MCAT Social and Behavioral Sciences : Social Mobility

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for MCAT Social and Behavioral Sciences

varsity tutors app store varsity tutors android store

All MCAT Social and Behavioral Sciences Resources

133 Practice Tests Question of the Day Flashcards Learn by Concept

Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Social Mobility

Diana takes the subway to and from school every day. Her family’s apartment, situated in a low-income neighborhood of New York City, is a thirty-minute walk from the subway station. During her trips to the subway, Diana loves to watch people work, play, and socialize. She feels very safe in her community because she trusts the people around her. 

Diana graduates from college and becomes a successful lawyer. She moves out of her neighborhood and into a wealthy community in another state. Which of the following best describes Diana’s social change? 

Possible Answers:

Social capital

Social inequality

Social mobility

None of these

Correct answer:

Social mobility

Explanation:

“Social mobility” describes the process by which an individual moves from one social class to another. Diana moved from a low-class environment to a high-class setting. “Social capital” refers to the social network to which one has access. Those in high-class societies usually have better connections to people with jobs and money than low-class societies. While she probably did experience an increase in social capital, that answer is not explicitly stated. Last, “social inequality” might describe a discrepancy between healthcare access for the rich and poor, but is not outlined in this example.

Example Question #1 : Social Mobility

While many believe that education is a tool that any individual can obtain upward social mobility, it has been shown to be a social institution that actually reinforces and perpetuates social inequalities. Which of the following concepts does not help to explain why this is true?

Possible Answers:

Social capital

Social loafing

Social reproduction

Environmental injustice

Residential segregation

Correct answer:

Social loafing

Explanation:

 

“Social loafing” is when individuals, who are part of a group, demonstrate decreased effort toward a common goal. It occurs often in nearly all school settings (i.e. it gives rise to a common disdain toward group projects in classes) regardless of the socioeconomic status (SES) of the individuals involved; it would not have a specific effect on social mobility.

The other answers are incorrect. “Residential segregation” refers to the separation of groups of people into different neighborhoods based on race, ethnic, and/or SES differences based on social patterns that persist through decades, despite supposed social progress. Because schools are generally organized by geographic location, neighborhoods with a low SES will have schools with fewer resources. “Environmental injustice refers” to the fact that individuals living in poorer neighborhoods have a greater risk of coming into contact with environmental hazards- often those that may affect cognitive and psychological growth and development. Therefore, even if they are able to attend a school with greater resources (e.g. a charter school or a private school on a scholarship), they face greater obstacles to be able to utilize those resources than students from non-compromised neighborhoods. Last, “social reproduction” refers to the structures (e.g. schools) and activities that propagate inequalities. "Social capital," meaning the potential for social networks that may aid in social mobility, is an example of a structure that may contribute to social reproduction.

Example Question #3 : Social Mobility

Excerpt from “Institutional Competition,” Edward A. Ross, American Journal of Sociology 1919 25:2, 171-184

The first impulse of any organization or institution on the appearance of a serious competitor is to destroy competition. The "trust" regularly cuts the prices of its products to a point below cost of production in localities in which an "independent" seeks to sell. A shipping combine will have "fighting ships" which are called into play when a new steamship line enters their trade. As soon as the competitor announces a sailing date the combine advertises a steamer to sail on or near this date and offers a freight rate below the actual cost of carriage. In this way the competitor is prevented from securing a cargo.

The highest social class hobbles by minute sumptuary regulations the classes, which aspire to come up abreast of it. In feudal Japan, for example, one might not use his money as he pleased. The farmer, craftsman, or shopkeeper could not build a house as he liked or procure himself such articles of luxury as his taste might incline him to buy. The richest commoner might not order certain things to be made for him, might not imitate the habits or assume the privileges of his betters. Although urged on economic grounds, sumptuary restrictions are doubtless intended to protect the monopoly of prestige by the higher social orders.

The spread of anti-slavery feeling among the producing people of the North during the generation before the American Civil War was due to their perception that slavery is a menace to the free-labor system. In accounting for the early abolition of slavery in Massachusetts John Adams remarks: "Argument might have had some weight ... but the real cause was the multiplication of laboring white people who would not longer suffer the rich to employ these sable rivals so much to their injury."

