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social mobility


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Movement from one class—or more usually status group—to another. There has been extensive and detailed study of social mobility both between generations and within individuals' careers. Those who study mobility from occupations of one status to those of another typically note that the proportion of occupations which require formal qualifications and where work is physically light and done in a relatively pleasant environment is increasing at the expense of their opposites. Thus there can be more ‘upward’ than ‘downward’ mobility despite the laws of arithmetic. Their opponents point out that a change of occupation is not necessarily a change of class: and that there is no long‐term upward trend in the proportion of the population who are in higher‐class jobs. Indeed, in so far as class is defined in terms of hierarchy at work, it could be argued that there never could be net upward mobility. The proportion of those who give orders to those who take them is likely to be stable. Feminists point out that for decades social mobility and related subjects were studied by reference to the occupation of the head of the household, making women almost invisible to mobility researchers. See also social stratification.

Subjects: Social Sciences.


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