Friday, June 3, 2011


in sociology and economics, as well as in common political discourse, social mobility can refer to both horizontal mobility which (partially overlapping with geographic migrations, including immigration) denotes movement from one position to another within the same social level, as changing jobs without altering occupational status, or moving between social groups having the same social status, and, on the other hand, more usually to vertical mobility defined as the degree to which an individual's or group's status is able to change in terms of position in the social hierarchy due to movement from one social level to a higher one (upward vertical mobility) or a lower one (downward vertical mobility) due to changing jobs or marrying).

Mobility is enabled to a varying and debatable extent by economic capital, cultural capital (such as higher education or an authoritative accent), 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).
Many of these factors, however, ultimately remain intertwined with economic capital. In modern nation 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.
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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. In fact 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. 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.] Lateral mobility is often combined with vertical as well as horizontal mobility. 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

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