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Falling From Grace? The Psychological Impact of Downward Intragenerational Mobility

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Abstract:

In the influential book "Falling From Grace: Downward Mobility in the Age of Affluence", Newman (1999) shows how those who are downwardly mobile from the middle class experience a great deal of psychological distress, self-blame, and mental anguish from their descent down the social hierarchy. However, Newman’s qualitative analysis leaves it unclear as to whether their poor mental health is an effect of their downward mobility, or the result of residing in a lower social class that carries psychological burdens for all of those who inhabit it. I argue that this is an important distinction to make, as the answer could mean the difference between a social problem that plagues mobile societies and an illustration of the power of social structure in shaping individual outcomes.
Using data from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study, I utilize Sobel’s Diagonal Mobility models (1981; 1985) to estimate the association between downward intragenerational mobility from the professional/service class and psychological distress and self-acceptance. After accounting for background characteristics and origin and destination occupational status, I find little evidence for “mobility effects.” Rather, I find that the downwardly mobile are shaped by their past and present experiences, but are not at any greater risk of experiencing poor mental health outcomes than those in their origin and destination status. Insofar that the downwardly mobile middle class are distressed and have poor psychological functioning, it seems to be the result of living in their destination social class, not their downward mobility, per se. Implications of the findings are discussed.

Most Common Document Word Stems:

mobil (255), class (105), downward (98), psycholog (91), social (88), status (87), individu (78), effect (69), destin (67), model (63), studi (60), occup (55), origin (54), distress (53), self (51), depress (49), 1 (40), life (40), experi (37), newman (36), 1975 (35),

Author's Keywords:

mobility effects, falling from grace, social mobility, mental health, psychological distress, CES-D, self-acceptance
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MLA Citation:

Houle, Jason. "Falling From Grace? The Psychological Impact of Downward Intragenerational Mobility" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association Annual Meeting, Sheraton Boston and the Boston Marriott Copley Place, Boston, MA, Jul 31, 2008 <Not Available>. 2014-12-01 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p239052_index.html>

APA Citation:

Houle, J. N. , 2008-07-31 "Falling From Grace? The Psychological Impact of Downward Intragenerational Mobility" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association Annual Meeting, Sheraton Boston and the Boston Marriott Copley Place, Boston, MA Online <APPLICATION/PDF>. 2014-12-01 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p239052_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Abstract: In the influential book "Falling From Grace: Downward Mobility in the Age of Affluence", Newman (1999) shows how those who are downwardly mobile from the middle class experience a great deal of psychological distress, self-blame, and mental anguish from their descent down the social hierarchy. However, Newman’s qualitative analysis leaves it unclear as to whether their poor mental health is an effect of their downward mobility, or the result of residing in a lower social class that carries psychological burdens for all of those who inhabit it. I argue that this is an important distinction to make, as the answer could mean the difference between a social problem that plagues mobile societies and an illustration of the power of social structure in shaping individual outcomes.
Using data from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study, I utilize Sobel’s Diagonal Mobility models (1981; 1985) to estimate the association between downward intragenerational mobility from the professional/service class and psychological distress and self-acceptance. After accounting for background characteristics and origin and destination occupational status, I find little evidence for “mobility effects.” Rather, I find that the downwardly mobile are shaped by their past and present experiences, but are not at any greater risk of experiencing poor mental health outcomes than those in their origin and destination status. Insofar that the downwardly mobile middle class are distressed and have poor psychological functioning, it seems to be the result of living in their destination social class, not their downward mobility, per se. Implications of the findings are discussed.


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