Social Mobility Research

Purpose of the Social Mobility Research

Due to the robust growth in the in the global economy and social integration worldwide, the social set ups have been affected in many countries. In UK, the situation is no different. Increased demand for better social-economic livings have pushed the UK into making elaborate legal and economic moves to enhance its performance capacity both short-term and long-term. In this regard, this study seeks to analyze the change in social mobility in UK over time. Subsequently, it will focus on factors that were responsible for changes in social mobility in the country over time both direct and indirect mechanisms.

1.3. Research Questions

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i). To determine the changes in the social mobility in UK over time

ii). To identify factors responsible for change in social mobility in UK over time

iii). To predict possible state of social mobility in UK in future based on research

1.4. Project Scope 

This project focuses on the study of social mobility issues with specific attention to UK. In particular, the study generates a cross-cutting review of the factors that contributed to change in social mobility in the country, both directly and indirectly. However, to limited access to primary data as it is considerably expensive to acquire, the study will utilize secondary information obtained from various sources such as government publications that the country’s economy runs through. In essence, this review will create an avenue for analyzing factors responsible for change in the country’s social mobility at both household and national level in line with the main study objectives.

1.5. Justification of the Study 

This study is quiet essential as it forms a major benchmark for the understanding of changing social mobility in UK as well as the income changes that has been seen in UK. The study provides a platform upon which these changes are effectively addressed. In particular, the study unveils a scenario in which income mobility of the British people have changed adversely hence providing an opportunity upon which the situation can be reversed and improved. By understanding the factors responsible for the change, it is quite essay to project on measures that could be taken to enhance social mobility and further address issues arising from it in the long-run. This provides the essence of carrying out this study.

1.6. Limitations of the Study 

Social-economic dynamics have been the main cause of change in many economies. Besides, the concept of open economy characterized with intensive immigration through tourism and trade has also increased confusion as to the social-classes present in a region as well as aspects of social changes that occur. In UK, this situation is elaborate as the country has become a hub of trade from the global perspective. With these complexities, this study will provide be confined to the analysis of the factors that contributes to social mobility from the government perspective since it plays a unified role of the country at large as opposed to consideration of individual social group that makes up the overall economy of the country. In addition, the study will also consider other elements such as social mobility index as provided by the UK government based on current data only.

Background of Social Mobility in the UK

Social mobility in UK has been a major consideration for many researchers. In many instance, the most worrying scenario is the fact that social mobility in UK is perceived at zero since 1970s to date. For instance, in a recap in 2011, one of the MPs, Alan Milburn stated that the country is so rigid that if an individual is born poor, they will die poor (Milburn 2012).  This shows the rigid nature of the country with very low social mobility if not zero. In essence, this assertion was a suggestion of full immobility. However, although this situation has been perceived elaborately in the country, there has been social mobility revolution running from the 20th century since the working class reduced and the total number of white collar jobs increased. This situation led to increased absolute mobility resulting from increased room for excellence (Heath & McMahon 2005).  

Through this development, it was mathematically clear that the chances of an individual moving from working class to middle class improved considerably. Nevertheless, the sociologists are also largely interested on relative mobility. Relative mobility implies that there us fluidity within classes. Contrary to absolute mobility, the relative mobility is considered a zero-sum model. For an individual to shift upward there must be another one shifting downwards. Majority of academic evidence to the assertion of UK’s social mobility indicates that since 1960s, relative mobility of the country has been constant with very minimal fluidity over the time period.

Nevertheless, another independent data set asserts that relative mobility has reduced over time. The latter perspective has been considered more effective in drawing upon the nature of changes in social mobility over time. From 2001, Jo Blanden, an economist published paper series focusing on intergenerational incomes changes. In this making, Blanden used two cohorts from Britain. The first one was born in 1958 while the other in 1970. From the evaluation, there was reportedly sharp falls in the cross-generational mobility regarding the individuals’ economic status. Subsequently, Blanden proposed that the observation was due to capitalizing on expansion of the higher education sector by the Middle Class through the second half of 20th century.

