Social Mobility - Inter- and Intra-generational Mobility

Inter- and Intra-generational Mobility

Intra-generational mobility ("within" a generation) is defined as change in social status over a single life-time. Inter-generational mobility ("across" generations) is defined as changes in social status that occur from the parents' to the children's generation. These definitions have proven particularly useful when analyzing how social status changes from one time-period to another, and if a person's parents' social status influences that of their own. Sociologists usually focus on intergenerational mobility because it is easier to depict changes across generations rather than within one. This information helps sociologists determine whether social and economic inequality and equal opportunity in a culture changes over time.

Intra-generational mobility occurs when a person strives to change his or her own social standing. In some societies, this type of change is easier than in others. In social systems where people are divided into castes or ethnic groups, social mobility is limited. Any persons born into a certain caste or ethnic group will remain a member of that group for their entire life. However, in cultures where social standing is determined by factors that can change across generations, such as merit, education, skills, abilities, actions or wealth, people can move up and down the social ladder.

Intra-generational mobility can move a person either higher or lower in the social ladder. If a person starts at a low level, they may improve their status by (for example) working hard, getting a better job, or becoming more culturally sound, ( a value judgement expressing the dominant values of that culture) to name a few possible approaches. Pierre Bourdieu describes three types of capital that place a person in a certain social category. These are economic capital, social capital, and cultural capital. Economic capital is command over economic resources such as money and assets. Social capital is resources one achieves based on group membership, relationships, networks of influence, and support from other people. Cultural capital is any advantage a person has that gives them a higher status in society, such as education, skills, and any other form of knowledge. Usually, people with all three types of capital have a high status in society.

Inter-generational mobility occurs across generations. This mobility is both merit- and non-merit-based. Ability and hard work affect social mobility, but so do race, gender, luck, and parents' wealth,. Parents also help children make important connections with people in order to expand their social network. Parents who can create social capital for their children tend to increase their children's social mobility.

Research on American mobility published in 2006 and based on collecting data on the economic mobility of families across generations looked at the probability of reaching a particular income-distribution with regard to where their parents were ranked. The study found that 42 percent of those whose parents were in the bottom quintile ended up in the bottom quintile themselves, 23 percent of them ended in the second quintile, 19 percent in the middle quintile, 11 percent in the fourth quintile and 6 percent in the top quintile. These data indicate the difficulty of upward intergenerational mobility. There is more intergenerational mobility in Australia, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Germany, Spain, France, and Canada than in th U.S. In fact, of affluent countries studied, only Britain and Italy have lower intergenerational mobility than the United States does (and they are basically even with the U.S.) We know less about the long-term mobility of the top 1 percent, but all indications are that people in this rarefied group usually don’t drop very far down the ladder.

Annette Lareau disusses child-raising in her book, Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life (2003). She describes two different ways to raise children: concerted cultivation and natural growth:

  1. Concerted cultivation, normally used by middle-class families, incorporates scheduling many structured, organized activities for the child. Such children learn to use their language to reason with parents and other adults, and they often adopt a sense of entitlement.
  2. Natural growth is almost the exact opposite of concerted cultivation. Occurring mainly in poor or working-class families, this style of childrearing does not include organized activities, and there is a clear division between the adult and the child. Children usually spend large amounts of their day creating their own activities, and they hardly ever speak with adults. In fact, adults use language in order to direct or order the children, never to negotiate with them.

These two different types of childrearing can affect inter-generational mobility. Children who grow up with a concerted cultivation style of childrearing learn from their parents how to talk with adults as equals and negotiate to get favorable outcomes in any situation. This skill helps them create powerful social networks, which can improve their social standing. Children with natural growth accomplishment tend to have a more difficult time improving their social standing. They lack the social skills and sense of entitlement that children raised with the concerted cultivation method have, and therefore are less likely to acquire good jobs (and therefore, improve their social standing). Children who have been raised with natural growth do learn to comply with authority figures, instead of arguing with them, which gives them an advantage over concerted cultivated children in certain fields of employment. However, those are generally the entry-level fields (which pay people to follow orders and not to think) and are therefore the lower-paying ones, whereas the middle-class concertedly cultivated children's reasoning skills aid them in attaining the higher-paying, higher-prestige white-collar jobs.

Read more about this topic:  Social Mobility

Other articles related to "mobility":

Intergenerational Mobility - Inter- and Intra-generational Mobility - Industrialization
... There is an ongoing debate as to whether intergenerational mobility is affected by industrialization ... In a study of Indonesia and Bangladesh, researchers found an increase in social mobility as the countries were industrialized, suggesting that industrialization increases mobility ... However, there seemed to be no evidence of sharper increases in mobility in more industrialized sections of the country ...

Famous quotes containing the word mobility:

    One set of messages of the society we live in is: Consume. Grow. Do what you want. Amuse yourselves. The very working of this economic system, which has bestowed these unprecedented liberties, most cherished in the form of physical mobility and material prosperity, depends on encouraging people to defy limits.
    Susan Sontag (b. 1933)