decline of social mobility


So far, there is a very common phenomenon around us, which is that a large part of people, including college degree, who make very little money in their first job, will probably still make very little decades later. This is one result of the decline of social mobility in the USA. This is not alarmist, based on the research of professor Becker in 2014, the wealthiest 1% population of American possess 22% income of the whole country. (Becker, Posner, 2014) There are three relationship should be considered: social mobility causes society better is direct causality, better society causes social mobility is reverse, and confounding is that wealthy level of citizens both causes them.

Technically, social mobility means the movement of people to move upward or downward in society, including job, education, wealth or some other social status. For example, it could be caused by changing jobs or marrying (Kraus M. & Tan J., 2015). But now, people get fewer and fewer opportunity and chance to go upward of society. In another word, social hierarchical system is increasingly consolidated. This is called the decline of social mobility. It is commonly believed that this phrase originates from 1920s, world war increased the speed of social structure change. People started research this subject by using number ( In this essay, I am going to show you the definition of what is social mobility, the description and severity of this problem; then I will list three possible solutions and choose one as practical solution by compare and contrast.

As we talk about previously, social mobility stands for the movement, change of social status. There are several different types of social mobility: Horizontal Mobility, Vertical Mobility, Upward mobility, Downward mobility, Inter-generational Mobility and Intra-Generational Mobility.

Horizontal mobility refers to one person changes his or her occupations but keep the overall social standing the same. In other words, horizontal mobility is a transition of individuals move from one social groups to another, which are both situated at the same level.

Vertical mobility means any movement in occupation, economy and social status of individual or a group that would lead them change position. In a simple words, “vertical mobility stands for change of social position either upward or downward, which can be labelled as ascending or descending type of mobility. Technically, vertical mobility is intensive in relatively open societies.” By professor Samisha (Samiksha, S, 2015). So obviously, upward mobility and downward mobility are two sub-type of vertical mobility.

Inter-generational mobility refers to one generation changes social status which is contrast to previous generation. Children could gain necessary skills by education to get employment in higher position. For example if one father is a shoemaker but his son becomes a factor, lawyer or a engineer after gaining proper education.

The last one is Intra-generational mobility. This kind of mobility happens during one persons life span. This is very common, sometimes one brother changes from a clerk to a professor, but another may still be a clerk.

Since everyone is the part of society, we all want to gain better life, higher salary and healthier body, in other words, we want to go higher level of society. But nowadays, this kind of mobility become fewer and fewer, which cause serious polarization between the rich and the poor, and unstable between people in different race and religion. The consequence is unimaginable. (Sawhill, 2015). The main cause is increasing income inequality, and of course the educational flaw is still an ineligible reason. Obviously, the income of capital investment is always much higher than the income of labor investment. This is also related to fairness. Because the mobility slow down, people’s status passed to next generation, that is so-called the rich second generation use money and pull strings (back doors) plunder most opportunities and resources that should have belonged to normal people who dont have power and money to compete with them.


What about the effects? First is the phenomenon I talked at the beginning, because some so-called rich second generation plunder the opportunity and job position and other resource by pulling strings. Second is Serious social conflict between different races. Because discrimination, minority of the society is always under oppressed. The last is severe polarization of wealth distribution. The middle class, which are supposed to be the buffer of hierarchy, become fewer and fewer. As a result, the gap between poor and rich will become severely bigger, the society become unstable. for example, just like the ladder, When the rungs of the income ladder get too far apart, it becomes much harder for people to climb. However, the rungs are not only widening by income, but also by family structure, parenting styles, school test scores, college attendance and graduation, and neighborhood conditions. In another word, this issue is related to almost every aspect to college student. 

The first policy that government needs to do is meritocracy. Meritocracy means distribution according to one’s performance. So what would this policy do? One is providing fair environment for people to develop, students of varying backgrounds can succeed by performing well. On the other hand, it will encourage people ambition to work hard. make them believe, harder work, better life. Another reason is that, Meritocracy is the ideal society of both capitalism and socialism. meritocracy is the develop tendency of social, people cant be strictly controlled by government, or we cant always rely on government manipulation, like collect higher tax from rich people and give welfare to poor people.

Another action that we are supposed to do is to invest evidence-based program. evidence-based program refers to program produces the expected positive results can be attributed to the program itself. We are supposed to invest in Education, which including comprehensive school reforms in elementary and high school, effective home visiting program, high quality pre-kindergarten. Each society have responsible to instruct and train skills to the younger generation. Only after acquiring knowledge, could we have the ability to compete with others to get higher position (Samiksha, S., 2015). If we start before they born and extending it through high school and university years, it would make a difference in children’s lives. if we invested early in their life chance and opportunities, Children born into the bottom quintile would have a much greater chance of moving up. Before the interventions, only 40 percent move into one of the top three quintiles.

The third solution is to cease segregation. Based on the research, we find that upward social mobility in becoming significantly lower in some certain regions with bigger group of African-American populations. White people in areas with large African-American populations also have relatively lower rates of upward social mobility, which imply that race problem also has some responsibility for the social mobility. We discover a strong negative relation between racial and social mobility. (Chetty, R., 2014)opinion_080312

The three solutions try to solve this problem from different aspects. However, from the the basic level, I think meritocracy is the best. In meritocracy, everyone has the right to express their opinions and are encouraged to share them openly, workers are stimulated to be more ambitious by incentives. Students are encouraged and have opportunities to pursuit high-payingmjobs. Apart from that, this policy is effectively applied in country like USA, because this will solve race problem, and help to promote a feeling of fairness in a multi-ethical and religion problem. In another words, this solution covers all potential information we should care. The second one and the third only solve specific aspects, like education and racial problem.

One successful example of this policy is Singapore, this country implement this policy since last century, they have less gap between rich and poor, now more than 90 percent of residents live in their own house, and another aspect is Angelo talked about yesterday, tuition fee, University tuition fees in the United States has been increasing at an alarming level, creating a barrier to less-wealthy students. But the tuition fee in Singapore is under the average in come of one family.

Civic problem is always under controversy, because it is too complicated. Sometimes a slight move in one part may affect the situation as a whole, just like the butterfly effect. So after all, the people and the government should work and make effort together. Only in this way, everything inrational will fall, and from the ashes of the outdated system, can we will build a better one.


Work cited

1.Becker, Posner,(2014) Social Mobility and Income Inequality, Retrieved from: 

2.Becker, Posner, (2012) Meritocracy, Social Mobility, Intergenerational Mobility, Retrieved from: 

3.Chetty, (2014) Improving Opportunities for Social Mobility in the United States, Retrieved from: 

4.Kraus M., Tan J., (2015) Americans overestimate social class mobility, Retrieved from: 

5.Sawhill, I. (2015) Inequality and social mobility: Be afraid, Retrieved from: 

6.Samiksha S. (2015) Social Mobility: The Meaning, Types and Factors Responsible for Social Mobility, Retrieved from:

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