Social Structure and Mobility in Economic Development

By Neil J. Smelser; Seymour Martin Lipset | Go to book overview

2
METHODOLOGICAL ISSUES IN THE ANALYSIS OF SOCIAL MOBILITY

OTIS DUDLEY DUNCAN, University of Michigan

THE JUXTAPOSITION of themes -- social mobility and economic development -- in the title of the conference may invite acceptance of an unwarranted assumption. In point of fact there is and can be no fixed and determinate general relationship between measures of economic growth and indexes of social mobility, either over time in one country or between countries at a point in time. A whole set of auxiliary postulates, each empirically contingent, must be adopted before a relation between mobility and growth can be deduced.

The work of Kuznets, Clark and others has indeed supported the proposition that economic growth, in the sense of sustained increase in output per capita, is accompanied by a redistribution of the working force by functional categories -- industries or occupations. Yet, such a proposition, even if accepted as an axiom, implies very little about the kinds, amounts, and patterns of social mobility that will be observed during a sequence of economic growth.

To see why this must be so, consider observations on an economy taken at two times, t0 and t1. Let the functional distribution of the working force be described as the frequency of employment in each of k classes (including, possibly, null frequencies for some classes). If we

____________________
This paper was prepared in the course of a project, "Differential Fertility and Social Mobility", supported by research grant GM-10386 from the National Institutes of Health. This is a companion project to one on "Intergenerational Occupational Mobility in the United States", supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation, of which the principal investigator is Peter M. Blau, University of Chicago. I should like to mention the contribution to the paper made not only by the opportunity to work with Blau but also by communication and collaboration with Robert W. Hodge, Albert J. Reiss, Jr., and Norman B. Ryder. Indispensable assistance in the statistical work summarized in the paper was provided by J. Michael Coble, Bruce L. Warren, and Ruthe C. Sweet.

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