Basically, social mobility means a change in position within the social hierarchy. It is a person’s movement over time from one class to another. In other words, social mobility stands for change in the position of an individual or a group of individuals from one status to another.
Societies differ in the extent to which social mobility is permitted. Some societies are based on closed class systems in which movement from one class to another is nearly impossible. In a caste system, for example, mobility is strictly limited by the circumstances of one’s birth. At the other extreme are open class systems in which class system placement is based on individual achievement rather than ascription.
There are mainly four types of social mobility:
- Horizontal mobility: occurs within the same status category.
- Vertical Mobility: involves moving from one social position to another, which may be upward or downward mobility.
- Intergenerational Mobility: occurring between generations, such as when a child rises above the class of his or her parents.
- Intragenerational Mobility: occurring within a generation, such as when an individual changes class because of business success.
Role of Education in Bringing Social Mobility
In the present-day world, a major key to social mobility is education. Education is regarded as the primary channel of mobility.
Education facilitates social mobility. High educational achievement enables one for upward mobility.
Education is highly correlated with income and occupation. The higher the educational level, the more prestigious the occupation, leading to higher annual income. This in turn is associated with property, prestige, social status and power.
Education acts as a mechanism for upward social mobility. In this case, access to education is the key in determining the extent of mobility an individual can aspire in society.
It is through education that in modern India the members of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes are not only able to change their traditional occupation but have also started occupying jobs of higher prestige.
However, it should be noted that education is a sufficient but not a necessary condition for upward mobility. Besides, education as a facilitator for upward mobility is possible if everyone gets an equal chance for education.