Talk:Social mobility

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This page has a severe Marixst slant, indeed. It seems that the purpose of the article is to state that even in meritocratic societies with great social mobility, the large majority of individuals are still "forced" into the role of the Proletariat. On the contrary-- if 100% of society showed the same ambition as those few upwardly mobile individuals, the resultant economic explosion would eventually have us all living what we currently view as upper-class lifestyles. -- Upwardly Mobile 4 Apr, 2006

When reading this I felt that it had a slant, a marxist one. I don't think this is because of its content, but rather because of its diction. -- Anonymous Coward 24 Oct, 2005

This page would need some non-US examples. David.Monniaux 21:48, 19 Apr 2004 (UTC)

This is almost always the case in other articles after all. -- Taku 23:05, Apr 19, 2004 (UTC)

Saying the worst case is the best?![edit]

Whatever caste a person is born into, is what they will remain for the entirety of their life. -absolutely correct.

However, in cultures based on merit, like the United States or the United Kingdom, people are free to move up and down the social ladder. -absolutely incorrect. I cannot stress how impossibly wrong this statement is. It has been found by both the LSE and Unicef that it is none other than the United Kingdom (189th out of 189 countries studied) and the United States (188th out of 189 countries studied) that is the most segregated and socially immobile place on planet Earth. You are more likely to be judged on merit in Zimbabwe or any other African country than you are in the totalitarian capitalist elites of the western Anglosphere. In Africa, poor people are in the same level of poverty. In the UK, 99.99999% of the population are incredibly rich, and the remaining individuals are utterly destitute. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:30, 2 January 2009 (UTC)

That'll be alright then. That means everyone except one person in the UK is incredibly rich. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:55, 23 November 2009 (UTC)

I agree that the statement is nonsense. It is certainly not true that someone's social position is based purely on merit in the US and UK. An example is that politicians are selected by popularity (democracy) and not by merit (meritocracy). I have removed those examples, since I believe that examples should only be included if they are clear and undisputed. Aapjes (talk) 10:51, 3 November 2009 (UTC)

I think the UNSIGNED user above meant that 99.99% of the rest of the population is poor, the old 1% argument. I also think they are right in that it is well documented that Social Mobility is an ideology perpetuated by wealthy capitalists, with little applicability to the general public.Der zukünftige Führer von Amerika (talk) 19:53, 5 June 2013 (UTC)

i don't buy this[edit]

Indeed, it is physically impossible to have more bosses than workers, thus it is impossible for the majority of workers to rise out of their social class.

This doesn't make sense. First, if person A runs a business, and person B run a business, and person C works for both of them, then in that situation you have more bosses than workers. This might not be the norm, but I don't understand why it's physicsally impossible.

Also, this statement seems to imply that becoming someone else's boss is the only way to rise out of a social class. What about musicians, actors, models, writers, and athletes who make it big? What about people who invest their money over time to become financially independent and then no longer need to work at all?

One counterexample that springs to mind is the case of slavery in the United States. I would argue that when Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, all of the workers in that class rose out of their social class.

The Emancipation Proclamation did not free the slaves. It left slavery intact in the border states loyal to the Union and applied to Confederate states who were not following the direction of the president regardless. It did allow blacks to fight in the Union army and was a precursor to the 13th Amendment which outlawed slavery in 1965, a couple years after the 1962 Proclamation. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:20, 23 July 2012 (UTC)

Or am I just not getting this? :) Tangentstorm 15:05, 25 September 2005 (UTC)

  • I agree that it's a poor sentence, but for different reasons. I think the quote you give holds true if you consider the economy as a whole: you will always - by definition - need more supervisors than the supervised - excepting police states with unpaid informers ;o). I tried an edit using the following:
"Since most workers labour in a hierarchical structure, with the number of positions available decreasing the further up the hierarchy one looks, opportunitites for progression are limited: and although one can suggest someone stuck in a rut could make an entrepreneurial leap, in practice this usually requires an investment in time and money unavailable to the average worker."
But I didn't feel sufficiently comfortable with it, plus I would want to mention that risk is more risky for the have-nots than the haves. I would also want to say that the hierarchy works both as within any one company and alo as across companies as a whole: the higher up positions across the baord being less in number than the lower positions. I think we could use some help here. --bodnotbod 15:32, 25 September 2005 (UTC)

Anti-capitalist bias[edit]

Cut from article:

A common error when discussing social mobility is to focus on a few exemplary cases while neglecting the average cases. The fact that a few people who were originally poor have become very rich does not prove that the society in general enjoys social mobility, indeed they are exceptions. This view is often passed off as matter-of-fact in the United States in order to perpetuate the myth of meritocracy.

