What are the differences between the three types of social mobility?

Expert Answers
pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are many different typologies of social mobility.  It will be important for you to look in the textbook or lecture notes from your class to see which typology your instructor is using.  Let us look briefly at some typologies.

Vertical, horizontal, and lateral mobility.  Vertical mobility is what we typically think of when we think of social mobility.  This occurs when a person or group of people moves up or down in social status.  Horizontal mobility occurs when a person moves between jobs or careers of the same social status.  Lateral mobility is defined more geographically.  This is a physical movement from place to place.

Intergenerational and intragenerational mobility.  This typology differentiates social mobility based on the time frame in which it occurs.  Intragenerational mobility occurs within a person’s own lifetime.  If a person is born poor and becomes rich, they have achieved this sort of mobility.  By contrast, intergenerational mobility happens over generations.  If your parents were poor but you are rich, you have achieved this sort of mobility.

Structural mobility and exchange mobility.  In structural mobility, changes occur because of structural changes in society.  For example, when the US lost manufacturing jobs, the social status of people with little education declined because they could no longer get good manufacturing jobs.  In exchange mobility, whole classes of people move up and down the social ladder.

These are all typologies that are used by sociologists.  It is not possible to know which three types your instructor wants you to know.  It would probably be best if you consult your class materials.