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Introduction to Sociology

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Introduction to Sociology ­ SOC101
VU
Lesson 26
SOCIAL MOBILITY
Social mobility is an act of moving from one social class to another. The amount of movement up and
down the class structure would indicate the extent of social mobility prevalent in the society.
The social mobility is greatly influenced by the level of openness of the society. Open society is the one
where people attain their status primarily by their own efforts. In fact the extent of mobility may be taken as
an index of openness of a society indicating how far talented individuals born into lower strata can move up
the socioeconomic ladder. In this respect, social mobility is an important political issue, particularly in
countries committed to liberal vision of equality of opportunity to all citizens. In this perspective industrial
societies are mostly open societies portraying high social mobility. Compared with them, pre-industrial
societies have mostly been found to be closed societies where there has been low social mobility. People
in such societies have been confined to their ancestral occupations and their social status has mostly been
ascribed.
Social mobility can be classified as:
Vertical mobility: The movement of individuals and groups up or down the socioeconomic scale. Those
who gain in property, income, status, and position are said to be upwardly mobile, while those who move in
the opposite direction are downwardly mobile.
Horizontal mobility: The movement of individuals and groups in similar socioeconomic positions, which
may be in different work situations. This may involve change in occupation or remaining in the same
occupation but in a different organization, or may be in the same organization but at a different location.
Lateral mobility: It is a geographical movement between neighborhoods, towns or regions. In modern
societies there is a great deal of geographical mobility. Lateral mobility is often combined with vertical as
well as horizontal mobility.
The movement of people up or down the social hierarchy can be looked at either within one generation
called intra-generational mobility or between generations labeled as inter-generational mobility.
Intra-generational mobility consists of movement up and down the stratification system by members of a
single generation (the-social class in which you began life compared with your social class at the end of your
life).
Inter-generational mobility consists of movement up and down the stratification system by members of
successive generations of a family (your social class location compared with that of your parents, for
example). Comparison is usually made between social class status of son and father.
Mobility is functional. Open societies provide opportunities to its members for the development of their
talents and working toward their individual fulfillment. At the same time a person can select the best
person for doing a particular job.
Mobility determinants
Three main factors that affect mobility:
Structural factors:
Structural factors are the ones, which determine the relative proportion of high-status positions to be filled
and the ease of getting them. Societies differ in the relative proportion of high- and low-status positions to
be filled. A society with a primarily agricultural economy will have many low-status and few high-status
positions, and mobility will be low. The rate of mobility rises with the degree of industrialization of the
economy. In an industrial society there is expected to be an increase in the number of occupations as well
as in the number of jobs in each occupation. An increase in the division of labor is expected and along with
it there is increasing specialization, hence the jobs multiply.
As the societies move from agricultural to industrial and to post industrial societies, there is a change in the
nature of jobs e.g. decline in manufacturing jobs and an increase in service jobs. Such a change provides
new opportunities for employment, which the people avail and thereby the whole process becomes
instrumental to social mobility
Even in a relatively open society, upward mobility is not open equally to everyone. Middle class children
typically have learning experiences which are more helpful in gaining upward mobility than the experiences
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Introduction to Sociology ­ SOC101
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of lower-class children.  Nevertheless, mobility may further depend upon the prevalent policies, laws and
other factors that may discriminate between groups and individuals on the basis of factors like race, gender,
religion, age, and ethnicity.
Individual factors:
While structural factors may determine the proportion of high-status, well-paid positions in a society,
individual factors greatly affect which persons get them. It means that one has to look into the procedures
of access and entry to the available positions. There could be the possession of the entry based
qualifications by the individuals and there could be number of individual factors that influence the
possession of necessary qualifications.
The individuals may have differences in their "mobility oriented behaviors". There is much which persons
can do to increase their prospects for upward mobility by improving their educational qualifications. The
work habits learned in early childhood are very important for making efforts in improving one's position.
Of course hard work carries no guarantee of upward mobility, but not many achieve upward mobility
without it.
Then there is the often referred "principle of deferred gratification."  This consists of postponing
immediate satisfaction in order to gain some later goal. Saving one's money to go for higher studies or to
start a business is an example. At the moment you are studying sociology rather than using the same time
for having fun somewhere else. You are postponing `having fun' over studying the subject of sociology. In
this way you are practicing "deferred-gratification" pattern of behavior. The parents may spend the money
on the education of their child and postpone the celebration of his marriage. Mobility oriented people are
likely to demonstrate such pattern of behavior. It is usually assumed that the "deferred gratification"
principle is followed by the middle class people.
Gender differential may be another factor as part of individual differences. It is generally observed that
there are greater opportunities for males than for females. Even if the two persons possess the same
qualifications but being a male or a female may influence one's climbing the mobility ladder. Under the law
such a discriminatory approach may be prohibited but in reality it may be practiced in an invisible way.
Such a barrier is usually referred to as "Glass ceiling": a concept used to explain how women are prevented
from attaining top (managerial and professional) jobs. In UK 50% of daughters of professional and
managerial households enter non-manual job (intermediate level) with little chance of work-life upward
mobility.
Differential fertility by social class:
The number of suitable off-springs available to fill the positions from the same class is another factor
influencing social mobility. The inadequate number of children available in the middle class to fill jobs will
provide an opportunity for the children from the adjacent class to fill the vacancies.
Interaction of all factors: All of the above factors interact and have a cumulative effect on the mobility of a
person. Look at a person who is poor, uneducated, and belongs to a minority group is handicapped on all
three counts and all these factors may interact and make things worse for him.
