How new information is changing our understanding of social mobility

“I’m tackling one of the oldest questions we have in Sociology”, says Postdoctoral Research Fellow Per Engzell. He’s investigating the age-old question of why it is that the children of rich people grow up to be rich, and the children of poor parents stay that way. “We’ve been asking it for centuries, and you might think we’d know all about it by now – but that’s not the case.”

Dr Engzell’s interest in the field was sparked during his time studying abroad. He noticed the different opportunities available to people growing up with different systems. While a Visiting Scholar at Stanford, he noticed his fellow students referring to themselves as ‘first-gen’, meaning the first in their family to go to university. “This surprised me, because we don’t have that in Sweden – having more social mobility, that would be nothing remarkable.”

Countless arguments have been put forward already regarding inequality. For Dr Engzell, however, it’s an exciting time to be investigating the issue. Access to new data provides an opportunity to disrupt the field, changing our understanding of social mobility throughout history. Population and census data, available for the first time, is providing unexpected insights.

Read more on the Leverhulme Centre for Demographic Science's website


Postdoctoral Research Fellow Per Engzell.