Why do escalator regions increase upward social mobility? Linkage of the Scottish Mental Survey 1947 with Scottish Longitudinal Study data and Census data

Forrest, L., Dibben, C., Feng, Z., Deary, I. & Popham, F. (2017) UK Administrative Data Research Network Annual Research Conference, Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh, UK, 1 - 2 June 2017 [SLS]

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The escalator hypothesis suggests that regions which offer positive labour market opportunities may enhance the social mobility of those who move there. Individuals who relocate to escalator regions may do better than others because of the employment opportunities they are offered, or due to particular characteristics of these geographically-mobile individuals. We were interested in exploring the relationship between geographical and social mobility and the factors that may be important for upward mobility.

The 1947 Scottish Mental Survey (a 1936 birth cohort with age 11 cognitive ability test scores), linked with the Scottish Longitudinal Study, and census data, was used to investigate the inter-generational social and geographical mobility of this cohort, and how this relates to their cognitive ability and other factors. We examined how spatial mobility impacts on social mobility, particularly examining whether large metropolitan regions of Scotland, such as Edinburgh, may operate as escalator regions, and why this might be, using linear and logistic regression models.

Higher childhood cognitive ability and achieved education level were significantly positively associated with upward mobility from childhood to age 55. Those who were geographically mobile, particularly those who moved both in and out of Edinburgh, had significantly higher cognitive ability compared to those who did not move. Movers to Edinburgh were more likely to be upwardly mobile than those who experienced any other geographical trajectory.

Previous research on escalator regions has speculated as to whether it is the place itself or the attributes of those who move there that were important for upward mobility. As those who move to Edinburgh are more likely to be upwardly mobile than those of similar cognitive ability who move elsewhere this would suggest that Edinburgh acts as an escalator region, with improved job opportunities available for those who relocate.

Available online: Link
Output from project: 2015_003


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