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Mobility, Horizontal and Vertical

Wout Ultee

Subject Sociology » Stratification and Inequality

Key-Topics mobility

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405124331.2007.x


The notion that in contemporary highly industrialized societies persons may climb up or slide down the social ladder presupposed some scale with an upper end and a lower end and the possibility of ranking people on it. Individual income can be taken as such a scale, and if this is used it is possible to speak of upward and downward mobility and to quantify the extent to which a person is upwardly or downwardly mobile. Occupational status, as indicated by the prestige accorded to occupations in surveys involving representative samples from a country's population, also makes it possible to ascertain mobility. In these cases a sociologist speaks of vertical mobility. Sometimes sociologists also speak of horizontal mobility. In that case, they do not avail themselves of a scale allowing a full ranking of persons. A case in point are class schemas, for instance the one developed first by Goldthorpe (1980) for Britain and later by Erikson and Goldthorpe (1992) for research on social mobility involving a comparison of countries. This schema has a “top”: the persons belonging to what they call the service class. It has a “bottom,” too: the unskilled and semi-skilled manual workers in industry, together with agricultural workers. However, the schema does not rank the intermediate categories, such as those for skilled manual workers, routine non-manual workers, farmers, and small ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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