Scottish Longitudinal Study
Development & Support Unit

Current Projects

Project Title:

Social and Spatial Mobility: Analysis of the SLS Linkage to the 1947 Scottish Mental Survey

Project Number:



Frank Popham (University of Glasgow)
Chris Dibben (University of Edinburgh)
Roxanne Connelly (University of Edinburgh)
Lee Williamson (University of Edinburgh)

Start Date:

22 Sept 2015



This project will make use of the 1947 Scottish Mental Survey (a 1936 birth cohort) linked with the Scottish Longitudinal Study. The data from the 1947 Scottish Mental Survey provide us with age 11 cognitive ability test scores taken from children born in 1936 (Deary, Whalley, and Starr 2009, Scottish Council for Research in Education 1949).

A number of studies have analysed inter-generational social mobility in Scotland (Payne 1987, Goldthorpe, Llewellyn, and Payne 1980, Glass and Hall 1954, Hope 1984, Iannelli and Paterson 2006). These studies indicate that people in Scotland have experienced large amounts of absolute mobility, especially upward mobility (Payne 1987). Iannelli and Paterson (2006, 2007) found evidence of declines in absolute social mobility since the mid-twentieth century (i.e. the numbers of people who are moving up the social distribution) and stability in relative social mobility (i.e. the amount of social mobility after taking into account changes in the stratification structure). These patterns were similar for men and women.

Payne (1987) emphasises the centrality of sectorial shifts of employment in different industries and the levels of employment in different types of occupations to the study of social mobility. The proposed research will build on the literature on social mobility in Scotland, above, by considering how the labour market opportunities offered in particular regions may facilitate or preclude social mobility. This project will investigate the escalator hypothesis, which suggests that regions which offer positive labour market opportunities may enhance the labour market success of individuals who move into these areas (Fielding 1992, Fielding 1993, Fielding 2004). Previous research has suggested that large metropolitan regions of Scotland, such as Edinburgh, may operate as escalator regions (van Ham et al. 2012) while depressed labour markets (like West of Scotland) have seen significant population loss.

It is unclear, however, why individuals in escalator regions do better than others. It could be because of the employment opportunities they are offered, or the counterargument would claim that these geographically mobile individuals have additional positive characteristics which lead to their superior labour market outcomes (Newbold and Brown 2012). We will investigate whether individuals who move into more economically affluent areas have more advantaged social backgrounds and higher childhood cognitive ability than those who are not geographically mobile. Social class background and cognitive ability have previously been shown to facilitate social mobility (Deary et al. 2005, Breen and Goldthorpe 2001, Connelly 2012).

Finally, previous studies have investigated the role of social and geographic mobility in constraining or inflating health inequalities (Power, Matthews, and Manor 1996, Cardano, Costa, and Demaria 2004, Bartley and Plewis 2007, Boyle, Norman, and Popham 2009). The proposed study will add to this literature by considering the joint impact of social and geographical mobility on health inequalities (i.e. limiting long-term illness and mortality). Specifically it will explore whether social mobility facilitated by geographical movement may involve a ‘cost’ to health compared to mobility in place.


This project will make use of the 1947 Scottish Mental Survey (a 1936 birth cohort) linked with the Scottish Longitudinal Study. We will use these data to investigate the inter-generational social mobility of this cohort and how their social mobility relates to their cognitive ability and geographic mobility. We have a particular interest in how the regionally specific labour market opportunities in this historical period relate to inter-generational social mobility, and in turn, how this social and geographic mobility relates to health outcomes in later life.

