What is Social Mobility?

What Does Social Mobility Mean

We explain what social mobility is, its types, causes and its relationship with poverty. Also, how is social mobility in Mexico.

Social mobility is the possibility of belonging to a class different from that of origin.

What is social mobility?

Social mobility is a concept from sociology , which designates the movements made by individuals or family nuclei of a society , within a certain socioeconomic spectrum. That is, it refers to the permeability of social classes , which allows the incorporation of new individuals on the rise.

This concept exists within the framework of a class society or stratified society . It is closely related to the idea of meritocracy: that individuals can move up socially if they try hard enough.

Thus, in an ideal society, the people who try the most would achieve social promotion, improving their quality of life and having access to new opportunities.

On the contrary, in a society without social mobility, classes or social strata remain fixed, immovable, without individuals having the hope of ascending. This implies that those born in a benefited stratum may not deserve their privileges and those less favored do not deserve their lack of opportunities either.

In these cases we speak of caste societies, as happened in the Europe of the Middle Ages , in which the origin of individuals determined their final place in society.

It can help you: Social phenomena

Importance of social mobility

Social mobility is actively pursued by contemporary societies through different methods, since it is a guarantee of a more equitable society with fewer inequalities .

The possibility of social advancement is essential to combat poverty , since social despair, that is, the conviction that the system will never allow the individual to develop , pushes disadvantaged strata towards radicalized political and social positions, or to seek economic shortcuts. illicit activities that only further complicate their path.

Types of social mobility

There are various types of social mobility, depending on the criteria used to classify it. A first case distinguishes between:

  • Horizontal mobility. It occurs within the same stratum. It occurs when a human group moves from an ideological, work or social circle, without a change in social status.
  • Vertical mobility. It implies an abandonment of the initial social class to opt for a new one, either higher (enrichment) or lower (impoverishment) in the socioeconomic scale.

Other classifications of social mobility have to do with:

  • Generation. We speak of intergenerational social mobility when there is displacement between one generation and the next; and intragenerational social mobility, on the other hand, when it takes place between individuals of the same generation.
  • Statistics. A distinction is made between absolute social mobility, determined by changes in the structure of social classes; and relative social mobility, determined by the possibilities of belonging to one or another social stratum of individuals of different social origins, in a comparative way.

Causes of social mobility

Quality education can facilitate social mobility accompanied by other factors.

The main causes of social mobility have to do with:

  • Investing in education . Since people with higher levels of education can aspire to better jobs, they can renew their knowledge more easily and therefore have better opportunities to adapt to new environments.
  • The technological change. It creates new jobs with new skilled demands, while destroying or making other traditional jobs obsolete.
  • Planned parenting. Given that overly large families , especially single-parent ones, are far less likely to be promoted than families with a more manageable number. On the other hand, adolescent pregnancy tends to truncate individuals' possibilities for study and preparation, prematurely inserting them into the job market.
  • The migration . Since people who change countries usually have to start from scratch, but they also leave spaces that can be occupied by other individuals in the original society.
  • The fight against cultural resistance. Since certain religious, fundamentalist or traditional discourses can hinder social mobility, especially as regards the place of women in society.

Social mobility and poverty

Social mobility is one of the factors linked to poverty, in the sense that societies with low social mobility are those in which there are higher rates of poverty . The lowest strata of society, unable to advance, multiply themselves, victims of a spiral of impoverishment and lack of opportunities.

Obviously, social mobility also allows the impoverishment of the middle or upper classes, but outside of catastrophic scenarios, such displacements tend to be less frequent and often reversible.

Furthermore, social mobility is also linked to inequality , since the most egalitarian societies are those in which there is class mobility and tends to a large middle class. In contrast, rigidly stratified societies tend to be brutally unequal, with enormous and insurmountable distances between one class and the other.

Social mobility in Mexico

According to the 2019 Report on Social Mobility in Mexico from the Centro de Estudios Espinosa Yglesias (CEEY), in this nation of every 100 people born in the poorest strata of the scale, 49 remain there for their entire lives, and of the remaining 51 who do manage to ascend, 25 never exceed the minimum poverty line.

All this indicates that social mobility in Mexico is low, since for every 100 Mexicans who are born poor, 74 will never be able to stop being poor . On the other hand, of every 100 people in Mexico who are born in a privileged home, 57 remain in that same stratum throughout their lives.

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