From the study generated by Blanden, relative income mobility within UK has worsened recently with adult incomes of individuals being more likely to relate closely to their parents’. Similarly, the level of inequality has also increased with time since the gap between upper class and the lower class in UK has widened progressively. Since these trends have been running parallel to each other has been a major concern since a growth in inequality affects low social mobility with respect to life changes (Crawford & Vignoles et al. 2011).  Similarly, it is also clear that the rising inequality may be declining compared to the income mobility as it makes it hard for individuals in the lower incomes to reap advantages enabling them to get jobs and other lucrative opportunities in future. As a result of these findings, there has been a growing academic debate challenging Blanden’s findings through subsequent studies.

Relative mobility has been found through recent studies that it has remained significantly constant since in post-war period, social mobility has not reduced. Some researchers however discovered that relative mobility had been improving over time. Virtually all researchers agreed unequivocally that during the 20th century, there was zero change in both relative and absolute mobility. One of the ultimate reason behind the difference in the observation by Blanden (2009) and the latter researchers revolves around technical issues involved in the data analysis though there has been no doubt regarding the decline in relative social mobility which is credited with a relatively small evidence compared to the less pessimistic perceptions regarding the change in mobility. The mainstream debate however regards that social mobility seems to ignore the wide body of evidence. For instance, in 2013, the UK’s Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission asserted that it is clear that the link between child and parental incomes is perceived to have strengthened between 1958 and 1970s which further implies a reduction in social mobility (Poverty 2014).

2.1. Britain could be the Least Mobile among Developed Country Globally

In recent studies, the former prime Minister of UK, David Cameron claimed that Britain could have the lowest level of social mobility among the developed countries. This observation has been echoed through other channels as the report of the coalition government of 2011 via the social mobility title named Opening Door, Breaking Barriers. Accordingly, the report stated that UK has low levels of social mobility through the lens of international standards as well as compared with other baby boomer generations born after the post war period. Nevertheless, though the latter observation has been observed and integrated into logical facts of the country social mobility issue, the assertion has not yet been based on any verifiable evidence (Bohm & Van Cauter 2004).  

Indeed, it has been very difficult to compare social mobility rates among countries since countries have diverse approaches to this measurement. From the latter findings, the former UK prime minister could have therefore been referring to OECD report that focused on twelve countries and largely dominated by insights from Blanden studies as the source of Data with reference to Britain’s situation. Nevertheless, the OECD acknowledges that the comparison between different countries’ estimates regarding intergenerational income mobility demands taking a significant precaution as Blanden had considered.

Blanden (2009) also considered these precaution asserting that despite the temptations of forming general estimate, it is important to consider the real impact and moderate the standard errors of the findings in many instances. Although it is very hard to make an empirical determination of the Swedish and US estimates, the statistics employed by the OECD reports provides an inclination that US is very static while Sweden is very mobile. While considering these aspects in measuring social mobility, Britain could be considered to have the least social mobility among the 12 states included in the OECD report (Gershuny 2002).  Besides, it is clear that the 12 countries represented in the OECD report do not generate the image of the entire ‘developed world’.

One of the very best measures of social mobility is to determine whether rich parents accrue to rich children while poor parents accrue to poor children. Similarly, social mobility may also be measured by determining whether incomes for parents and their children are related or otherwise. One fundamental question in this case is whether children of poor parents may become rich. Researchers from the School of Economics of London have also used the latter approach in comparing social mobility across different countries. According to their findings, more equal economies have high social mobility (Poverty 2014).

High inequalities in outcomes appear to ease the prospects of rich parents passing down their fortunes to their children. Similarly, income differences have increased in Britain and US with a simultaneous decline in social mobility (Cresswell & Merriman 2011).  Huge income difference may however result into increased difficulties in achieving equal opportunities since such scenarios increases the differentiations of social class or even result into prejudice. On the contrary, social inequality is considered lower in more unequal economies as shown in the diagram below: