Social mobility, without you?


Social mobility is the movement of individuals or groups in social position. It may refer to classes, ethnic groups, or entire nations, and may measure health status, literacy, or education — but more commonly it refers to individuals or families, and their change in income (economic mobility). It also 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 marriage; 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 status between someone and their parents/previous family generations (“inter-generational“); or over the change during one’s lifetime (“intra-generational”). It can be “absolute”—i.e. total amount of movement of people between classes, usually over one generation (such as when education and economic development raises the socio-economic level of a population); or “relative”—an estimation of the chance of upward (or downward) social mobility of a member of one social class in comparison with a member from another class. A higher level of intergenerational mobility is often considered a sign of greater fairness, or equality of opportunity, in a society.

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.).



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