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Intergenerational social mobility and political outcomes: the journey matters

McNeil, Andrew (2022) Intergenerational social mobility and political outcomes: the journey matters. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.00004497


The political economic transformation of developed countries over the past half Century has resulted in widespread social mobility for many individuals. The context is a society where political consensus promoted ‘fairness’ as the potential to succeed through social mobility. For many individuals their aspirations have been fulfilled, for others there has been disappointment as they remain in the position of their parents or even experienced downward mobility. This resonates with the consensus explanation that ‘winning’ or ‘losing’ in the context of structural change polarises society through anti-system voting. Yet, the literature has failed to engage with the process of intergenerational social mobility. In Paper 1, I test how individuals’ social mobility affects the tendency to vote for ‘Brexit’, showing that one’s social origins are nearly as important as current educational or occupational position. Paper 2 develops the analysis to show this origin effect extends to anti-system right support across Europe. Over and above origin and destination effects, the act of upward mobility decreases support for the anti-system right, whereas downward mobility increases support for the anti-system right. Contrastingly, I do not identify any impact from social mobility for those who support the anti-system left. In the second section, I explore the mechanisms behind why social mobility is important for political attitudes. Paper 3 uses panel data to show that going to university makes one less ‘Eurosceptic’. However, this effect is at least as great for those from graduate parental backgrounds as for first generation students, ensuring that there remains a difference in attitudes by socio-economic background. Paper 4 investigates another aspect of political socialisation - birthplace unemployment conditions. I find that being born in a Local Authority with higher unemployment decreases adulthood earnings, makes one more economically ‘left-wing’, and increases the likelihood of voting for the Labour Party.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2022 Andrew McNeil
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
J Political Science > JN Political institutions (Europe)
Sets: Departments > Government
Supervisor: Soskice, David and Hancké, Bob

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