Free Essay Sample - Social Mobility in the US

Published: 2023-07-23
Free Essay Sample - Social Mobility in the US
Essay type:  Argumentative essays
Categories:  Discrimination Community Social change Social issue
Pages: 4
Wordcount: 1071 words
9 min read

Mobility is a term used to refer to change, shift, or movement. Such changes could be from one position to another, or of a place. Besides, change is free of value such that it cannot be said that change is bad or good. Adding the prefix 'social' to mobility implies that an individual or a group of people who are in a given position in society move to another status or position (Grusky et al., 2015). That movement, on a social ladder, may be downwards or upward or can be inter-generational or intra-generational. In other words, social mobility means the change in an individual's position from one status to another. There are several factors that could impact social mobility, and they include but are not limited to class, race, gender, age, ethnicity, and sex.

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Class - the definition of social class according to most sociologists is that it is a grouping of people in society based on similar social factors like income, education, wealth, and occupation (Nunn et al., 2017). The significance of these factors is that they impact the amount of prestige and power an individual has. Social stratification is a reflection of unequal resource distribution among the people in a society. Society has been set up such that having more money would mean having more opportunities and power. Intellectual and physical traits can also attribute to stratification. Some of the categories affecting social standing include race, family ancestry, gender, age, and ethnicity. The class has a significant impact on social mobility, both positively and negatively. For example, an individual with higher education and more money in society is most likely to get access to more opportunities, hence the increased chances of climbing up the social ladder.

Stratification in the United States is such that a very small portion of the population got the means to the highest living standards. According to a study by the Federal Reserve Bank, only one percent of the U.S. total population holds one-third of the total nation's wealth (Nunn et al., 2017). Besides, it is important to note that it is the wealthy people who receive better healthcare, and education, consume the most services and goods, and also wield decision-making power. Most people tend to think that the United States is a middle-class society where a few people are rich, a few are poor, and the majority are in the middle class or are well off. However, this is not the case as it stands, since there is no even distribution of wealth in the United States. The majority of the people in the U.S. struggle to meet their daily needs, with millions of men and women struggling to buy food pay rent, find work, and even afford basic medical care.

Gender - women experience less social mobility compared to their male counterparts. The reason for this is the lack of quality between the two genders or the lack of education among females (Grusky et al., 2015). Due to traditional and cultural customs, in most cases, it is common for women not to use their education qualifications to move up the social ladder. There are countries where women are expected to be homemakers and leave the men the role of breadwinning. Besides, it is a common practice around the world to deny women education since their families find it more beneficial to invest in the education and well-being of their men. The parents argue from the perspective that in their old age, while the females move away to stay with their husbands, it is the males who will be around to provide for them. While the daughter may require a dowry to get married, the son will bring income. Moreover, there is a high likeliness of pay difference between men and women when they enter the workforce. Moreover, due to race, women are likely to differ in pay among themselves. The U.N. has put in measures to combat these gender disparities by making it one of their goals on Millennium Development Goals to reduce inequality in gender. However, this goal has been criticized to lack an action plan and to be too broad.

Race - as an influencer on social mobility, race stems from colonial times. Debates have existed as to whether race could have an impact on the ability of an individual to rise the social class, and a study conducted on the Brazilian population concluded that racial inequality only had an impact on those who did not belong to the high-class status. The implication of this is that race only impacts the ability of an individual to experience upward social mobility of they do not begin at the upper-class population. Another theory, in this case, is that with time, racial inequality will be replaced by class inequality, but other researchers have found that minorities, especially blacks are still monitored more at the workplace and policed more than their white counterparts. Due to the constant policing of African Americans, it has usually led to their frequent firing, and in this case, African Americans experience racial inequality that lowers their upwards social mobility (Nunn et al., 2017).

Age - the life cycle issue is the commonly overlooked reason that causes differences in the levels of income among taxpayers. Income is a key factor in social mobility, with those having the highest income having the highest likeliness of moving the social ladder upward. The income tends to rise as one matures and gain work experience, with the highest peak when one is nearing retirement. Viewing the data on the annual Internal Revenue Service, it only provides a snapshot of taxpayer's situation and not a fuller picture of their well-being - for discussions on income inequality, the income life cycle is very important (Nunn et al., 2017). Whereas sometimes, lower income can be associated with lack of opportunity, there are cases where that is not the case. Previous research by Tax Foundation shows that in particular, college students are made of a large number of low-income taxpayers and that it is in the college towns where the lowest incomes of America are found.


Grusky, D. B., Smeeding, T. M., & Snipp, C. M. (2015). A new infrastructure for monitoring social mobility in the United States. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 657(1), 63-82.

Nunn, A., Johnson, S., Monro, S., Bickerstaffe, T., & Kelsey, S. (2007). Factors influencing social mobility.

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