Patrick Präg and Alexi Gugushvili: Subjective social mobility and health in Germany
Published in European Societies, 2021
One’s current socioeconomic position is intimately tied to one’s health status. Further, childhood living conditions also exert lasting effects on the health of adults. However, studies on changes in one’s socioeconomic position over the life course rarely find consistent and systematic effects of social mobility for individual health and wellbeing. Such studies almost exclusively draw on objective measures of social mobility and do not consider subjective appraisals of social mobility by individuals themselves. We conduct an analysis of cross-sectional, representative German survey data to explore the question as to how subjective perceptions as opposed to objective accounts of occupational status mobility affect five self-reported health and wellbeing outcomes differentially. We show that objective and subjective accounts of social mobility overlap, yet this association is far from perfect. Further, there are relatively small associations between objective and subjective mobility accounts and health outcomes. Associations between subjective mobility perceptions and health outcomes are intriguingly independent of objective social mobility trajectories. Mismatches between objective and subjective mobility are also correlated with some health outcomes. We discuss implications of our findings that social mobility is associated with those aspects of health which are more closely related to psychological wellbeing rather than physical health.