A comparative study of social mobility exploring changes in the salience of class and merit in determining individuals' life chances
This thesis is a comparative study of social mobility, describing and explaining
the movement of individuals across the occupational class structure. The 1958
National Child Development Study and 1970 British Cohort Study are used,
and research contributes new knowledge to the field in two important ways:
Firstly, missing data is imputed to correct for observed nonresponse bias; and
secondly, a latent growth modelling framework is employed to capture inter
and intragenerational mobility within a single model.
The upgrading of the occupational class structure has benefited respondents
from both cohorts and absolute intergenerational mobility rates increased
between the two Study periods. By contrast, relative mobility rates contracted
and class background became more important in securing respondents an
advantaged occupational class destination. This contraction in social fluidity
was matched by a decline in the value of education between the two periods.
Educational attainment became less important in predicting service class
destination, raising questions about the future provision of appropriate
employment for the burgeoning number of graduates.
Latent growth models confirm that respondents from both cohorts have on
average enjoyed upward mobility across the life course. Meritocratic and
cultural capital variables are used to explain model variance and their
significance demonstrates that lifetime mobility involves a mixture of
meritocratic and non-meritocratic factors. Latent class growth analysis
recognises that the population is not homogeneous and identifies subpopulations
whose members share distinctly different mobility trajectories.
The upwardly mobile latent classes identified are associated with higher
scores on the meritocratic variables evidencing meritocratic recruitment. For
the middle class stable and working class stable latent classes the result is
more ambiguous; merit or lack of it, is associated with class stability but so too
is cultural capital. The identification of two downwardly mobile trajectories
calls into question the meritocratic assumption that able individuals seek out
class locations commensurate with their merit