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Social Mobility and the Wellbeing of Individuals


  • Tak Wing Chan

    () (Department of Social Science, UCL Institute of Education)


Several papers published in recent years have revived interest in Sorokin's dissociative thesis: the view that intergenerational social mobility has detrimental effects on the social relationships and wellbeing of individuals. In this paper, I test the dissociative thesis using data from the British Household Panel Survey and Understanding Society. On a wide range of indicators that measure participation in civic associations, contact with parents, close personal relationships, social support, subjective wellbeing, etc. individuals who have achieved long-range upward mobility (i.e. those who move from working class origin to salariat destination) tend to fare better than those who are immobile in the working class. Those who have experienced long-range downward mobility (moving from salariat origin to working class destination) do about as well as second-generation members of the working class. Overall, there is no support for Sorokin's thesis.

Suggested Citation

  • Tak Wing Chan, 2017. "Social Mobility and the Wellbeing of Individuals," DoQSS Working Papers 17-01, Department of Quantitative Social Science - UCL Institute of Education, University College London.
  • Handle: RePEc:qss:dqsswp:1701

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Tak Wing Chan & John Ermisch, 2015. "Residential proximity of parents and their adult offspring in the United Kingdom, 2009-10," Population Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 69(3), pages 355-372, November.
    2. Miles Corak, 2013. "Income Inequality, Equality of Opportunity, and Intergenerational Mobility," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 27(3), pages 79-102, Summer.
    3. Franceschelli, Michela & Evans, Karen & Schoon, Ingrid, 2016. "'A fish out of water?' The therapeutic narratives of class change," EconStor Open Access Articles, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, pages 353-372.
    4. Tak Chan & John Ermisch, 2015. "Proximity of Couples to Parents: Influences of Gender, Labor Market, and Family," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 52(2), pages 379-399, April.
    5. Robert Erikson & John H. Goldthorpe, 2002. "Intergenerational Inequality: A Sociological Perspective," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 16(3), pages 31-44, Summer.
    6. Easterlin, Richard A., 1995. "Will raising the incomes of all increase the happiness of all?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 35-47, June.
    7. Nikolaev, Boris & Burns, Ainslee, 2014. "Intergenerational mobility and subjective well-being—Evidence from the general social survey," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 82-96.
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    Cited by:

    1. Alexi Gugushvili & Martin McKee & Michael Murphy & Aytalina Azarova & Darja Irdam & Katarzyna Doniec & Lawrence King, 2019. "Intergenerational Mobility in Relative Educational Attainment and Health-Related Behaviours," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 141(1), pages 413-441, January.

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    Social mobility; Wellbeing; Dissociative thesis;

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