Emerging Effect of Mobility on Subjective Well-Being: Evidence from the SSM Surveys 1975 – 2015 in Japan

Wednesday, 18 July 2018
Masayuki KANAI, Senshu University, Kawasaki, Kanagawa, Japan

The effect of social mobility on human behavior and psychology has been one of the classical issues in social stratification studies since Sorokin’s pioneering work. Subjective well-being is one of such consequences of social mobility, but empirical evidences between mobility and well-being have delivered mixed results so far. Nevertheless, some of the recent research have suggested the sign of increasing effects of mobility. Thus, this paper examines changes in the effect of mobility on well-being by comparing Japanese longitudinal data in these four decades.


Japanese national representative data from the SSM (Social Stratification and Social Mobility) surveys in every ten years from 1975 to 2015 were used. Well-being was operationalized by overall life satisfaction. As mobility experience, we focused on inter- and intra-generational moves in EGP class scheme. In addition to this traditional operationalization of mobility, we also employed the patterns of trajectories of respondents’ occupational status, which were extracted by sequence analysis with optimal matching. Ordered logit regressions of well-being to mobilities were conducted for the above five datasets.


The effect of mobility experiences on subjective well-being has rapidly increased in the recent decade, which is consistent with the recent literature in other advanced economies. Intra-generational mobility, rather than inter-generational one, had remarkable effects on well-being in 2010’s. Besides, downward mobility instead of upward one had a significantly negative impact on one’s well-being. These findings suggest that policy intervention to prevent instability of occupational status and living arrangement should be further required.


The merits of this research are (1) to track changes during forty years in the same society using reliable longitudinal data with national representative sample, and (2) to employ trajectory patterns as an indicator of intra-generational mobility, thanks to the full-fledged retrospective data on respondents’ occupational status in the SSM surveys.