The Consequences of Immigration for Social Mobility: The Experience of Israel

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A commonly held view argues that immigration is a major force propelling social mobility. Since, by definition, the immigration process entails a separation of individuals from their communities, it is argued that a relatively weak association exists between the immigrant's social position (in their country of origin) and that of their offspring (in the 'new' society). It follows from this that in immigrant society (i) the overall association between parents' social position and that of their offspring is relatively weak; and (ii) as long as immigration continues this association is expected to weaken. This paper utilizes the 1974 and 1991 mobility surveys in Israel to study the association between immigration and social mobility and fluidity amongst Israeli Jews. Israel is amongst the few nations where immigrants made up the majority of its original population, and throughout the years, successive waves of (Jewish) immigrants have continued to enter the country. Israel, moreover, is a distinctive immigrant society in which such a process can be traced back to its roots by analysing high-quality data. This study finds that immigration to Israel may not have been the force that generated a high level of fluidity in the society. Nonetheless, immigration to Israel has changed the Israeli class structure and generated high rates of absolute mobility. Thus, it is concluded, structural changes cannot account for the relatively high level of fluidity in Israel. It is also concluded that successive waves of immigrants entering a society do not affect relative mobility such that over time a trend towards increasing fluidity is produced. Finally, it is shown that the origin of the ethnic basis of the inequality of opportunity that prevails in Israeli society today may be embedded in historical immigration processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)449-471+ii
JournalEuropean Sociological Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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