The whole history of religious persecution is the history of an organization trying to establish itself as a monopoly by ruthless destruction of the spokesmen of competing doctrines and movements. In Diocletian's time Roman religious beliefs were weak while the Christian beliefs were vigorous and spreading. In desperation the old system made a ferocious attempt to exterminate all Christians. A thousand years later the church stamped certain sects out of existence and strangled heresies in the cradle. Says Coulton:

…What Darwin took at first for a smooth unbroken grassland proved, on nearer examination, to be thick-set with tiny self-sown firs, which the cattle regularly cropped as they grew. Similarly, that which some love to picture as the harmonious growth of one great body through the Middle Ages is really a history of many divergent opinions violently strangled at birth; while hundreds more, too vigorous to be killed by the adverse surroundings, and elastic enough to take something of the outward color of their environment, grew in spite of the hierarchy into organisms which, in their turn, profoundly modified the whole constitution of the Church. If the mediaeval theory and practice of persecution had still been in full force in the eighteenth century in England, nearly all the best Wesleyans would have chosen to remain within the Church rather than to shed blood in revolt; and the rest would have been killed off like wild beasts. The present unity of Romanism so far as it exists, is due less to tact than to naked force.

The explanation of feudal Japan demonstrates a lack of opportunity for commoners to buy or build what they desired. This came as a result of the high class limiting competition for prestige. The commoners do not have access to which of the following?

Possible Answers:

Upwards social mobility

Social protections

Downwards social mobility

None of these (i.e. they had access to all types of mobility)

Correct answer:

Upwards social mobility

Explanation:

The fact that the commoners cannot advance themselves or acquire prestige indicates that the social system is closed to upwards social mobility. The passage gives no indication that the commoners are the lowest class, so they could potentially move downwards. The author does not inform us that the commoners have absolutely no social protections, for example they may be protected by a police force, even though they are economically constrained.

Example Question #4 : Social Mobility

Excerpt from “Institutional Competition,” Edward A. Ross, American Journal of Sociology 1919 25:2, 171-184

The first impulse of any organization or institution on the appearance of a serious competitor is to destroy competition. The "trust" regularly cuts the prices of its products to a point below cost of production in localities in which an "independent" seeks to sell. A shipping combine will have "fighting ships" which are called into play when a new steamship line enters their trade. As soon as the competitor announces a sailing date the combine advertises a steamer to sail on or near this date and offers a freight rate below the actual cost of carriage. In this way the competitor is prevented from securing a cargo.

The highest social class hobbles by minute sumptuary regulations the classes, which aspire to come up abreast of it. In feudal Japan, for example, one might not use his money as he pleased. The farmer, craftsman, or shopkeeper could not build a house as he liked or procure himself such articles of luxury as his taste might incline him to buy. The richest commoner might not order certain things to be made for him, might not imitate the habits or assume the privileges of his betters. Although urged on economic grounds, sumptuary restrictions are doubtless intended to protect the monopoly of prestige by the higher social orders.

The spread of anti-slavery feeling among the producing people of the North during the generation before the American Civil War was due to their perception that slavery is a menace to the free-labor system. In accounting for the early abolition of slavery in Massachusetts John Adams remarks: "Argument might have had some weight ... but the real cause was the multiplication of laboring white people who would not longer suffer the rich to employ these sable rivals so much to their injury."

The whole history of religious persecution is the history of an organization trying to establish itself as a monopoly by ruthless destruction of the spokesmen of competing doctrines and movements. In Diocletian's time Roman religious beliefs were weak while the Christian beliefs were vigorous and spreading. In desperation the old system made a ferocious attempt to exterminate all Christians. A thousand years later the church stamped certain sects out of existence and strangled heresies in the cradle. Says Coulton:

…What Darwin took at first for a smooth unbroken grassland proved, on nearer examination, to be thick-set with tiny self-sown firs, which the cattle regularly cropped as they grew. Similarly, that which some love to picture as the harmonious growth of one great body through the Middle Ages is really a history of many divergent opinions violently strangled at birth; while hundreds more, too vigorous to be killed by the adverse surroundings, and elastic enough to take something of the outward color of their environment, grew in spite of the hierarchy into organisms which, in their turn, profoundly modified the whole constitution of the Church. If the mediaeval theory and practice of persecution had still been in full force in the eighteenth century in England, nearly all the best Wesleyans would have chosen to remain within the Church rather than to shed blood in revolt; and the rest would have been killed off like wild beasts. The present unity of Romanism so far as it exists, is due less to tact than to naked force.

One of the main complaints against slavery is that it limits the social mobility of the slaves. Which of the following forms of social mobility is limited?

Possible Answers:

Vertical mobility

Meritocratic

All of these

Intra-generational

Correct answer:

All of these

Explanation:

Slavery does not give many promises for the future.. All three of these types of mobility would be restricted. They could not move upwards in social status (vertical) because they could not own land and good performance would not earn much social reward (meritocratic). Although small changes may have taken place over generations as slave owners and conditions varied, the changes within one generation were limited (intra-generational). 

All MCAT Social and Behavioral Sciences Resources

133 Practice Tests Question of the Day Flashcards Learn by Concept
Learning Tools by Varsity Tutors

Incompatible Browser

Please upgrade or download one of the following browsers to use Instant Tutoring: