more comparable data. Such comparisons typically look at intergenerational mobility, examining the extent to which children born into different families have different life chances and outcomes.

The Great Gatsby Curve. Countries with more equality of wealth also have more social mobility. This indicates that equality of wealth and equality of opportunity go hand-in-hand.[17]

In a study for which the results were first published in 2009, Wilkinson and Pickett conduct an exhaustive analysis of social mobility in developed countries.[18] In addition to other correlations with negative social outcomes for societies having high inequality, they found a relationship between high social inequality and low social mobility. Of the eight countries studied—Canada, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Germany, the UK and the US, the US had both the highest economic inequality and lowest economic mobility. In this and other studies, in fact, the USA has very low mobility at the lowest rungs of the socioeconomic ladder, with mobility increasing slightly as one goes up the ladder. At the top rung of the ladder, however, mobility again decreases.[19]

One study comparing social mobility between developed countries[20][21][22] found that the four countries with the lowest "intergenerational income elasticity", i.e. the highest social mobility, were Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Canada with less than 20% of advantages of having a high income parent passed on to their children.[21]

Comparison of social mobility in selected countries

Studies have also found "a clear negative relationship" between income inequality and intergenerational mobility.[23] Countries with low levels of inequality such as Denmark, Norway and Finland had some of the greatest mobility, while the two countries with the high level of inequality—Chile and Brazil—had some of the lowest mobility.

In Britain, much debate on social mobility has been generated by comparisons of the 1958 National Child Development Study (NCDS) and the 1970 Birth Cohort Study BCS70,[24] which compare intergenerational mobility in earnings between the 1958 and the 1970 UK cohorts, and claim that intergenerational mobility decreased substantially in this 12-year period. These findings have been controversial, partly due to conflicting findings on social class mobility using the same datasets,[25] and partly due to questions regarding the analytical sample and the treatment of missing data.[26] UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown has famously said that trends in social mobility "are not as we would have liked".[27]

Along with the aforementioned "Do Poor Children Become Poor Adults?" study, The Economist also stated 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."[28][29] A German study corroborates these results.[30] In spite of this low mobility Americans have had the highest belief in meritocracy among middle- and high-income countries.[31] A study of social mobility among the French corporate class has found that class continues to influence who reaches the top in France, with those from the upper-middle classes tending to dominate, despite a longstanding emphasis on meritocracy.[32]

Thomas Piketty (2014) finds that wealth-income ratios, today, seem to be returning to very high levels in low economic growth countries, similar to what he calls the "classic patrimonial" wealth-based societies of the 19th century wherein a minority lives off its wealth while the rest of the population works for subsistence living.[33]

Social mobility can also be influenced by differences that exist within education. The contribution of education to social mobility often gets neglected in social mobility research although it really has the potential to transform the relationship between origins and destinations.[34] Recognizing the disparities between strictly location and its educational opportunities highlights how patterns of educational mobility are influencing the capacity for individuals to experience social mobility. There is some debate regarding how important educational attainment is for social mobility. A substantial literature argues that there is a direct effect of social origins (DESO) which cannot be explained by educational attainment.[35] However, other evidence suggests that, using a sufficiently fine-grained measure of educational attainment, taking on board such factors as university status and field of study, education fully mediates the link between social origins and access to top class jobs.[36]

The patterns of educational mobility that exist between inner city schools versus schools in the suburbs is transparent. Graduation rates supply a rich context to these patterns. In the 2013–14 school year, Detroit Public Schools observed a graduation rate of 71% whereas Grosse Pointe High School (Detroit suburb) observed an average graduation rate of 94%.[37] A similar phenomena was observed in Los Angeles, California as well as in New York City. Los Angeles Senior High School (inner city) observed a graduation rate of 58% and San Marino High School (suburb) observed a graduation rate of 96%.[38] New York City Geographic District Number Two (inner city) observed a graduation rate of 69% and Westchester School District (suburb) observed a graduation rate of 85%.[39] These patterns were observed across the country when assessing the differences between inner city graduation rates and suburban graduation rates.

Lack of education frequently leads to lack of success in the future for many individuals. They do not possess the degrees required to even apply for a plethora of jobs. Therefore, these individuals may get stuck in communities that are at a stand still. Ultimately, the social classes remain stagnant because nothing is changing within each social construct and education is at the forefront in terms of its contribution to the future issues.

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