  1. We will first investigate the patterns of inter-generational social mobility in this cohort. We will consider gendered patterns of social mobility and the influence of cognitive ability on social mobility.
  2. We will extend these traditional social mobility analyses by considering the effect of the regional economy on the movement of individuals to and from areas of Scotland. This analysis will be related to literature on escalator regions, i.e. geographic areas with buoyant labour markets which may facilitate improved labour market outcomes for individuals who move there (Fielding 1992, 2004, Fielding 1993).
    1. We will investigate whether Edinburgh and other relatively buoyant labour market could be considered an escalator region in this time period in contrast to more depressed labour markets (for example in the West of Scotland).
    2. We will investigate the role of social class background and cognitive ability on geographic mobility.
  3. We will investigate the relationship between the social and geographic movement observed and health outcomes in later life (i.e. mortality and limiting long-term illness) as there is still significant uncertainty about the impact of mobility on health inequalities


Bartley, Mel, and Ian Plewis. 2007. "Increasing social mobility: an effective policy to reduce health inequalities." Journal of the Royal Statistical Society: Series A (Statistics in Society) 170 (2):469-481.

Boyle, Paul J, Paul Norman, and Frank Popham. 2009. "Social mobility: Evidence that it can widen health inequalities." Social science & medicine 68 (10):1835-1842.

Breen, R, and J. Goldthorpe. 2001. "Class, Mobility and Merit: The experience of Two Birth Cohorts." European Sociological Review 17 (2):81-101.

Cardano, Mario, Giuseppe Costa, and Moreno Demaria. 2004. "Social mobility and health in the Turin longitudinal study." Social science & medicine 58 (8):1563-1574.

Connelly, R. 2012. "Social stratification and cognitive ability: An assessment of the influence of childhood ability test scores and family background on occupational position across the lifespan." In Social Stratification: Trends and Processes, edited by P.S. Lambert, R. Connelly, M Blackburn and V Gayle, 101-113. Aldershot: Ashgate.

Deary, I.J., L.J. Whalley, and J.M. Starr. 2009. A Lifetime of Intelligence: Follow-up studies of the Scottish Mental Surveys of 1932 and 1947. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Deary, Ian J, Michelle D Taylor, Carole L Hart, Valerie Wilson, George Davey Smith, David Blane, and John M Starr. 2005. "Intergenerational social mobility and mid-life status attainment: influences of childhood intelligence, childhood social factors, and education." Intelligence 33 (5):455-472.

Fielding, Anthony J. 1992. "Migration and social mobility: South East England as an escalator region." Regional studies 26 (1):1-15.

Fielding, Anthony J. 2004. "Class and space: social segregation in Japanese cities." Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 29 (1):64-84.

Fielding, Tony. 1993. "Migration and the metropolis: an empirical and theoretical analysis of inter-regional migration to and from South East England." Progress in Planning 39:75-166.

Glass, David V, and JR Hall. 1954. "Social mobility in Great Britain: A study of inter-generation changes in status." Social mobility in Britain:177-217.

Goldthorpe, John H, Catriona Llewellyn, and Clive Payne. 1980. Social mobility and class structure in modern Britain: Clarendon Press Oxford.

Hope, Keith. 1984. As others see us: Schooling and social mobility in Scotland and the United States. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Iannelli, Cristina, and Lindsay Paterson. 2006. "Social mobility in Scotland since the middle of the twentieth century." The Sociological Review 54 (3):520-545.

Iannelli, Cristina, and Lindsay Paterson. 2007. "Education and social mobility in Scotland." Research in Social Stratification and Mobility 25 (3):219-232.

Newbold, K Bruce, and W Mark Brown. 2012. "Testing and extending the escalator hypothesis: does the pattern of post-migration income gains in Toronto suggest productivity and/or learning effects?" Urban Studies 49 (15):3447-3465.
Payne, Geoff. 1987. Employment and opportunity. London: MacMillan Press.

Power, Chris, Sharon Matthews, and Orly Manor. 1996. "Inequalities in self rated health in the 1958 birth cohort: lifetime social circumstances or social mobility?" Bmj 313 (7055):449-453.

Scottish Council for Research in Education. 1949. The trend of Scottish Intelligence: A comparison of the 1947 and 1932 surveys of the intelligence of eleven-year-old pupils. London: University of London Press.

van Ham, Maarten, Allan Findlay, David Manley, and Peteke Feijten. 2012. "Migration, occupational mobility, and regional escalators in Scotland." Urban Studies Research 2012.

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