Aspirations and Social Mobility: The Role of Social and Spatial (Im)mobilities in the Development and Achievement of Young People’s Aspirations

Sonja Marzi

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


This chapter illustrates the importance of young people’s spatial (im)mobility in facilitating upward social mobility in relation to their aspirations and provides conceptual resources for research with young people from a development study and human geography perspective. Research on aspirations for upward social mobility, with a particular focus on educational and occupational aspirations, often draws on the neoliberal discourse, shifting the achievement of upward social mobility through the development of higher aspirations toward young people’s individual responsibility (Allen K, Hollingworth S, Urban Studies 50(3):499–517, 2013). Despite this, high aspirations alone are not sufficient drivers of upward social mobility as young people are embedded in their social and cultural contexts and enabled or constrained by their socioeconomic conditions. This chapter briefly discusses the concept of social mobility and its drivers - such as the acquisition of social and cultural capital (Reynolds T, Urban Studies 50(3):484–498, 2013) and being supported to develop the “right” habitus to move socially upward. It draws attention to the importance of physical mobilities, and in particular neighborhoods are discussed as crucial places where the acquisition of capitals and development of habitus and skills necessary for social mobility are developed. The relationship between spatial and social mobility is illustrated through examples from the global north and south demonstrating how spatial (im)mobility affects young people’s experiences in ways that determine the future choices they perceive as possible and available to them (Winton A, Children’s Geographies 3(2):167–184, 2005). Thus research on young people’s social mobility requires an inclusion of the spatial dimension of mobilities to understand how young people navigate themselves toward their aspirations.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGeographies of Children and Young People
Subtitle of host publicationMovement, Mobilities and Journeys
EditorsCaitriona Ni Laoire, Allen White, Tracey Skelton
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2015

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