Social mobility in the Global South – concepts, measures, and determinants

This project looks at what we know about social mobility in developing countries, and works to conceptualize and innovate methodology to further research on this topic.

Social mobility — defined as the ability to move from a lower to a higher level of education or occupational status, or from a lower to a higher social class or income-group — is the hope of economic development and the mantra of a good society.

Concerns about rising inequality have engendered a renewed interest in social mobility, especially in the developing world, as reflected in recent authoritative reports from the OECD and the World Bank. However, efforts to construct the databases in developing countries and meet the standards required for conventional analyses of social mobility are, still, at a preliminary stage and need to be complemented by innovative conceptual and methodological advances to convincingly study a phenomenon of great contemporary importance.

Key questions
  • How does one assess the extent of social mobility in a given development context when the datasets required by conventional measurement techniques are limited in availability?
  • What do we know about the patterns of social mobility across the developing world? Which countries have done particularly well in social mobility and which countries have lagged behind?
  • How does one reliably identify the drivers and the inhibitors of social mobility in particular developing country contexts?
  • How does one acquire the knowledge required to design interventions that are likely to raise social mobility, either by increasing upward mobility or by lowering downward mobility?
Watch this space

All papers, data, opinion pieces and opportunities to engage relating to this project will be available on this web page. An important initial outcome of the project will be a state-of-the-art monograph on concepts, measures and determinants of social mobility in developing countries, with contributions from leading scholars in economics, anthropology, sociology, economic history and political science.

UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

The project centrally addresses SDG 10, especially how to ensure equal opportunity and reduce inequalities of outcome.


Main subject

Theme: 2019-23, Transforming societies