Intergenerational Mobility in East Asian Countries: A Comparative Study of Japan, Korea and China

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Abstract: There have been fewer cross-national comparative works on social mobility in East Asian countries than in Western countries. The present study aims to explore the similarities and differences of intergenerational social mobility in three East Asian countries and to examine whether the Featherman–Jones–Hauser (FJH) hypothesis would fit well into the mobility tables for Japan, Korea, and China. Log-linear and log-multiplicative models are applied to the mobility tables of respondents’ occupations according to the father's occupation in the three countries. The analysis of relative rates of mobility did not completely support the FJH hypothesis in a strict sense, even though it reasonably accounts for the total association of origin and destination in the three countries. My analysis demonstrates that a level of social fluidity has been higher in Korea and China than in Japan. Focusing on how relative mobility patterns differ between the three countries, intergenerational mobility in Korea is characterized by lower rates of class inheritance compared to Japan, while there seems to be a similarity between the patterns of social fluidity in Japan and Korea, even though they are to a certain extent deviant from Erikson and Goldthorpe's core model. In contrast to Korea, class inheritance rates in China are almost as large as in Japan. However, the mobility pattern between classes appears to differ substantially between the post-socialist and two capitalist countries. In particular, both downward and upward mobility between the white collar bloc and the unskilled manual position are more pervasive in China than in Japan and Korea. These results imply that sociologists interested in cross-national comparison of the social mobility between the East Asian countries should pay attention to both political institutions and the local labor market situatuion which can substantially affect social mobility.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)64-79
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Japanese Sociology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2007 Nov
Externally publishedYes


  • Cross-national comparison
  • Intergenerational mobility
  • Log-linear and log-multiplicative model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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