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Is Social Mobility Really Declining? Intergenerational Class Mobility in Britain in the 1990s and the 2000s

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  • Yaojun Li

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  • Fiona Devine

    ()

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Yaojun Li & Fiona Devine, 2011. "Is Social Mobility Really Declining? Intergenerational Class Mobility in Britain in the 1990s and the 2000s," Sociological Research Online, Sociological Research Online, vol. 16(3), pages 1-4.
  • Handle: RePEc:sro:srosro:2011-12-2
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    File URL: http://www.socresonline.org.uk/16/3/4/4.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Jo Blanden & Paul Gregg & Lindsey Macmillan, 2010. "Intergenerational Persistence in Income and Social Class: The Impact of Within-Group Inequality," The Centre for Market and Public Organisation 10/230, Department of Economics, University of Bristol, UK.
    2. Nicoletti Cheti & Ermisch John F, 2008. "Intergenerational Earnings Mobility: Changes across Cohorts in Britain," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 7(2), pages 1-38, January.
    3. Blanden, Jo & Goodman, Alissa & Gregg, Paul & Machin, Stephen, 2002. "Changes in intergenerational mobility in Britain," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 19507, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    4. Nicoletti, Cheti, 2008. "Multiple sample selection in the estimation of intergenerational occupational mobility," ISER Working Paper Series 2008-20, Institute for Social and Economic Research.
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