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Sociology: Events


Declining Social Mobility? Evidence from five linked Censuses 1971-2011

Declining Social Mobility? Evidence from five linked Censuses 1971-2011
Hosted by: Sociology # University of Edinburgh; Speaker: Patrick Sturgis # University of Southampton
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Date and Time
2nd Dec 2015 11:00 - 2nd Dec 2015 13:00
CMB - 6th floor common room

Seminar series

The past ten years have witnessed an upsurge in academic and policyinterest in the concept of intergenerational social mobility. Politicians of both left and right now routinely blame each other’s historic policies for creating the supposed malaise and suggest ways of remedying things in the future. However, while politicians and media commentators appear increasingly fixated on the idea that mobility has ‘ground to a halt’, academic research is still some way from consensus on the matter. In this seminar I will present new research (joint with Franz Buscha) in which we add to the existing evidence base on recent trends in inter-generational social mobility in England and Wales for cohorts born in the latter part of the twentieth century. We analyse data from the Office for National Statistics Longitudinal Study (ONS-LS), which links individual records from the five decennial censuses between 1971 and 2011. The ONS-LS is an excellent data resource for the study of social mobility because it has a very large sample size, excellent population coverage, and low rates of nonresponse and attrition. Additionally, the structure of the study means that the occupations of LS-members’ parents can be observed when they were children and their progress in the labour market followed at regular intervals into middle age. For men the LS shows a trend of declining upward and increasing downward mobility between cohorts born in the late 1950s and late 1970s. For women, the trend is in the opposite direction – increasing upward mobility – although this is only evident when destination state is measured when women were in their thirties. By the time they had reached their forties, the trend toward upward mobility has, if anything, reversed. Counter to prevailing beliefs, our results show no evidence of relative social mobility ‘grinding to a halt’, let alone going into reverse. Indeed, we find a small but significant increase in social class fluidity during this period for both men and women. Time-permitting, I will also present our findings on the effect of the raising of the school leaving age in 1972 on rates of intergenerational mobility.