Over at The Global Sociology Blog, SocProf put up some interesting visuals about social mobility, the likelihood that you have a significantly different economic status than your father.  Social mobility is important because it measures the degree to which a society has a caste system (in which you are restricted to the class you are born into, by whatever means) or one that gives people equal opportunities to ascend or descend the class hierarchy according to their hard work and talent.

Compared to similar countries, the U.S. has low social mobility (though most Americans think the opposite), along with Italy, the U.K., Chile, and Slovenia .  Scandinavian countries, Canada, and Australia have the most (see SocProf’s data here).

SocProf, however, asked a question I’ve never seen asked before: does this mobility differ by gender?  It does.  She found that daughters are more upwardly mobile than sons.

This first graph shows the percent of sons, born to a low-earning father, who will end up the top 40% of earners (orange) or the bottom 40% (blue).  Social mobility in the U.S. is lowest among the countries featured; almost 70% of American sons of low-earners stay in the bottom 40%.

The second graph is the same data for daughters.  Mobility for daughters is higher in all countries, but it is especially so in the U.S.  While 70% of sons stay in the bottom 40%, we can say the same for less than half of daughters.

Reflecting on the fact that the difference between daughters and sons was higher in the U.S. than in the comparison countries, SocProf suggests that “[g]reater mobility seems to go together with greater gender equality” in mobility.

See also this interactive graph mapping social mobility where you can see how you compare to the rest of the U.S.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions, with Myra Marx Ferree. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
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