Social mobility is the
movement of individuals, families and groups from one
social position to
another. It may be studied in terms of redistribution
of resources and power
among the different social strata and its effect on
the people involved. In the
status societies the social status of the person is
determined from his work.
Social mobility occurs whenever people move across
social class boundaries, from
one ⌠occupational level to another. The study of
Social Mobility is important
for a number of reasons: -
1. It matters to people to get on in life,
2. We can study people's life histories,
3. We can see changes in the class system,
4. The more mobile a society is may show it to be more
open and fairer,
5. Mobility affects the way classes are formed, their
size and shape.
A common sense notion regarding class in the U.S can
be represented as a few
rich people on the top, few poor people at the bottom,
and the middle class
majority in the center. Mostly everybody has a
comfortable standard of living.
If we divide the U.S. population in 5 equal
proportions and their corresponding
share of the nation¡¯s income we get the following:
¨iTop 20% of the population receives 49.1% of
the total income
¨iSecond top 20% of the population receives
24.3% of the total income
¨iMiddle 20% of the population receives 15% of
the total income
¨iSecond bottom 20% of the population receives
8.9% of the total income
¨iBottom 20% of the population receives 3.6% of
the total income
The top 20% of the population have a disproportionate
share of the income
compared to their share in the population. Looking at
the standards of living by
consumption the ration between the top 20% and the
bottom 20% is 9:1. This
comparison illustrates great inequality in US society.
It is often said that
high levels of inequality is necessary because it
stimulates competition, it
creates incentives for excellence, and provides
rewards for performance. The
conflict perspective, on the other hand, argues that
people at the bottom won't
take it and they will work towards changing the status
quo. For instance, poor
people may use their vote to elect officials who will
represent their interests.
Conflict theorists argue that high levels of
inequality are not useful because
society is then unstable. Using cross-national data,
we find that core countries
tend to have high levels of inequality. Those core
countries with a higher
degree of government involvement tend to have lower
levels of inequality.
There are two kinds of social mobility: individual
mobility and intergenerational mobility.
Intergenerational mobility which compares parents¡¯
levels to that of their
children and Individual mobility plots career shifts
within a person¡¯s lifetime
¨iMen between the ages of 25 and 54 who changed
from a full time job to another
full time job between the years of 1990 to 1992
experienced an earning average
decline of 20%. Weekly income decreased from $529 to
$423. This illustrates
¨iThe average amount of time seeking employment
or unemployed increased from 1.8 months to 2.4 months.
¨i2.5 million men and 2 million women lost
health insurance due to unemployment.
¨iMedicare coverage of households increased from
10% to 12%.
¨iRate of moonlighting has increased
These statistics show a short-term trend of stagnation
in social mobility. The
cost of living has increased steadily while income has
remained stable. People
are working more and longer to maintain their level of
The following data is from the 1970s on white male...