Social mobility in 20 modern societies: The role of economic and political context

Meir Yaish, Robert Andersen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It is commonly argued that social mobility rates are influenced by economic and political conditions. Nevertheless, research on this issue has tended to be hindered by two limitations that make it difficult to draw strong conclusions about contextual effects: (1) seldom have country-level and individual-level influences been tested simultaneously, and (2) only rarely have data more recent than the 1970s been employed. We improve on previous research by employing multilevel models fitted to relatively recent survey data collected from 20 modern societies by the International Social Survey Program (ISSP) and national-level characteristics derived from various official sources. Our findings demonstrate systematic cross-national variation in the association between the occupational status of respondents and their fathers. Consistent with the industrialization thesis, this variation is positively associated with per-capita GDP, suggesting that more affluent nations are characterized by more open and fluid stratification structures. Our results also suggest the importance of political regimes and migration for social mobility. In contrast, economic inequality appears to explain very little of the cross-national variation in mobility rates.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)527-538
Number of pages12
JournalSocial Science Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2012


  • Economic conditions
  • Economic inequality
  • Industrialization
  • Migration
  • Political ideology
  • Social mobility

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science


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