Social Mobility in Europe is the most comprehensive study to date of trends in intergenerational social mobility. It uses data from 11 European countries covering the last 30 years of the twentieth century to analyze differences between countries and changes through time.
The findings call into question several long-standing views about social mobility. We find a growing similarity between countries in their class structures and rates of absolute mobility: in other words, the countries of Europe are now more alike in their flows between class origins and destinations than they were thirty years ago. However, differences between countries in social fluidity (that is, the relative chances, between people of different class origins, of being found in given class destinations) show no reduction and so there is no evidence supporting theories of modernization which predict such convergence. Our results also contradict the long-standing Featherman Jones Hauser hypothesis of a basic similarity in social fluidity in all industrial societies 'with a market economy and a nuclear family system'. There are considerable differences between countries like Israel and Sweden, where societal openness is very marked, and Italy, France, and Germany, where social fluidity rates are low. Similarly, there is a substantial difference between, for example, the Netherlands in the 1970s (which was quite closed) and in the 1990s, when it ranks among the most open societies.
Mobility tables reflect many underlying processes and this makes it difficult to explain mobility and fluidity or to provide policy prescriptions. Nevertheless, those countries in which fluidity increased over the last decades of the twentieth century had not only succeeded in reducing class inequalities in educational attainment but had also restricted the degree to which, among people with the same level of education, class background affected their chances of gaining access to better class destinations.
1: Richard Breen: The Comparative Study of Social Mobility
2: Richard Breen: Statistical Methods of Mobility Research
3: Richard Breen and Ruud Luijkx: Social Mobility in Europe Between 1970 and 2000
4: Walter Mueller and Reinhard Pollak: Social Mobility in West Germany: The Long Arms of History Discovered?
5: Louis-André Vallet: Change in Intergenerational Class Mobility in France from the 1970s to the 1990s and its Explanation: An Analysis Following the Casmin Approach
6: Maurizio Pisati and Antonio Schizzerotto: The Italian Mobility Regime: 1985-1997
7: Richard Layte and Christopher T. Whelan: Class Transformation and Trends in Social Fluidity in the Republic of Ireland 1973-1994
8: John H. Goldthorpe and Colin Mills: Trends in Intergenerational Class Mobility in Britain in the Late Twentieth Century
9: Jan O. Jonsson: Equality at a Halt? Social Mobility in Sweden 1976-1999
10: Kristen Ringdal: Social Mobility in Norway 1973-1995
11: Bogdan W. Mach: Intergenerational Mobility in Poland 1972-1988-1994
12: Péter Róbert and Erzsébet Bukodi: Changes in Intergenerational Class Mobility in Hungary 1973-2000
13: Meir Yaish: Opportunities, Little Change: Class Mobility in Israeli Society 1974-1991
14: Harry B. G. Ganzeboom and Ruud Luijkx: Recent Trends in Intergenerational Occupational Class Reproduction in The Netherlands 1970-1999
15: Richard Breen and Ruud Luijkx: Conclusions