Who says this is a common error? And who makes this error?

What are the various sides here? I daresay one side is criticizing the U.S. for not having high enough social mobility to justify a free market economy. The other side, presumably, is arguing that America is just fine and dandy, since anyone who works hard can get ahead.

This is a key point around which advocacy about Minimum wage laws often hinges (see also Living wage). In a stratified society, socialists would want to take from the rich and give to the poor to equal things out a bit. Free market advocates would say, "Get off you butt, turn off the TV and get to work or hit the books."

How can we write about this dispute in a fair way that doesn't slant the article toward one POV or another? Friday, help me out here, please. --Uncle Ed 15:55, 26 July 2006 (UTC)

WHO SAYS THIS CRAPPP —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:44, 14 February 2008 (UTC)

Suggested sources[edit]

For those who are interested in contributing to this article, here are some free scholarly sources:

request for comments[edit]

On race and intelligence, please [1] Slrubenstein | Talk 16:25, 31 January 2007 (UTC)

Social Mobility and The Welfare State?[edit]

this section needs to be removed and replaced with arguments that can cite their sources:

Some think that big government (welfare, social security, nationalized healthcare) impedes on social mobility by raising taxes on the rich. They say that higher taxes lowers incentives to work towards a better life.

Others point to studies that show that social mobility is greater in societies with significant welfare states.

  • Some think that - WHO thinks that?
  • big government (welfare, social security, nationalized healthcare) - the term big government is a pejorative and indicates bias towards the subject. this is weasel-wording and should be removed.
  • They say that higher taxes lowers incentives to work towards a better life. - again who says that? i don't know of a single rich person that didn't want to get richer because of the increased tax burden. please provide a link to a study or a citation.
  • Others point to studies that show that social mobility is greater in societies with significant welfare states. - who?

finally, the term "Welfare State" is another example of weasel-wording. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 19:34, 26 February 2007 (UTC).

i feel this section is only saying "some groups say this, other groups say that" without supporting evidence, and with a biased tone to boot - i'm going to delete it. if anyone thinks otherwise, i'm open to discussion (ps - i'm the author of the above initial criticism of this section) 18:26, 28 February 2007 (UTC)

Give it time.[edit]

Thank you to everyone for the comments. All of these comments raise important issues that will be addressed. The authors of this page are students in a sociology 101 class and have created this article as part of a class project. The article does have a Marxist slant. This is primarily a result of the fact that the students' exposure to theoretical explanations of mobility has thus far been limited to conflict theory. Don't worry, these concerns will be addressed. I just wanted to point out that the authors of this article are still learning so they may need a little time.

Velvet Llama 14:46, 24 October 2007 (UTC)

Social system section/slavery[edit]

This section states that societies employing slavery are an example of very low social mobility, and that movement upwards for a slave is practically non-existent. There are however serious exceptions to this not given mention; for example, the Mamluk Sultanate.--KobaVanDerLubbe (talk) 04:10, 16 December 2007 (UTC)

The Inidan Caste system as a primary example[edit]

The Indian caste system should be a classic case for studies in Social mobility. This article does not cover the caste system. (talk) 20:11, 7 March 2008 (UTC)

Measuring Social Mobility[edit]

Isn't the number of Inter-Caste or Inter-Racial marriages a good measure of social mobility in a society? --Dr. Known-- (talk) 09:40, 3 November 2009 (UTC)

Logical fallacies[edit]

There are several examples of poor logic in the portion of the article I have read so far. Example: "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." Firstly, the second sentence is in no way a rewording of the former sentence. Secondly, stating that if an individual is poor he or she has a high chance of upward social or economic mobility suggests that this is universally true, which it most certainly is not.

Another example: "[Intra-generational mobility] 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 move from being an unskilled blue collar worker to becoming a CEO of a multi-million dollar corporation." I would suggest removing the word 'your' to maintain a neutral article. Also, suggesting that one can turn from rags to riches in the United States (or the Americas, since the section is simply titled "Mobility in the American workforce" and so it is unclear which understanding of "American" the author intended to convey) just because a term exists to describe this circumstance is illogical. —Preceding unsigned comment added by TennysonXII (talkcontribs) 02:57, 13 January 2009 (UTC)

Honors and Peerages.[edit]

Honors and Peerages aren't mentioned here but surely represent a huge upshift to the reciever. I don't know enough about the subject but should it be here?( (talk) 17:47, 30 April 2010 (UTC))

The Mobility Myth[edit]

"Despite the commonly-perceived view of the US as an open society with ready opportunities for individuals to rise from poverty to affluence (from rags to riches), the evidence shows that the opposite is true."


There is a strong link between the earnings of fathers and sons, according to research by Professor Robin Naylor and colleagues. What’s more, the likelihood of a son having earnings similar to his father’s is greater for those born into particularly rich or poor backgrounds. And especially in the UK and the United States, the sons of earners in the top 20% are very unlikely to end up in the bottom 20% of earners.

The study, published in the March 2007 issue of the Economic Journal, examines how ‘intergenerational mobility’ compares between the UK, the United States and the Nordic countries of Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland. The main results are that:

• Despite the commonly-perceived view of the US as an ‘open’ society with ready opportunities for individuals to rise from poverty to affluence (from ‘rags to riches’), the evidence shows that the opposite is true. On average, a son’s earnings are more closely related to his father’s earnings in the United States than in any of the other countries.

• In the UK, the connection between sons’ earnings and fathers’ earnings is weaker than in the United States, but stronger than in the Nordic countries. There is substantial earnings ‘persistence’ across the generations in all countries.

• In all of the countries, intergenerational earnings persistence is most pronounced in the ‘tails’ of the distributions. In other words, the likelihood of a son having earnings similar to his father’s is greater for those born into particularly poor or particularly affluent backgrounds, relative to those from backgrounds with average earning fathers.

• In most countries, the likelihood that a son with a very high earning father (in the top 20% or highest ‘quintile’ of earners) will also subsequently be a top earner himself is especially high. For example, in the UK, 30% of sons with fathers in the top earnings quintile become top quintile earners themselves. In a world of perfect intergenerational mobility this figure would be 20%. Persistence tends to be even greater at the top than at the bottom of the earnings distribution.

• The UK differs from the Nordic countries in the very low likelihood that the son of a high (top quintile) earner will become a very low (bottom quintile) earner. The probability is just 10%, half what it would be in a world of perfect mobility. In this, the United States is very similar to the UK. Downward mobility is very low in the UK and the United States.

• The major difference between the United States and all the other countries is in the very poor prospects of sons with fathers earning in the lowest 20% or bottom quintile. These sons have a 40% likelihood of themselves becoming bottom quintile earners, twice that which would arise with perfect mobility and much higher than in the other countries. In the UK, the figure is 30% while in the Nordic countries it is 25-28%. The ‘rags-to-riches’ depiction of intergenerational mobility in the United States is a myth: upward mobility is especially low there. • The Nordic countries tend to differ from the UK and the United States in the apparent protection of the life chances of sons of low earning fathers. The sons with fathers in the lowest quintile tend to have rather similar earnings to those with fathers in the next lowest quintile. Thus, there is a non-linear relationship between sons’ and fathers’ earnings in the Nordic countries. This contrasts with the UK and the United States, where there seems to be a relatively linear relationship between sons’ and fathers’ earnings: the lower the earnings of the father, the lower the earnings of the sons, on average, across the distribution.

This is not the first research to look at how intergenerational mobility compares across countries. But it is one of the first to do so using a common statistical methodology applied to highly standardised datasets for the different countries. For all countries, the data refer to sons born around the late 1950s and use information on the earnings of sons both in their 30s and in their 40s. Information on fathers’ earnings at the age of around 40 is also used.

