Social Mobility Does Not Exist

Mark Page, 2015 Feb 04
The rich of the present are the rich of the past; and the future?
The rich of the present are the rich of the past; and the future?

Want to assess the future prospects of your child? Well, you don’t need to worry too much about your talents, achievements or salary – nor those of the other parent. The talents of said child are not very important either

It seems that, due to the fact that social mobility is little more than a myth, if you want to know how your kids might turn out, then look to to your ancestors from hundreds of years ago.

The authors of The Son Also Rises, through the study of surnames, describe the relentless lack of social mobility in societies from around the world. Parents’ salaries are only a very weak indicator of a child’s expectations. In contrast, the child’s long-term lineage, the most important indicator, blows the previous measure out of the water. As a result of their studies, the authors conclude that societies should proactively restrict the enormous difference in rewards between those of high and low social rank.

We at The Cambridge Commons would describe that as a statement of the obvious; it is a formal analysis of what most of you have always known; “it’s not what you know but who(m) you know.” Rich, powerful people hob-nob with other rich, powerful people generation after generation after generation; this is one of the best arguments for abolition of private education (as Finland did in the 1970s).

The chance of cheating your social fate (being successful despite your family background) in the modern world is pretty similar to that in feudal England. With this kind of scientific data growing relentlessly, we might finally wake up.

The Son Also Rises: Surnames and the History of Social Mobility
Gregory Clark with Neil Cummins, Yu Hao and Daniel Diaz Vidal

Lineage lottery: the myth of social mobility
The Independent