Change in Social Fluidity over Birth Cohorts in France: Educational Expansion and Democratization of Education As Key Explanatory Mechanisms
Using the 1970, 1977, 1985, 1993, 2003 and 2014-15 Formation – Qualification Professionnelle surveys conducted by the French Statistical Office (INSEE), the paper analyzes how intergenerational social mobility and social fluidity have evolved in France for men and women born between 1906 and 1985. It demonstrates that the association between class of origin and class of destination has become weaker in recent cohorts than in older ones, and shows that the same association also diminishes with age, i.e., along the occupational career. Finally, a simulation and counterfactual exercise reveals that change in education has played a key role in the process of increasing social fluidity. In the immediate post-war cohort, the reduction in inequality of educational opportunity is the main factor and the educational expansion is the secondary factor for explaining increasing social fluidity, but the relative importance of these two factors is reversed in more recent cohorts.