In this report, we look at the social mobility among persons who were in the age between 30 to 40 years in 2019. We focus on the so-called vertical social mobility, i.e. the movement up and down socially. Of particular interest is the social mobility of immigrants and Norwegian-born by immigrant parents. How does the social mobility of these groups compare with the rest of the population in the same age group?

A main question in this report is whether the distinct differences in outcomes with regards to income and education between children of immigrants and the rest of the population can be attributed to differences in social background. Sons and daughters of immigrants tend to start lower than sons and daughters in the rest of the population, given the parents’ lower income and level of education. Previous research has also found signs of differences according to gender and variations with regard to country background in the degree of social mobility. Are these differences at group level a result of different starting points related to age composition, family situation or characteristics of the parents? Another question we attempt to answer concerns whether gender-specific features of social mobility among men and women explain observed differences between sons and daughters of immigrants.

The analyses in this report utilize register data on individual income and level of education to measure social status and social mobility among persons born in the period 1979 to 1989 at the time these were aged 30 to 40 years old (2019). We focus particularly on those born in Norway by immigrant parents and immigrants who arrived at pre-school age. We also identify fifteen groups of children of immigrants based on country background that are given extra attention in the analyses.

By combining data on individual income and level of education, we construct a social stratification with nine categories. We observe distinct differences in the relative risk of being at the bottom and top of the stratification. Children of immigrants (persons born in Norway by immigrant parents and immigrants who arrived at pre-school age) generally have higher risk of ending up in the category with very low education and income compared to the rest of the population. There are nevertheless significant variations according to country background, with groups such as Somalis and Indians having far greater relative risks of ending up at the “bottom” and the “top” socially. Other groups are more similar to the rest of the population or display a less unambiguous pattern. We see some of the differences between groups weaken or disappear altogether when controlling for features regarding the person, family situation and the father’s income and level of education. This suggests that social background plays a role in generating some of the observed differences in outcome.

A closer examination of the intergenerational income mobility, measured as change in quintile ranking between mothers and daughters and sons and fathers respectively, reveals differences according to gender. Sons of immigrants generally have lower upward social mobility than men in the rest of the population. This is true even when we account for differences in “starting positions”. Also when controlling for other background characteristics, groups such as Pakistanis, Filipinos, Kosovars and particularly Chileans appear to do worse than the rest of the population. The differences between daughters of immigrants and women in the rest of the population is far smaller. Some groups, such as the Vietnamese, even display higher upward social mobility compared to women in the rest of population when we control for differences in personal characteristics and family background.  

Gender differences are also apparent in the link between family situation, especially with regards to having children, and social mobility. While living with children weakens upward mobility among women, it enhances mobility among men. This may express that having children entails different consequences for women and men regarding prioritizing paid work.