Costs:
While social mobility permits society to fill its occupational vacancies with the most able people and offers
the individual a chance to attain his or her life goal, it also involves certain costs.
A mobile society arouses expectations which are not always fulfilled, thereby creating dissatisfaction and
unhappiness. One could come across lot more frustrations in the mobile society than in the traditional
society.
The costs could include fear of falling in status, as in downward mobility; the strain of new roles learning in
occupational promotions, the disruption of primary group relationships as a person moves upward or
downward. Parents and children may become strangers because of changes in social attitudes. Mobility
oriented parents may work hard, come home late, and have less interaction with their children. It may lead
to bitterness and estrangement.
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Introduction to Sociology ­ SOC101
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Social mobility often demands geographic mobility, with a painful loss of treasured social ties. An offered
promotion may be declined because of fear of the burden of new responsibilities. Even marriages may be
threatened when spouses are not equally interested in mobility. It can result in mental illness and conflict.
General observations:
 Social mobility, at least among men, has been fairly high. Comparative mobility between men and
women shows that men have been more mobile than women.
 The long-term trend in social mobility has been upward. With the shift toward industrial economies
there are prospects of enhanced job opportunities resulting in greater scope for upward mobility.
 Within a single generation, social mobility is generally incremental, not dramatic. Most young
families increase their income over time as they gain education and skills. But with the exception of
few drastically upward or downward mobility cases, most social mobility involves limited
movement within one class level rather than striking moves between classes.
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Table of Contents:
  1. THE ORIGINS OF SOCIOLOGY:Auguste Comte, The Fields of Sociology
  2. THE SOCIOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE:Society affects what we do
  3. THEORETICAL PARADIGMS:Salient Paradigms, Critical Evaluation
  4. SOCIOLOGY AS SCIENCE:Empirical, Verifiable, Cumulative, Self-Correcting
  5. STEPS IN SOCIOLOGICAL INVESTIGATION:Exploration/Consultation
  6. SOCIAL INTERACTION:Social Status, ROLE, The Social Construction of Reality
  7. SOCIAL GROUPS:Primary and Secondary Groups, Reference Group, Networks
  8. ORGANIZATIONS:Utilitarian Organizations, Coercive Organizations
  9. CULTURE:Universality, Components of Culture, Symbols, Language
  10. CULTURE (continued):Beliefs, Norms, Cultural Diversity
  11. CULTURE (continued):Culture by social class, Multiculturalism, Cultural Lag
  12. SOCIALIZATION: HUMAN DEVELOPMENT, NATURE, Social Isolation
  13. UNDERSTANDING THE SOCIALIZATION PROCESS
  14. AGENTS OF SOCIALIZATION:The Family, The School, Peer Groups, The Mass Media
  15. SOCIALIZATION AND THE LIFE COURSE:CHILDHOOD, ADOLESCENCE
  16. SOCIAL CONTROL AND DEVIANCE:Crime, Deviants, Stigma, Labeling
  17. THE SOCIAL FOUNDATIONS OF DEVIANCE:Cultural relativity of deviance
  18. EXPLANATIONS OF CRIME:Sociological explanations
  19. EXPLANATIONS OF CRIME -- CONTINUED:White-Collar Crime, Conflict Theory
  20. SOCIAL DISTRIBUTION OF CRIME: EXPLANATIONS, Gender and Crime
  21. SOCIAL STRATIFICATION: INTRODUCTION AND SIGNIFICANCE
  22. THEORIES OF CLASS AND STRATIFICATION I:Critical evaluation
  23. THEORIES OF SOCIAL CLASS AND STRATIFICATION II
  24. THEORIES OF CLASS AND SOCIAL STRATIFICATION III
  25. SOCIAL CLASS AS SUBCULTURE
  26. SOCIAL MOBILITY:Structural factors, Individual factors, Costs
  27. THE FAMILY: GLOBAL VARIETY, Marriage Patterns, Patterns of Descent
  28. FUNCTIONS OF FAMILY:Reproduction, Social placement
  29. FAMILY AND MARRIAGE IN TRANSITION:Family is losing functions
  30. GENDER: A SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION, Gender socialization
  31. GENDER SOCIALIZATION:Role of family, Gender Stratification
  32. EXPLANATIONS OF GENDER INEQUALITY:Conflict Explanations, Feminism
  33. FUNCTIONS OF SCHOOLING:Cultural Innovation, School Tracking
  34. ISSUES IN EDUCATION:Low Enrollment, High Dropout, Gender Disparity
  35. POPULATION STUDY AND ITS SIGNIFICANCE:Crude Birth Rate
  36. THEORY OF POPULATION GROWTH:Theory of Demographic Transition
  37. POPULATION PROFILE OF PAKISTAN:World Population Growth
  38. POPULATION PROFILE OF PAKISTAN (Continued):Age Distribution, Sex Composition
  39. IMPLICAIONS OF POPULATION GOWTH:Additional GDP needed per year
  40. POPULATION POLICY:Goals of Population Policy, Objectives, Strategies
  41. ENVIRONMENT AND SOCIETY:Global Dimension, Historical Dimension
  42. ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES:Preserving Clean Water, Clearing the Air
  43. SOCIAL CHANGE:Social change is controversial.
  44. CAUSES OF SOCIAL CHANGE:Culture and Change, Conflict and Change, Modernization
  45. MODERNITY AND POST MODERNITY:Cultural Patterns, Post-modernity