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Durham University

Department of Sociology

Research Projects

Publication details

Chan, Tak Wing & Boliver, Vikki (2013). The grandparents effect in social mobility: evidence from British birth cohort studies. American Sociological Review 78(4): 662-678.

Author(s) from Durham


Using data from three British birth cohort studies, we examine patterns of social mobility over three generations of family members. For both men and women, absolute mobility rates (i.e., total, upward, downward, and outflow mobility rates) in the partial parents-children mobility tables vary substantially by grandparents’ social class. In terms of relative mobility patterns, we find a statistically significant association between grandparents’ and grandchildren’s class positions, after parents’ social class is taken into account. The net grandparents-grandchildren association can be summarized by a single uniform association parameter. Net of parents’ social class, the odds of grandchildren entering the professional-managerial class rather than the unskilled manual class are at least two and a half times better if the grandparents were themselves in professional-managerial rather than unskilled manual-class positions. This grandparents effect in social mobility persists even when parents’ education, income, and wealth are taken into account.

Department of Sociology