Ethnic minority social mobility

Lucinda Platt, University of Essex

[Project number 30008]

The study is a consideration of intergenerational mobility among ethnic minority groups. While some work has been done on intra-generational mobility I am not aware that the LS has been exploited for work on parent to child social/occupational mobility among minority groups. I would like to undertake this study in two stages: first, to explore mobility among those Indian, White, Caribbean and, possibly Pakistani/Bangladeshi children who are aged 8-15 in 1971 and their achieved occupational position in 1991; and then, once the 2001 data is available to repeat the study looking at those who were children in 1981 and their achieved position in 2001. This would then enable some idea of trends in mobility to be explored. The work on the LS may subsequently be complemented by collaborative (probably qualitative) work on ethnic minority social mobility; but currently the intention is simply to go as far as it is possible to with data already available.

Ethnic minority social mobility is an under-researched area, partly because of data limitiations - but it raises a number of interesting issues about how we think about class position and mobility in the population as a whole, and the extent to which it is appropriate to extrapolate to minority groups from such knowledge. In particular, there are indications that occupational class may be a less good measure of a wider notion of social class including educational achievements, attitudes and so on for minority groups than for the majority. This is as a result of the fact in that migrants have been shown to suffer an occupational penalty on migration: their occupation following migration may not adequately represent their skills, motivation and aspiration. This argument has been in particular applied to the relative occupational and economic success of second generation Indians (and more especially African Asians). Investigation of the LS could provide a critical contribution to considering this question in more detail.

The LS represents the only data source which has both (a) information on social class of the parents' of child subjects and the child subjects' later social class and (b) sufficient numbers of minority ethnic group members to enable meaningful breakdowns by ethnicity. It is therefore uniquely suited to an investigation of minority group mobility. Where work that does exist has used aggregates of groups' positions or educational levels at different time points to infer mobility patterns, this is the only study which can trace them as they occur at the individual level and thus relate them directly to the social mobility literature. While timing of migration means that analysis of those who were children from minority groups at the time of the 1971 census will be limited, it is anticipated some work will be possible with the larger and earlier migrating groups: Indians and Black Caribbeans (combined with those from the Black Other group), alongside a comparison group of white children. If numbers allow the experience of a combined group of Bangladeshis/ Pakistanis will also be investigated. The ability to complement this study with analysis of a further cohort (those who were children in 1981) once the 2001 data are incorporated into the LS will also make possible the plotting of trends in mobility, again a unique opportunity offered by the LS.

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