English Issue > 2001

An Annual English Selection - 2001 - 42 - Supplement

Forty Years of Social Mobility in France. Change in Social Fluidity in the Light of Recent Models

Louis-André VALLET



pp. 5-64


The aim of this paper is to examine whether a long-term trend can be identified in the mobility regime of French society from the middle of the century. It begins with a review of the international literature on temporal trends in social fluidity within modern societies. Analysing recent French research which has concluded that inequality of opportunity has remained unchanged in France during the last two decades, the paper argues that such a conclusion can only have resulted from the use of insufficiently powerful statistical techniques. The second part of the paper analyses father-son and father-daughter mobility tables drawn from national representative surveys carried out in 1953, 1970, 1977, 1985 and 1993 (N=35,741 for males and 18,484 for females). The use of log-linear and log-multiplicative models reveals that the statistical association (as measured with the logarithm of the odds ratio) between social origin and destination has declined steadily by 0.5 % a year over a period of forty years. This finding highlights a slow but continuous trend towards a reduction in inequality of opportunity from the middle of the century. Of the twelve million French men and women between the ages of 35 and 59 who were in employment in 1993, nearly half a million would have belonged to different classes without this forty year increase in social fluidity. The paper concludes that the thesis of temporal invariance in the intergenerational mobility regime cannot be maintained for France, but that the reasons of this change still remain to be ascertained.



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