MCAT Content / Social Class / Patterns Of Social Mobility

Patterns of Social Mobility

Topic: Social Class

Social mobility is the movement of an individual or group from one social position to another over time.

Social mobility typically refers to vertical mobility, movement of individuals or groups up or down from one socio-economic level to another. This is influenced by several factors such as wealth, health status, literacy rate, education, or other variables among groups, such as classes, ethnic groups, or countries.

In some cases, social mobility is intergenerational, as when children attain a higher or lower status than their parents held. Other times, social mobility is intragenerational, meaning that a person changes status within their lifetime. A high level of intergenerational mobility is often considered praiseworthy and can be seen as a sign of equality of opportunity in a society.

Social mobility typically refers to vertical mobility, which is the movement of individuals or groups up or down from one socioeconomic level to another, often by changing jobs or through marriage. In some instances though, social mobility is used to refer to horizontal mobility, which is the movement from one position to another within the same social level, as when someone changes between two equally prestigious occupations.

Societies present different opportunities for mobility depending on their systems of value. For example, Western capitalist countries are generally meritocratic. A meritocracy is an ideal system based on the belief that social stratification is the result of personal effort—or merit—that determines social standing. High levels of effort will lead to a high social position, and vice versa. The concept of meritocracy is an ideal—because a society has never existed where social rank was based purely on merit. Because of the complex structure of societies, processes like socialization, and the realities of economic systems, social standing is influenced by multiple factors—not merit alone. Inheritance and pressure to conform to norms, for instance, disrupt the notion of a pure meritocracy. While a meritocracy has never existed, sociologists see aspects of meritocracies in modern societies when they study the role of academic and job performance and the systems in place for evaluating and rewarding achievement in these areas.

There are significant factors that prevent social mobility one of them is the existence of caste systems. Caste systems prescribe which social status was inherited developed independently in ancient societies all over the world, including the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. The caste system in ancient India was used to establish separate classes of inhabitants based upon their social positions and employment functions in the community. These roles and their importance, including the levels of power and significance based on patriarchy, were influenced by stories of the gods in the Rig-Veda epic.

 

Practice Questions

Khan Academy

Educational attainment, income, and psychiatric disorders

 

MCAT Official Prep (AAMC)

Official Guide P/S Section Question 30

Section Bank P/S Section Question 99

Sample Test P/S Section Question 46

Sample Test P/S Section Question 56

Practice Exam 1 P/S Section Question 59

Practice Exam 2 P/S Section Passage 3 Question 13

Practice Exam 2 P/S Section Question 59

Practice Exam 3 P/S Section Question 45


Key Points

• Social mobility refers to the movement of individuals or groups in social position over time.

• A person’s ability to move between social positions depends upon their economic, cultural, human, and social capital.

• The attributes needed to move up or down the social hierarchy are particular to each society; some countries value economic gain, for example, while others prioritize religious status.

• Social mobility typically refers to vertical mobility, movement of individuals or groups up or down from one socio-economic level to another, often by changing jobs or marriage.

• Social mobility may refer to classes, ethnic groups, or entire nations, and may measure health status, literacy, or education; however, more commonly it refers to individuals or families, and to their change in income.

• Movement up or down the social hierarchy is called vertical social mobility.

• Movement between two equally ranked social positions is called horizontal mobility.

• The institution of the caste system, influenced by stories of the gods in the Rig-Veda epic, assumed and reinforced the idea that lifestyles, occupations, ritual statuses, and social statuses were inherited.


Key Terms

Intergenerational Mobility: Refers to the phenomenon whereby a child attains higher or lower status than their parents.

Intragenerational Mobility:  Change in social status over a single lifetime.

Vertical mobility: Movement of individuals or groups up or down from one socioeconomic level to another, often by changing jobs or through marriage.

Horizontal mobility: The movement from one position to another within the same social level.

Meritocratic: Used to describe a type of society where wealth, income, and social status are assigned through competition.

Meritocracy: An ideal system based on the belief that social stratification is the result of personal effort—or merit—that determines social standing.



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