Social mobility refers to the ability of individuals or households tomove between layers of a social stratification. The movement can beupwards or downwards, and is determined by the value assigned to theattainment of particular status characteristics. In the UnitedStates, it describes the achievement of features of a social oreconomic class. The American Dream philosophy is anchored on thebelief that individuals or households can rise from humblebackgrounds to riches. However, studies have suggested that socialmobility in the United States is lower compared to other countries.Economists have argued that developed nations with stronger social,educational, and legal policies and systems have higher mobility thanthe US. This includes Scandinavian countries such as Denmark,Finland, Sweden, and Norway (Raj et al., 2014).
Some people in the society have better chances of moving to upperstrata, due to individual factors. For example, IQ has a hugeinfluence on social and economic success. This is because it impactson academic achievements and occupations. Additionally, individualswith better social capital can achieve higher status in the society,as a result of its influence on networks and relationships with otherpeople. Other factors include the level of education and exposure toopportunities for growth (Raj et al., 2014).
Meritocracy refers to a social, economic, and political system inwhich power is vested in persons depending on their abilities.Consequently, social advancement is subject to performance, measuredthrough competitive processes such as examinations or demonstrationof achievements. Thus, smarter and more talented individuals will bemore successful compared to their peers. The United States is ameritocratic country. This is because the majority of people in thecountry have created or expanded their wealth and status based onmerit, hard work, and talent. For example, although some of therichest people (like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet) in Americainherited vast wealth from their parents, their abilities were theprimary factors in their success. Additionally, individuals such asOprah Winfrey and Larry Ellison rose from ‘rags to riches’ due totheir brilliance (McNamee & Miller, 2014). This influenced me toattend college because academic achievement is the basic way ofdemonstrating talent and ability. Triumph in my studies will secureme a good job and better create chances of success in future, andattainment of a higher social status.
McNamee, S. & Miller, R. (2014). The meritocracy myth.Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Raj, C. et al (2014). Is the United States Still a Land ofOpportunity? Recent Trends in Intergenerational Mobility. TheAmerican Economic Review, 104(5), pp. 141-147.