Studies pertaining to social mobility have concentrated on movement of individuals from one social class to another. The research is hence embraced in terms of processes in which mobility fluctuates upwards and downwards, thereby incorporating short and long distance mobility throughout the class structure.
In addition to this, social mobility incorporates inter-generational mobility, which in turn indicates the mobility that exists between family of origin and the class of the individual. Apart from the inter-generational mobility, social mobility also incorporates intra-generational mobility that refers to the mobility existing between a person’s prior occupation and the current occupation (Devine 45).
Prestige and socio-economic status kind of occupations were linked to success in education and social origins of individuals. This is based on studies carried out on status attainment traditions of frequent social mobility (Marshall et al 241).
According to Devine (45), sociologists have zeroed in on two issues in analyzing and examination both the trends and patterns of social mobility. The first issue is the demographic class formation. In this first issue, stable collectiveness of individuals is established with the focus being on individuals processing the same life chances.
As a result of this, researchers are left with no option, but to establish the overall or absolute de facto rate of mobility. In the second issue of mobility, researchers have undertaken the process of establishing the level of openness within a community by examining social fluidity.
The focus point is on the relative rate of mobility that is achieved by comparing various mobility chances processed by different kind of people, as well as groups. Mobility research has guided specific interests, thereby shaping the different fonts of social mobility of empirical work. The two issues of social fluidity and class formation together with the trends and patterns in relative and absolute social mobility have become the hot topic within the boundaries of researchers’ studies (Devine 45).
In the US, social mobility is based on the experiences of both the whites and the ethnic minorities. According to the evidence attained, there is an indication of structural change that is symbolized by a decrease in farm occupation and increase in non-manual employment, hence resulting to an upward mobility. A decline in the linkage between the origins and the destinations was also noted, although it was high in respect to the whites as compared to the minorities.
This link was later to be weakened by the education system that meant more and more people acquired degrees. America has hence evolved to be an open society rather than a rigid society. According to the research carried out in 1980s, structural change is noted to be slowly slowing down, as the link between the origin and destination continues to slacken (Devine 46).
High levels of social mobility have been identified in America as part of early observation. In 1962, the first national survey that dealt with social mobility was conducted by Blau and Duncan. The two researchers viewed mobility as an up and down system that revolved around social hierarchy. In this hierarchy, individuals were ranked according to education and income, while the focus was individual attainment and not mobility. Factors like family background, gender, ethnicity, and education were used to influence success or failure (Devine 48).
Status attainment has been described as a process where people secure particular social position and maintain it within the boundaries of the ones status. According to the research undertaken by the Blau and Duncan, an occupation that is individually chosen depends on two main factors: 1) education and 2) ability one processes.
The education background, occupation, and status of the parents also play a great role together with a simple luck. On looking at the occupation of the children in comparison to that of their parents, one cannot help but to notice cross-flow relationship in terms of status and prestige that exists between the two groups.
This hence indicates that children of high status parents have high chances of inheriting the same status as their parents when compared with children of low status parents. It is through the status attainment model that scholars have managed to analyze class. Blau’s work is attributed to this model, as he indicated other factors like government policy and non-parental significant others can cause upward mobility (Weir 80).
According to Brym and Lie (235), the process of status attainment is pretty much at the same level for both the minorities and women, in comparison with the white men. Years of schooling is said to have a major impact in status attainment as compared to father’s occupation.
However, while comparing individuals of the same education level and same family background, the minorities, the women and the Hispanic Americans still lug behind as compared to white men. In conclusion, status attainment cannot be explained simply by focusing on individual characteristics but also incorporating group characteristics. These group characteristics include barriers faced by the group, thus keeping them from attaining mobility (Brym & Lie 235).
Social stratification has been divided into three parts by Kerbo (15) for easier understanding, namely: poverty, comparative stratification systems, and social movement theory. These studies focused on lower class and mainly dwelt on poverty as pathology instead of systemic causes. In addition to this, majority of the foundations are more than willing to fund researches that uphold the existence of poverty as a culture.
This is because the emphasis applied on the individualism and culture helps to shift the economic and political structures, which they are a part and parcel of. Moreover, the learned and the elite have perfected the act of effecting the idea that majority of the poor Americans contributed in creating the situation they are in. Kerbo hence argues that instead of focusing on poverty, one should focus on social stratification (Weir 423).
Social mobility and status attainment literature is not in contradiction with the social origins. In social mobility literature, intergenerational mobility occurs in between a narrow strip of occupations. This is well elaborated by the fact that very few people are born in families of low status and they rise to clinch the presidency.
This is due to the fact that individuals that have attained upward mobility are more likely to have arisen from either middle class family or upper class families, as opposed to working class family.
In accounting for the indirect and direct effects of parental status, the achieved status remains to be the critical status in accounting for the individual’s attained status. Evaluation of theoretical revisions must take place before contributing to status attainment. Thus, comparison in terms of importance of personal and social resources can be concluded to be status attainment.
Brym J. Robert and Lie John. Sociology: your compass for a new world. CA: Thomson Learning, Inc. 2007.
Devine, Fiona. Social class in America and Britain. London: Edinburgh University Press. 1997.
Kerbo, Harold R. Social stratification and inequality: Class conflict in the United States. London: McGraw-Hill. 2002.
Marshall, Gordon, et al. Against the odds?: social class and social justice in industrial societies. NY: Oxford University Press. 2002.
Weir, Robert. Class in America: A-G. CT: Greenwood Press. 2007.