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Horizontal Mobility: Definition & Overview

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  • 0:00 What Is Horizontal Mobility?
  • 1:16 Vertical Vs.…
  • 2:08 Examples of Horizontal…
  • 2:31 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Yolanda Williams

Yolanda has taught college Psychology and Ethics, and has a doctorate of philosophy in counselor education and supervision.

Horizontal mobility refers to switching from one position to another, but not changing your social status. Learn about horizontal mobility from examples, how it differs from vertical mobility, and more.

What Is Horizontal Mobility?

Susie is a third-grade teacher at Wilheim Elementary School in a small suburban city. After two years of working at Wilheim Elementary, Susie decides that she no longer wants to live in a small town and would rather live in a major city. Susie interviews for jobs in Chicago, Atlanta, and Louisville in hopes of relocating to one of these cities. After three months of looking, Susie is offered a new position as a first-grade teacher at an urban school in Atlanta. Susie switching jobs is an example of horizontal mobility.

So what do we mean by horizontal mobility? Before we can define horizontal mobility, we must first discuss what we mean when we use the term social status, since the two terms are related. Our social status refers to our rank in the social hierarchy and is based on several factors, including our:

  • Occupation
  • Wealth
  • Achievements
  • Education
  • Race and ethnicity
  • Marital status

Horizontal mobility refers to switching from one position to another without a change in social status. In order words, it's when we change our positions within our same level of social status, and we do not move up or down the social hierarchy. Though Susie changed her work position from a suburban third grade teacher to an urban first grade teacher, her social status still remained the same.

Vertical vs. Horizontal Mobility

Suppose that instead of going to Chicago to teach first grade, Susie decided to attend graduate school and pursue her PhD in Organizational Leadership. After graduation, Susie was offered a job at an organizational development consulting firm paying $120,000 a year. This would no longer be considered horizontal mobility. This is an example of vertical mobility.

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