Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Social Mobility

I found today’s lecture regarding social mobility really interesting. Social mobility refers to the movement of an individual from one social class to another. I had never really considered what my social class is or will become before. I would consider the family I came from to be middle class. I don’t feel as though my status will change much from that once I become a teacher and start my own family. Therefore, I feel that I will experience very little intergenerational social mobility. Intergenerational in this sense refers to the difference between parents and children regarding their status. This is interesting because my parents did not attend university but because social status is most often based on occupation and wealth, education does not seem to play a large role in this case.

I couldn’t say for sure where I personally fit right now. I feel like I am kind of in limbo as a student … I don’t have a career yet, I owe money, I don’t own a house, I don’t own an Oxford tie, etc. but at the same time I don’t consider myself lower class because I know that when I earn my degree and get a job things will (hopefully) change and I can actually consider myself to be middle class again – I will have earned my way there.

Intragenerational social mobility refers to the change of status within one’s own life. It is hard to say how much this could change in a person’s life because our society is based on contest mobility and with that can come personal insecurity. In the contest mobility model, individuals must compete for success and earn their elite status (this reminded me a little of meritocracy which basically says that you get what you put in). You can become a member of the elite in many different ways by earning your place there. According to this view, everyone has the same chance of reaching elite status; it is all based on ambition.

In contrast to our society’s contest mobility, we also learned about sponsored mobility which is based on Britain’s social mobility system. Within this model, status is given, rather than taken. There is some predetermination and everyone knows their place from day one. You become a member of the elite by being considered a suitable candidate and then recruited. There is also an emphasis on early selection of elites. This way there is more time for the individual to be shaped to fit the mold. Within this model, it seems that it is unlikely to change your social status and most people accept their predetermined place in society.

As much as it would be awesome to have elite status for being chosen for doing well on some test at age 11, I prefer our contest mobility model. Status should be earned and those who work hard should be rewarded. However, our society recognizes many different types of elite individuals and some definitely don’t deserve to be there (i.e. Paris Hilton…). Status should also not be predetermined; however, unfortunately a family’s status can have great effects on where their children will get to in any society. It is not correct to say that everyone has an equal chance. Sometimes people get where they are because of money or who they know. There are definitely some exceptions within this contest model but overall I think that the right idea is there.

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