When you think of social mobility, you often think of vertical social mobility: when someone moves up or down in social class. An example is Barack Obama, president of the United States at the time of publication. As a child, his family received food stamps due to their low-income status. As an adult, he became the 44th president of the U.S. He experienced upward social mobility.
When you have social mobility, you give everyone the chance to aspire toward prosperity. This usually involves proper education, hard work and the utilization of individual aptitude on a larger scale. Someone who is born poor is not destined to be stuck in that social class his entire life. He has the opportunity to move up and create even greater opportunities for his own children to further advance in social class.
Social mobility can create new social classes. Instead of just rich and poor, you now have middle class, which can further be dissected into upper- and lower-middle classes. However, as more and more people fall into this middle-class distinction, it can lead to a more or less classless society, where most of the people within the society fall into one class.
The goal of upward social mobility has made education a prime factor in society. A postsecondary education has become the main goal after graduation from a secondary institution, instead of getting a long-term job after high school. Those who choose not to pursue a postsecondary education are often offered lower-paying jobs, making higher education more attractive.
Social mobility can have a negative effect on job opportunities in two ways. First, social mobility makes competition for the best jobs fiercer, whether it is because individuals want to move up in social class or because they fear a downward move in social class. Second, more people shun lower-paying jobs, because they want a chance to attain upward mobility.
When more people in society experience upward social mobility, it can lead to societal anomie: where the standards of conduct or values of a society begin to disappear and new standard and values have not yet developed. People in an anomic society may feel emotional distress and lack a sense of purpose. This can lead to harmful events like suicide or homicide.