Mobility closure in the upper class: assessing time and forms of capital

In this article Maren Toft  explores intra‐ and intergenerational mobility patterns in the upper strata of the Norwegian class structure.


Most understandings of the ways classes become social groupings centre on processes of mobility closure whereby mutual appreciation and recognition within classes arise from homogenous experiences over time. The mapping of such structured biographies, however, remains understudied.

This paper explores intra‐ and intergenerational mobility patterns in the upper strata of the Norwegian class structure and aims to include temporal processes and multiple forms of capital in the quantification of class trajectories. By combining multiple correspondence analysis and social sequence analysis, two important but often neglected aspects of recruitment to the upper class are emphasized: first, by introducing multiple forms of capital, different ways of maintaining mobility closure are demonstrated; second, different pathways to power are highlighted by distinguishing between divergent class careers.

A key aim of the analysis is to explore internal divisions within the upper class in forms of parental capital (an ‘origin space’) and link these divisions to a typology of ‘destination careers’ in adulthood. The analysis suggests that individuals from modest origins are more likely to have careers that feature a biographically late arrival and/or short‐term affiliations to upper‐class positions whereas individuals from families rich in capital are more likely to have stable careers in the upper‐class fractions from which they originate.

The analysis thus reveals important divisions in the trajectories of Norwegians who reach the upper class; not only are there differences in their upbringing in terms of the availability of different amounts and types of capital but such divisions also seem linked to their own class careers later in adulthood.

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Published Apr. 5, 2018 2:39 PM - Last modified Apr. 5, 2018 2:39 PM