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Factors affecting Social Mobility

Industrialization and urbanization – According to Lipset industrialization led to high mobility in England and other parts of the world. It is known as Zetterberg Thesis.

Education – Duncan and Blau in their study of America found that mobility is higher among the blue-collar workers and white-collar professionals and this was due to education.

Social capital and social status- In Closure Thesis, Giddens and Bottomore writes that those who occupy the superior positions seek to retain them for their own selves and for their kin. Social capital is used to monopolize the occupational position.

Occupation- Occupation is a major source of inter-generational mobility in the current time.

Social and cultural values – Society as a whole may have liberal or conservative values that hampered social mobility.

Environmental changes- Environmental changes may provide for both upward and downward mobility. Natural disasters and sudden climatic changes lead to downward mobility.  Timely rain support agriculture and allied industries in the developing countries.

Social movements- Social movements help in collective mobility. Black Rights movement in US led to rights to the Black community.

Law and constitution- The reservations and other social benefits for the marginalized communities helps in social mobility of these social groups.

Migration- People migrate from rural to urban areas, underdeveloped/developing countries to Developed countries for better economic growth.

Other factors- Individual and collective aspirations play an important role. According to Veblen in The Theory of the Leisure Class 1899, individuals will always seek to be well thought of in the eyes of their fellow men. They will aspire for those positions that the society deems to be worthwhile. Merton has also mentioned the importance of the reference group in determining social behavior. 

Cultural factors – Sorokin in his study concluded that racial and ethnic linkage helps or stop social mobility.

Wilkinson and Pickett in their The Spirit Level:  Why gender equality makes societies stronger 2009, concluded that there is a relationship between high social inequality and low social mobility. According to Paul Krugman in his The Great Gatsby Curve 2012,found that the countries like Denmark, Norway and Finland that have lower levels of inequality had high mobility while countries like Chile and Brazil that had very high inequality had low social mobility.

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