The dataset for each country is chosen so as to enable close data equivalence to the National Child Development Survey data for the UK. The NCDS data refer to all children born in the UK in a particular week in March in 1958. Fathers’ earnings are for 1974 when the child was aged 16. Sons’ earnings data are collected when the sons were aged 33 and again when they were 41 in 1999/2000. The NCDS is recognised as a very rich dataset that forms the basis for much of the leading work on the empirical analysis of intergenerational mobility in the UK.


Notes for editors: ‘Non-linearities in Intergenerational Earnings Mobility: Consequences for Cross-country Comparisons’ by Bernt Bratsberg, Knut Røed, Oddbjørn Raaum, Markus Jäntti, Tor Eriksson, Robin Naylor, Eva Österbacka and Anders Björklund is published in the March 2007 issue of the Economic Journal.

Corresponding author Robin Naylor is professor of economics at the University of Warwick.

For further information: contact Robin Naylor on 0247-652-3529 (email:; or Romesh Vaitilingam on 07768-661095 (email:

something terribly wrong with introduction[edit]

got linked to this article from another and it has an absolutely horrible intro, i think it's supposed to be reverted, but being a regular reader but only typo editor essentially i'm not going to do it for chance of screwing it up, just read the first line and you'll know something's wrong. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:52, 9 August 2011 (UTC)

Agreed. It sounds like someone wanted to write a lead with as many wikilinks and jargon as possible in it, rather make it intelligible. I am attempting to rewrite it. --BoogaLouie (talk) 22:16, 6 November 2011 (UTC)

United States section[edit]

Have trimmed the US section and created a social mobility in the United States article to answer complaints. Unfortunately the article has copyright problems and may face a big purge. --BoogaLouie (talk) 23:48, 11 January 2012 (UTC)

Proposed merger with Economic mobility[edit]

There is so much overlap between these two concepts I think it makes sense to merge them into something like Socioeconomic mobility.

At the very least some editing should be done to acknowledge the other article. --BoogaLouie (talk) 16:52, 17 January 2012 (UTC)

Disagree. I agree that they are related concepts but they also have their distinct definitions and characteristics. I agree that the two articles need "to acknowledge the other article".Farmanesh (talk) 18:24, 17 January 2012 (UTC)
I give up. Ya, maybe that's best. --BoogaLouie (talk) 21:02, 25 January 2012 (UTC)
I searched and searched but could find nothing saying "the difference between social mobility and economic mobility is blah blah blah," so I used the Encyclopedia of Sociology. --BoogaLouie (talk) 21:22, 25 January 2012 (UTC)

Country comparison graph[edit]

Intergenerational mobility graph-1.jpg

Can someone explain what is being graphed in the graph on the right? The section in the article is not clear. The article says that the US and the UK "the lowest intergenerational vertical social mobility," but the graph, which has elasticity on the vertical axis, and having high elasticity generally means allowing more change (having high rigidity would mean having less change.) The article then says that the next four "worst" counties are Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Canada, but on the graph these are actually shown on the oposite side as the US and the UK, with France, Germany and Sweden between them. Any explanation? — Sam (talk) 14:39, 19 December 2012 (UTC)

Intergenerational earnings elasticity measures the extent to which earnings are passed across generations. The higher the value, the greater is the persistence of earnings across generations, thus the lower is the intergenerational earnings mobility. Take, for example, a country with an intergenerational earnings elasticity of 0.20. This means that if someone in that country earns $10,000 less income than the average, 20 per cent of that difference (or, $2,000) will be passed on to the individual’s children. In other words, the children will earn $2,000 less than the average. A higher number indicates that a greater percent of that income difference will be passed on to the next generation. Flyte35 (talk) 17:31, 16 February 2013 (UTC)

Proposed merger with Intergenerational mobility[edit]

Virtually everything in the Intergenerational mobility article is either already present or could easily be merged into the "Inter- and Intra-generational mobility" section of this article. Move the text of Intergenerational mobility over? Flyte35 (talk) 17:09, 16 February 2013 (UTC)

Moved after proposed a week ago and receiving no objections.Flyte35 (talk) 18:07, 24 February 2013 (UTC)

Major re-write[edit]

I will be working on a major re-write and update of this article. Meclee (talk) 14:56, 14 July 2014 (UTC)