Pub. date: 2008 | Online Pub. Date: May 28, 2008 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412963930 | Print ISBN: 9781412941655 | Online ISBN: 9781412963930| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Stephen J. Sills
In a stratified society, social mobility refers to the increase or decrease of the class or status of individuals or groups. This movement requires an open class system or social structure that provides opportunities for changing one's relative position in the society. In the United States, the system of advancement is perceived as a meritocracy, in which abilities or achievements determine mobility. Social mobility may be measured in changes in income or occupational prestige. Movement between classes may be measured within one person's life course (intragenerational mobility) or may be measured across generations (intergenerational mobility). Thus, a parent working hard in a blue-collar factory job may save enough money to send a son or daughter to law school, or individuals may begin as the children of working-class parents and through their own excellence in academics may be accepted to that same school. In both cases, the meritocratic system would allow ...