Social mobility in developing countries
Concepts, methods, and determinants
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.
There are disagreements about what constitutes social mobility, but there is broad agreement that in a just society all people should have a roughly equal chance of success regardless of the economic status of the families into which they were born. Concerns about rising inequality have engendered a renewed interest in social mobility, especially in the developing world.
Three basic questions configure the examinations of diverse aspects of social mobility presented in the book:
- How to assess the extent of social mobility in a given development context when the datasets required by conventional analysis and measurement techniques are at best limited and often almost entirely unavailable?
- How to reliably identify the drivers and the inhibitors of social mobility in particular developing country contexts?
- How to acquire the knowledge required to design interventions that are likely to raise social mobility, either by increasing upward mobility or by lowering downward mobility?
Table of contents
This collection of essays offers valuable insights on the measurement and meaning of social mobility both as an inherent part of economic development and as a valued outcome. This careful framing and measurement of an inherently long-term process, fraught with challenges even when the best data are available, deepens our understanding of equality of opportunity in a wide variety of countries and circumstances. This book will certainly be a valuable touchstone encouraging more research and thinking about the relationship between growth and mobility. Miles Corak, The Graduate Center, City University of New York
Social or economic mobility may well be the most important of all concepts related to social wellbeing, but it is also the most challenging, both conceptually and empirically. In this book, Iversen, Krishna and Sen have assembled an all-star interdisciplinary group of authors who deftly navigate the labyrinth of different meanings, measures and dimensions of mobility in the challenging context of low- and middle-income countries. The diversity of methods and perspectives is a real strength of this important contribution. Francisco H. G. Ferreira, Amartya Sen Professor of Inequality Studies, London School of Economics
How can people in developing countries attain a better life? How secure are their achievements? Can they avert catastrophic descents into enduring impoverishment? What enables or impedes their upward social mobility, and what interventions might reduce (and prevent the widening of) social and economic inequalities? From diverse disciplinary perspectives, the studies in this book provide vital insights into the challenges of studying and comprehending social mobility in developing countries—and underline the urgency of highlighting the ever-shifting risks and precarity with which most people must grapple in their daily endeavours to sustain (and perhaps even enhance) their wellbeing. Patricia Jeffery, Professor Emerita in Sociology, University of Edinburgh
Research Brief | What do we need to know about social mobility in the Global South?