Sociology Index

Intergenerational Mobility

The reasons for intergenerational mobility over time. The relationship between an individual's socioeconomic status and the status of his or her parents, and the reasons for this intergenerational mobility.

What Determines Intergenerational Mobility?
Intergenerational mobility for any one individual is determined primarily by two factors:
(1) the amount of opportunity in society, and
(2) the rate of economic growth and change in the occupational structure.

Intra-generational and Intergenerational Social Mobility: Evidence from Vietnam
Cuong Viet Nguyen, Lam Tran Nguyen.
Abstract: This study examines intra-generational and intergenerational mobility of employment and income in Vietnam during the 2004–2014 period. It finds there was high mobility across occupations but less mobility across wage-job employment and economic sectors. Upward labour mobility increased over time because of the increase in skilled occupations.

Intergenerational elasticity of earnings is estimated at around 0.36. Education plays an important role in increasing intra-generational as well as intergenerational mobility. The earning intergenerational elasticity for children with less than primary education is rather high, at 0.51, while this intergenerational elasticity for those with a college or university degree is much lower at 0.17. 

Where is the Land of Opportunity? The Geography of Intergenerational Mobility in the United States
Raj Chetty, Nathaniel Hendren, Patrick Kline, Emmanuel Saez.

Three features of intergenerational mobility in the United States. The conditional expectation of child income given parent income is linear in percentile ranks. On average, a 10 percentile increase in parent income is associated with a 3.4 percentile increase in a child's income.

Intergenerational mobility varies substantially across areas within the U.S. For example, the probability that a child reaches the top quintile of the national income distribution starting from a family in the bottom quintile is 4.4% in Charlotte but 12.9% in San Jose. We explore the factors correlated with upward mobility. High mobility areas have

(1) less residential segregation,

(2) less income inequality,

(3) better primary schools,

(4) greater social capital, and

(5) greater family stability.

While our descriptive analysis does not identify the causal mechanisms that determine upward mobility, the publicly available statistics on intergenerational mobility developed here can facilitate future research on such mechanisms.

A society with equality of opportunity would be one in which children reaped little or no advantage from being born into a rich family rather than a poor one. A society with inequality of opportunity would be one in which individuals are not allowed to rise or fall on their own merits. In such a society, regardless of their individual talents, most children would be expected to end up in the same occupations as their parents, reflecting the lack of individual opportunity.

A significant degree of intergenerational immobility will remain, even in a system that is open, fair, and dynamic. This is a result of biological and family-related influences such as in low class culture, that may have the effect of perpetuating class advantages or disadvantages.

Beyond genetic transmission, of course, there will always be other factors at work that have the effect of strengthening the intergenerational link. There will likely always be a natural tendency for parents who occupy positions of high status to try to extend their privileges to their children. Lipset and Bendix (1959, 2) note that "a 'good' father is one who tries to pass the status he enjoys on to his children.

Structural mobility refers to overall shifts in the occupational mix, which affect the job prospects for individuals from different generations. Over time, as the economy has grown, the distribution of jobs has tilted toward the high-status end of the occupational spectrum, thereby improving intergenerational mobility for younger generations.

Intergenerational Mobility in the United States:

Research has shed light on three important questions related to intergenerational mobility in the United States. First, how much intergenerational mobility is there? Second, how has this changed over time? Third, how does intergenerational mobility in the United States compare to other countries?

There appears to be significant intergenerational mobility in the United States. Origins significantly affect destinations. Specifically, adult sons and daughters are more likely to look like their parents — in terms of occupation or income — than one would predict on the basis of chance.

The causes of this intergenerational mobility have varied over time. Circulation mobility has increased in recent years, as the effect of family background on a child's eventual status has declined. Structural mobility has decreased, as the rate of economic growth has slowed, thereby reducing the likelihood that children will do better than their parents simply because of growth in the economy as a whole. On balance, these two sources of mobility have had offsetting effects.

International comparisons suggest that there are few systematic cross-national differences in intergenerational mobility, suggesting that, intergenerational mobility is not greater in the United States than it is in many other countries. - Intergenerational Mobility in the United States, Daniel P. McMurrer, Mark Condon, Isabel V. Sawhill, Urban Institute.

Intergenerational Mobility in Relative Educational Attainment and Health-Related Behaviours
Alexi Gugushvili,corresponding author Martin McKee, Michael Murphy, Aytalina Azarova, Darja Irdam, Katarzyna Doniec, and Lawrence King.

Abstract: Research on intergenerational social mobility and health-related behaviours yields mixed findings. Depending on the direction of mobility and the type of mechanisms involved, we can expect positive or negative association between intergenerational mobility and health-related behaviours.

The main explanatory variable, intergenerational educational mobility is operationalised in terms of relative intergenerational educational trajectories based on the prevalence of specified qualifications in parental and offspring generations. In each country the associations between intergenerational educational mobility, binge drinking and smoking was examined.

Intergenerational mobility in relative educational attainment has varying association with binge drinking and smoking and the strength and direction of these effects depend on the country of analysis, the mode of mobility, the gender of respondents and the type of health-related behaviour. Along with accumulation and Falling from Grace hypotheses of the consequences of intergenerational mobility, our findings suggest that upward educational mobility in certain instances might be linked to improved health-related behaviours.