Social Mobility



I am a 32 years old female from an African American family which haslived in the United States for three generation. My grandfatherimmigrated to the country in the early 1920s to pursue the Americandream. There is no doubt that he was able to achieve numerouseconomic breakthroughs, before the great depression negativelyimpacted on his fortunes. Nonetheless, there is a significant socialmobility that can be observed in my family over the decades.

When my grandfather relocated to the United States, he did not haveadequate education to secure a well-paying job. However, he had astrong Christian background, which allowed his to learn English andother aspects of church traditions from missionaries in Africa. As aresult, he worked in factories and plantations as a casual laborer.In the first few years of stay in the country, he noted that otherimmigrants from the African countries found it difficult to fit inthe American Christian churches. Consequently, he desired to start areligious organization that satisfied the needs of his fellowimmigrants. He was able to mobilize some of them into a fellowship inhis house. Through the Christian meetings, he met my grandmother, whoworked as domestic workers. Eventually, he started a church, wherethey worshiped in a rented hall in the neighborhood. He concentratedmost of his efforts and resources in developing the church, whichforced him to quit other jobs. As a result, my father was born in arelatively poor neighborhood. However, my grandfather ensured thatall his three children had an adequate education.

My dad was born at the beginning of the Second World War. Although mygrandfather did not go to college, he ensured that his son acquiredessential education in the fast changing post-war America. The factthat he was an African American had a huge implication on access toquality education. In the 1950s and 1960s, distinction schooling wasthe privilege of the white and a few people from minority races. Thiswas due to formal discrimination and segregation, which ensured thatchildren of color did not have equal access to learning facilities.However, as a result of the influence of the church, after highschool, my father trained as a social worker and was able to get ajob as a community worker in Christian based nongovernmentalorganization. At the same time, my grandfather’s church was growingvery fast due to improved quality of life among the African Americansin the locality, who were the principal members of the congregation.By late 1980s, it had acquired its vast properties and startedconstructions of a place of worship and offices. My grandfather hasremained an elder and founding pastor of the church.

In the late 1990s, my father had advanced from a community worker toa project manager, overseeing the organization’s programs in morethan three states. At the same time, my mother was working as acashier in a busy restaurant in town. This increased the familyincome. Consequently, we were able to attend better schools, own ahome in a middle-class neighborhood as well as three family cars.While my father was not able to access university education, mysiblings and I can attend colleges of our choice. Thus, we have abetter chance of attaining higher socioeconomic status in the future.Our children will have access to more social and economic capital,which would result in further intergeneration mobility.


Domínguez, S. (2011). Getting ahead: social mobility, publichousing, and immigrant networks. New York: New York UniversityPress.

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.