Does upward social mobility increase life satisfaction? A longitudinal analysis using British and Swiss panel data

Hadjar, Andreas; Samuel, Robin (2015). Does upward social mobility increase life satisfaction? A longitudinal analysis using British and Swiss panel data. Research in social stratification and mobility, 39, pp. 48-58. Elsevier 10.1016/j.rssm.2014.12.002

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A main assumption of social production function theory is that status is a major determinant of subjective well-being (SWB). From the perspective of the dissociative hypothesis, however, upward social mobility may be linked to identity problems, distress, and reduced levels of SWB because upwardly mobile people lose their ties to their class of origin. In this paper, we examine whether or not one of these arguments holds. We employ the United Kingdom and Switzerland as case studies because both are linked to distinct notions regarding social inequality and upward mobility. Longitudinal multilevel analyses based on panel data (UK: BHPS, Switzerland: SHP) allow us to reconstruct individual trajectories of life satisfaction (as a cognitive component of SWB) along with events of intragenerational and intergenerational upward mobility—taking into account previous levels of life satisfaction, dynamic class membership, and well-studied determinants of SWB. Our results show some evidence for effects of social class and social mobility on well-being in the UK sample, while there are no such effects in the Swiss sample. The UK findings support the idea of dissociative effects in terms of a negative effect of intergenerational upward mobility on SWB.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


03 Faculty of Business, Economics and Social Sciences > Social Sciences > Institute of Sociology

UniBE Contributor:

Samuel, Robin


300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology








Robin Samuel

Date Deposited:

13 Jul 2015 09:37

Last Modified:

13 Jul 2015 09:37

Publisher DOI:





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