Intergenerational Mobility

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To begin with, let’s sum up what intergenerational social mobility is all about.

Well, the concept involves the changes in social status, either up or down, that occur from one generation to the next within a family, depending on such factors as the parents’ background, their occupation and income, their material and cultural resources, their network of contacts, as well as education, ability, health, place of residence, ethnicity or other socioeconomic circumstances, not to mention sheer luck.

“The Glorious Thirty”, i.e. the thirty years of economic expansion following World War II, were the heyday of French social mobility, when a child had every chance to rise up the social ladder above his parents’ status.

In the early eighties (80s), adults 35-39 years old were at the top; twenty years later, they have moved down to the bottom, while those 55-59 years old are at the top.

As of the year 2000, it has become increasingly difficult for children from low-income families to rise above their parents’ status. Children born into middle-class homes have no better chances, as indeed half of them may slide down the social ladder to lower class positions. Clearly, social mobility has slowed or even reversed in this country.

Nowadays, 60 percent of French people are confident about their own future, whereas only 34 percent are confident about the future of their children/offspring.

The young today are indeed increasingly sceptical about the value of a college degree. In high school, teachers keep telling them that studying hard really pays off. This used to be true in the seventies, at a time when 18 % of children graduated from high school and 70 % of these became executives in a company. Today 70 % of children complete secondary education, but only 25 % become executives.

We propose to show that in spite of the ebbing of social mobility in the present-day situation, it is still possible for us to make a future for ourselves through hard work and...
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