Social mobility – What is it, definition and concept | 2022

Social mobility refers to the displacement that people experience within the socioeconomic scale as a consequence of the change in their status or heritage.

The concept of social mobility refers to the movement or displacement between the different social classes that people experience due to the modification of their living conditions. This change can be for the better or for the worse. Education, income, heritage, work, family are determining factors. Therefore, its alteration, allow the aforementioned mobility.

Social classes

The social stratification system that has prevailed, at least in the West, since the 19th century and the establishment of Marxist-inspired ideologies. Which defended that people were divided into social classes based on their income.

Although there are many divisions of it, it can roughly be divided into low, medium and high. Although, due to the low precision of this division, we can add the medium-low and the medium-high. Since the annual income can vary from almost zero to millions of currency. This being so, the narrow division into three classes seems highly imprecise.

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Social mobility implies that people can move between these classes, that is, that a person, thanks to effort and other conditioning factors, can go from low to medium or high. And that, inversely, a person with great assets can go bankrupt and go down a step.

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the social elevator

The social elevator is one of the tools, perhaps the main one, that allows this change in the socioeconomic scale, and this is education. Normally, the least paid jobs are those that do not require academic training, or very little training. For this reason, studying and training through the educational system allows us the possibility of obtaining better paid jobs and with better conditions in terms of comfort. This makes it easy to move from one class to another.

Now, having said this, it is pertinent to mention the great importance of other factors. Such as luck, the family into which one is born, the vices of the system, corruption, lack of talent and other important variables apart from pure effort, etc.

For example, the son of a great businessman can inherit the company and be a millionaire with relative effort. A person who is born in a humble family will require much more effort to reach these heights. Or an elite athlete, in whom natural talent is a large part of his level, on the other hand, a clumsy person or one who is not so good at it, can train all his life more hours than anyone else and not even come close to the aforementioned elite.

The system plays another important role, if there is no public education, it can hardly function as a social lift. Or if the corruption of the institutions is very great, they may favor friends and acquaintances in awarding scholarships, contracts, jobs, etc.

Types of social mobility

Social mobility is divided into two main types:

  • Upright Mobility: It is the best known and it is precisely the one we are describing throughout this article. It is based on moving up or down the socioeconomic scale, whose most important variables are income and status.
  • Horizontal mobility: It is experienced within the same social class, that is, variations in income and status are insignificant. For example, a bank manager who becomes a manager of a car company; or a video game programmer who switches to the cybersecurity sector; or a commercial that changes company and products.
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Causes of social mobility

Apart from education, there are other factors that facilitate this mobility, some of which are:

  • Technological advance: Technological progress means a great increase in productivity and the generation of new jobs with higher pay, which allows people to acquire better jobs.
  • Democracy: Democracy as a system of government implies that there is no express power that prohibits the promotion of people. Healthy institutions are essential.
  • The migration: That a person can travel and settle in a country with a higher standard of living, allows them to acquire better living conditions.

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