Social Mobility in the Future:
It is no good waiting and hoping: we need to look at steps to take now to increase opportunity and mobility for the next generation. Looking forward in research about social mobility means looking at what factors are affecting today’s children’s chances at upward mobility. A life-cycle approach, such as the one adopted by the Brooking’s Social Genome Model begins to do this by setting up markers of success—for example, being born to a non-poor, married mother, entering school appropriate skill levels, graduating high school—at each stage of life.
More needs to be done to chart progress, not just towards increasing social mobility, but also towards greater opportunity. Opportunity and mobility are not necessarily interchangeable terms. Unequal opportunity and low intergenerational mobility are two related, but distinct social issues that we as a nation need to address. Increasing opportunity is not enough to improve mobility if we don’t also see more people both able and willing to take up these opportunities.
Similarly, without more opportunity, we will not see a systematic increase in mobility. Policymakers concerned about intergenerational mobility should be thinking both about how to create more opportunity and about how to make greater opportunity translate into more mobility.
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