Social Indicators Research

, Volume 133, Issue 1, pp 15–30 | Cite as

The Experience of Social Mobility: Social Isolation, Utilitarian Individualism, and Social Disorientation

  • Stijn DaenekindtEmail author


The dissociative thesis states that social mobility is a disruptive and detrimental experience for the individual. Despite the absence of convincing evidence either for or against it, this thesis is generally accepted in sociology. I investigate this thesis by considering three dimensions of dissociation—i.e., social isolation, utilitarian individualism, and social disorientation. I use data from a large-scale survey in Flanders (Belgium) and apply Diagonal Reference Models to study consequences of intergenerational social mobility. I find support for asymmetric acculturation for each dimension, i.e., upwardly mobile individuals adapt more to the new social status position, compared to downwardly mobile individuals. Moreover, both for social disorientation and utilitarian individualism, I find detrimental effects of the experience of downward social mobility. As I find no detrimental consequences of both upward and downward mobility, the results do not provide evidence for the dissociative thesis.


Acculturation Diagonal Reference Models Dissociation Dissociative thesis Educational mobility Social mobility 



I am very grateful to Piet Bracke, Willem de Koster, Henk Roose and Jeroen van der Waal for kind and insightful comments on a previous version of this manuscript. I am also grateful to Guido Van Der Ratz for enlightening, and often strange, conversations.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyGhent UniversityGhentBelgium
  2. 2.Department of Public Administration and SociologyErasmus University RotterdamRotterdamThe Netherlands

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