Geoff Payne and
Judy Roberts (2002) Opening and Closing the Gates:
Recent Developments in Male Social Mobility in
Sociological Research Online, vol. 6, no. 4, <http://www.socresonline.org.uk/6/4/payne.html>
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Received: 27/9/2001 Accepted: 25/2/2002 Published: 28/02/2002
the mission of any second term must be this: to break down the barriers that hold people back, to create real upward social mobility, a society that is open (Blair 2001:2).
nationally-representative sample surveys of the British electorate, excluding Northern Ireland....The BES is the longest-running academic survey series in Britain..... conducted and coded in closely comparable ways (Heath and Payne, 2000: 257).
Fig 1: Male Overall Mobility 1972 – 1997(%)
Fig 2: Male Mobility: Service and Manual Classes 1972 – 1997 (%)
Fig 3: Male Comparative Mobility Coefficients 1972 – 1997
When we go on to consider relative mobility rates, and in this way abstract from the effects of this changing structural context, it is then the degree of stability rather than of change that is the more striking. Overall, in fact, a model of 'constant social fluidity' would seem to fit our data rather well …..Systematic shifts were evident in the pattern of absolute mobility rates, of a kind that would be expected from the nature of the changes occurring in the occupational structure. But relative mobility rates, which we take as our indicator of the degree of openness, remained generally unaltered: and the only trends that could arguably be discerned (apart from over the early stages of the life-cycle) were indeed ones that would point to a widening of differences in class chances (Goldthorpe 1987: 86, 328).
We may have mistaken changes in the shape of the class structure for changes in social fluidity or the degree of openness. In most advanced societies, the post-war years from the 1950s saw…..a growth of professional, managerial and administrative positions. This helped generate substantial rates of mobility (especially upward mobility) overall. But more 'room at the top' has not been accompanied by greater equality in the opportunities to get there….In sum, the growth of skilled white-collar work has increased opportunities for mobility generally, but the distribution of those opportunities across the classes has stayed the same (Marshall 1997: 5).
a marked tendency for all the odds-ratios in the later tables to be closer to unity than they were in the earlier tables. In other words, a rather weaker association between origins and destinations prevailed in Ireland in 1996 than in 1973 (Breen 2000: 403).
is at some variance with the conclusions reached by Goldthorpe et al. (1980) and Goldthorpe and Payne (1986) who had found that fluidity had remained constant across birth cohorts in Britain....(This) may simply reflect the different time periods covered. It is possible that, over the longer time-period available to us, there has been a real, albeit small, increase in the openness of British society that was not visible over the shorter time-period covered by Goldthorpe's work (Heath and Payne 2000, 273-5).
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