Social Mobility - Meaning, Features, Types And Factors


Mobility stands for shift, change and movement. The change is value-free. When we prefix 'social' to mobility, it implies that people or individuals occupying a social position move to another position or status. It is a measure of how free people are to improve their position in society.


As defined by BARBER, social mobility refers to "movement, either upward or downward, between higher or lower social classes; or more precisely, movement between one relatively full time, functionally significant social role and another that is evaluated as either higher or lower. This movement is to be conceived as a process occurring over time, with individuals moving from one role and social position to another because of what has happened to them in various kinds of social interaction."


The characteristics of social mobility as referred to by Melvin M. Tumin in his book "Social Stratification: The Forms and Functions of Inequality."

  1. BIDIRECTIONAL : Social mobility can occur in both upward and downward directions, meaning that individuals can move up or down the social ladder depending on various factors.
  2. GRADUAL : Mobility is usually a gradual process, rather than a sudden and drastic change in social status.
  3. EDUCATION AND TRAINING : Education and vocational training can greatly facilitate upward mobility, especially for individuals from lower social strata.
  4. DEGREE OF COMPETITION : The degree of competition for social mobility varies depending on the class level in question. For example, competition for upward mobility may be greater in the higher classes than in the lower classes.


  1. IMPACT ON CLASS FORMATION : The rate of social mobility can have a significant impact on the formation and stability of social classes. If there is high social mobility, it can result in a more fluid and dynamic class structure, while low social mobility can lead to a more rigid and stable class structure.
  2. LIFE CHANCES : The study of social mobility can provide important insights into the life chances of individuals and groups in a society. It can indicate whether there are opportunities for people to improve their social and economic status, and whether there are barriers that prevent them from doing so.
  3. RESPONSES TO SOCIAL MOBILITY : Sociologists are also interested in understanding how people respond to the experience of social mobility. This can include changes in attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors, as well as the psychological and social effects of moving up or down the social ladder.
  1. HORIZONTAL MOBILITY : Horizontal mobility refers to a change in social status within the same class. For example, a person moving from one job to another that has the same level of income, prestige, and status.
  2. VERTICAL MOBILITY : Vertical mobility refers to a change in social status between different classes. It is the most common type of social mobility and can involve either upward or downward movement.
  3. UPWARD MOBILITY : Upward mobility refers to a movement to a higher social class. For example, a person moving from a lower-paying job to a higher-paying job with more prestige and status.
  4. DOWNWARD MOBILITY : Downward mobility refers to a movement to a lower social class. For example, a person losing their job and having to take a lower-paying job with less prestige and status.
  5. INTER-GENERATIONAL MOBILITY : Inter-generational mobility refers to the movement of individuals or families from one social class to another over the course of one or more generations. It is the ability of children to have a higher or lower social status than their parents.
  6. INTRA-GENERATIONAL MOBILITY : Intra-generational mobility refers to the movement of individuals within their own lifetime, such as changing jobs, acquiring new skills, or increasing their education level.
  1. ACHIEVEMENTS AND FAILURES : An individual's achievements and failures can impact their social mobility. For example, success in a particular field or industry can lead to upward mobility, while failure or setbacks can lead to downward mobility.
  2. EDUCATION : Education can play a significant role in determining social mobility, as individuals with higher levels of education often have better job prospects and greater earning potential.
  3. MOTIVATION : An individual's motivation and drive to succeed can also impact their social mobility. Those who are motivated to work hard and attain success are more likely to experience upward mobility.
  4. INDUSTRIALIZATION : The process of industrialization can also play a role in determining social mobility. As industries and economies grow, new job opportunities and economic growth can lead to upward mobility for some individuals.
  5. MODERNIZATION : Modernization can also impact social mobility. The introduction of new technologies and the increasing importance of information and knowledge-based economies can lead to new opportunities for upward mobility.


social mobility is a key concept in sociology that refers to the movement of individuals or groups from one social class to another. This movement can be either upward or downward, and can involve a change in income, prestige, and status.

Sociologists are interested in social mobility because it provides important insights into the life chances of individuals and groups in a society, as well as the nature of inequality and the ways in which social status and opportunities are distributed.

There are several types of social mobility, including horizontal mobility, vertical mobility, upward mobility, downward mobility, inter-generational mobility, and intra-generational mobility. The factors responsible for social mobility can include achievements and failures, education, motivation, industrialization, and modernization.

In conclusion, social mobility is a complex process that is influenced by a multitude of individual, structural, and cultural factors, and is an important area of study for sociologists and other social scientists.