Intergenerational Mobility: Definition & Concept

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  • 0:00 What Is…
  • 1:23 Inter vs. Intra
  • 2:13 Examples
  • 3:07 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.

Intergenerational mobility refers to changes in social status between different generations within the same family. Learn more about intergenerational mobility from examples.

What Is Intergenerational Mobility?

Millie is a first-generation college student from Tennessee. Both Millie's parents were immigrants who worked hard labor jobs for most of their lives. Millie grew up in a poor urban community and her family often struggled to pay their bills.

Once Millie enrolled in college, her situation changed. Her parents paid for most of her education and Millie was able to work part-time as a writer while she was in school. Millie graduated college with no student loan debt and her first novel was published shortly after that. Millie continued to write short stories and children's novels even after she got married and had children of her own.

Both of Millie's children were also writers. Millie's son eventually became a professor at a prestigious university, while her daughter became a well-known author and international best seller. This is an example of intergenerational mobility.

So, what do we mean by intergenerational mobility? Intergenerational mobility refers to any change in the social position of family members that takes place from one generation to the next. Millie's parents started as immigrants, then the next generation (Millie) progressed into first generation college student and writer, and the following generation (Millie's children) progress further into world-famous authors. All these changes within the generations of Millie's family line show intergenerational mobility.

Inter vs. Intra

Intergenerational mobility is often confused with intragenerational mobility. Suppose that we hadn't discussed Millie's parents or children at all and just focused on Millie's changes in social position from a poor child to a college student and then to an author. This is an example of intragenerational mobility. Intragenerational mobility refers to a person's social movement within his or her lifespan. If we focused solely on the Millie's social changes throughout her lifetime, then we would be focusing on intragenerational mobility.

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