Social Indicators Research

, Volume 138, Issue 3, pp 1049–1074 | Cite as

Socioeconomic Status Mobility in the Modern World System: Growth and Allocation Effects

  • Shawn F. DoriusEmail author


This research introduces a new measure of the socioeconomic status (SES) of countries to test assertions regarding a contemporary world-system in which mobility is scarce or altogether absent. Historical, country-level estimates of population size, income per capita, and educational attainment were used to construct a new time-series measure of SES for a constant panel of 74 countries and a larger, partially imputed panel of 149 countries. Correlation and contingency table analysis show that SES position in 2010 was highly dependent on 1880 position, though the degree of observed immobility is sensitive to the number of status categories and number of countries. The long-run trend has been toward greater mobility and a more open global stratification system that coincides with recent declines in between-nation income and education inequality. Although most high- and low-SES countries in 1880 were in the same category in 2010, countries in the middle of the 1880 global status hierarchy were exceptionally mobile over the ensuing 130 years. Population dynamics have played a fundamental role in structuring the global status hierarchy. Low population growth among high-SES countries, coupled with high population growth among low-SES countries, has contributed to substantial expansion and diversification of the high status club, which currently includes a large and growing number of non-western countries.


Mobility Socioeconomic status Globalization World system Population dynamics Measurement 



This research was supported by a National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Training Grant from the Population Studies Center at the University of Michigan (T32 HD007339) and funding from the Population Studies Center small grant initiative.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyIowa State UniversityAmesUSA

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