Categories and Types of Social Mobility in Sociology – Absolute, Relative, Horizontal, Vertical, Positive, Negative, Upward, Downward, Intra-generational and Inter-generational Mobility

Categories and Types of Social Mobility in Sociology – Absolute, Relative, Horizontal, Vertical, Positive, Negative, Upward, Downward, Intra-generational and Inter-generational Mobility

The term mobility in the sociological sense is social positional status and hierarchical shift or movement in society. Pitirim Sorokin introduced the concept of mobility in his book Social and Cultural Mobility. 

A . Positive and Negative Social mobility

Positive mobility is associated with upward movement in society. If a person achieves a white-collar job in a multinational company, it is positive mobility. 

Negative mobility is the downward movement in social position in society. If a person becomes a drunkard and loses their job, it is negative mobility. 

B . Horizontal and Vertical Social Mobility

In horizontal mobility, there is no drastic change in the social status and hierarchical position of individuals. The social standing of people is unchanged. If a mechanical engineer working as an operator in a power station switches to become an operator of a diesel engine it is horizontal mobility. The shift in the job does not create cultural, religious, territorial, political change in the individual lives.

Vertical mobility is the change in the societal, cultural, economic, religious, and educational status of the individual. There is a vehement shift in the position of the person concerned. But the positional change can be ascending or descending. 

  • Ascending vertical social mobility – It denotes upward upliftment and achievement in one’s personal and social life. The person moves from lower strata to upper strata.
  • Descending vertical social mobility – The person moves from upper strata to lower strata in descending vertical mobility.

C . According to the rate of mobility – Absolute and Relative Social Mobility

Absolute social mobility is the mobility in which a group of individuals of a class/section among the total members of the class/section moves upwards or downwards. In absolute social mobility, only a proportion of total individuals in the same group moves upwards or downwards in the societal and economic hierarchical system.

Relative social mobility is the comparison of movement of a particular community/class/section in comparison with another community/class/section. The proportion of members who had upward or downward movement in both communities is used in statistical analysis and studies by policymakers and sociologists. In the United States, relative social mobility is used to study development and hierarchical positions among economically and politically successful white and black community members.

D . Upward and Downward Social Mobility

Upward mobility is the change or hierarchical increase in the status of individuals. Positive mobility is a part of upward mobility. The attainment of the leadership position of a person in a terrorist organization cannot be regarded as positive mobility by the international community. But according to the group or individuals involved it is upward mobility. So upward mobility involves good and bad aspects.

Downward mobility is the decrease in the social position of individuals. Negative mobility is a part of downward mobility. If a rich person voluntarily chooses to live a simpler life by donating all his property to the poor, it is not negative mobility, but downward mobility. Moreover, the individual has done a social service to humanity. 

If some employees are caught stealing confidential information from the firm they are working for, they may be terminated from the job. Such a situation can be related to downward mobility. Most people find it difficult to live with downward mobility. Sudden loss of occupation, income and status may lead them to commit anomic suicide.

E . Intra-generational and Inter-generational Social Mobility

Inter-generational mobility – In this mobility, there is social mobility within two different generations in the same family. The father whose hard work as a farmer helps his daughter achieve high education and occupation is an example of inter-generational mobility.

Intra-generational mobility – It is mobility within the members of the present generation in a family. If one of the siblings has a higher white-collar job in the family it is intra-generational mobility.  

Refer sociology dictionary for keywords analysis


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