Social and Occupational Mobility: Estimating the Extent of and Mechanisms Underpinning Intergenerational Mobility over a Twenty-Year period.

Social mobility refers to how great individuals’ opportunities are for advancement through social and occupational grades or classes. A widely used indicator of the level of fairness in a society is whether or not successive generations are enabled to attain occupations at higher grades than those achieved in previous generations of their family or household.

Information is now available on the occupational status of members of the Northern Ireland Longitudinal Study (NILS) and of members of their household from three successive census captures: 1991, 2001 and 2011. This project aims to use this data (a) to estimate the extent of intergenerational mobility over this 20-year period; (b) to assess health benefits or consequences of social mobility; and (c) to identify factors that determine which individuals are more likely to be upwardly or downwardly mobile. In particular, we will examine whether the individual’s educational attainment has an effect on their likelihood of progression, independent of background characteristics.

Further analysis will examine whether these benefits from education are equally salient for males and females, given traditional gender barriers to occupational progression. Furthermore, the role of community background will also be considered, in order to examine whether educational benefits are symmetrical in both Catholic and Protestant communities.

The findings of this study speak directly to whether educational policies and broader social policies enacted over recent decades have led Northern Ireland to a position where circumstances of birth do not determine all which follows for its citizens.


Research Team: Dr John Moriarty, Dr Dermot O’Reilly, Dr David Wright and Professor Allen Thurston
Database: NILS
Project Status: Archived
Organisation(s): Queen’s University Belfast