Is social mobility really declining? intergenerational class mobility in Britain in the 1990s and the 2000s

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Abstract

This paper contributes to the ongoing debate on social mobility in contemporary Britain among economists and sociologists. Using the 1991 British Household Panel Survey and the 2005 General Household Survey, we focus on the mobility trajectories of male and female respondents aged 25-59. In terms of absolute mobility, we find somewhat unfavourable trends in upward mobility for men although long-term mobility from the working class into salariat positions is still in evidence. An increase in downward mobility is clearly evident. In relation to women, we find favourable trends in upward mobility and unchanging downward mobility over the fourteen-year time period. With regard to relative mobility, we find signs of greater fluidity in the overall pattern and declining advantages of the higher salariat origin for both men and women. We consider these findings in relation to the public debate on social mobility and the academic response and we note the different preoccupations of participants in the debate. We conclude by suggesting that the interdisciplinary debate between economists and sociologists has been fruitful although a recognition of similarities, and not simply differences in position, pushes knowledge and understanding forward.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSociological Research Online
Volume16
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2011

Keywords

  • Absolute and relative mobility
  • Gender difference
  • Social class
  • Social fluidity

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