Social Mobility Index

How much equality and economic opportunity do people have around the world? Let’s find out.


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Map showing the social mobility per country

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Social mobility is the movement of individuals or families within or between social strata. It can be measured in reference to a wide range of outcomes, such as health, education or economic situation.

It is important to understand the difference between absolute and relative social mobility. Absolute upward social mobility, is the ability for children to have a better life than their parents. Relative social mobility is more related to the social and economic status of an individual relative to their parents.

In a country like the United States, overall economic growth has caused improvements in previous generation’s life’s, while relative social mobility being low. Economic growth in countries like China and India (with a high relative social mobility), has lifted entire populations upward, but an individual’s situation relative to others in society, remains the same.

This means that in a country with a high relative income mobility, being born into a high-income family gives you far more opportunities compared to being born into a high income family in a country with a high absolute income mobility. E.g. being born in a high income family in Denmark or Finland (countries with a high absolute social mobility) impacts the child’s future income about 15%. In China (with a high relative social mobility), this impacts the child’s future income about 60%.

The data in this map comes from the World Economic Forum’s recently released ‘The Global Social Mobility Report 2020’. 82 countries were rated on 5 key dimensions of social mobility:

  • Health
  • Education (access, quality and equity, lifelong learning)
  • Technology
  • Work (opportunities, wages, conditions)
  • Protection and Institutions (social protection and inclusive institutions)

Countries withy greater social mobility provide more equally shared opportunities—namely, an equal and meritocratic footing irrespective of socio-economic background, geographic location, gender or origin. Interestingly, there is a direct and linear relationship between a country’s social mobility score and income inequality. Countries with higher income inequality have a lower social mobility score.

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