Does intergenerational social mobility affect antagonistic attitudes towards ethnic minorities?

Jochem Tolsma*, Nan Dirk De Graaf, Lincoln Quillian

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

32 Scopus citations


Up till now, no study satisfactorily addressed the effect of social mobility on antagonistic attitudes toward ethnic minorities. In this contribution, we investigate the effect of educational and class intergenerational mobility on ethnic stereotypes, ethnic threat, and opposition to ethnic intermarriage by using diagonal mobility models. We test several hypotheses derived from ethnic competition theory and socialization theory with data from the Social and Cultural Developments in The Netherlands surveys (SOCON, waves 1995, 2000, and 2005) and The Netherlands Kinship and Panel Study (NKPS, wave 2002). We find that the relative influence of social origin and social destination depends on the specific origin and destination combination. If one moves to a more tolerant social destination position, the influence of the social origin position is negligible. If on the other hand, one is socially mobile to a less tolerant social position, the impact of the origin on antagonistic attitudes is substantial and may even exceed the impact of the destination category. This confirms our hypothesis that adaptation to more tolerant norms is easier than adaptation to less tolerant norms. We find only meagre evidence for the hypothesis that downward mobility leads to frustration and consequently to more antagonistic attitudes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)257-277
Number of pages21
JournalBritish Journal of Sociology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2009


  • Diagonal mobility models
  • Diagonal reference models
  • Ethnic intermarriage
  • Prejudice
  • Social mobility
  • Stereotypes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science

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