Understanding the Nature and Consequences of Social Mobility Beliefs

  • Martin V. DayEmail author
  • Susan T. Fiske


People commonly hold beliefs about social mobility, that is, perceptions of the likelihood to move up or down in society. What impact, if any, do these beliefs have on inequality, the societal status quo, and people’s own lives? How accurate are these views of where people end up in life and why? How can we characterize these beliefs? Through a review of existing research, we clarify the nature of social mobility beliefs and conceptualize how these beliefs affect society and individuals. For society, a consistent pattern emerges. Belief in social mobility leads to defense of the status quo and tolerance for inequality, but as we conceptualize, this occurs for abstract rather than concrete attitudes. On the personal level, social mobility beliefs relate to well-being and can affect the attainment of status-related goals, but this depends on individual difference factors, as well as the outcome being considered. This chapter also outlines opportunities for further research.


Social mobility Economic inequality Status quo Rationalization Social status Well-being Goals Achievement 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Memorial University of NewfoundlandSt. John’sCanada
  2. 2.Princeton UniversityPrincetonUSA

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