Sun. Jun 4th, 2023
Intergenerational Mobility: The Key to Breaking the Cycle of Poverty in India

Intergenerational mobility, the transmission of resources from one generation to the next, plays a crucial role in determining the standard of living of individuals across generations. In India, unequal distribution of wealth and high poverty levels result in low earning mobility. The key determinants of intergenerational mobility in India include parental poverty and welfare, family structure, social isolation, labour market conditions, and neighbourhood disadvantage.

Education: A Step in the Right Direction

In terms of educational mobility, India has made significant progress in recent years. The government’s initiatives such as primary schools and Anganwadi centres have helped improve enrolment rates among ST and SC students, who were previously unable to access education due to factors such as distance and lack of teachers. However, despite these improvements, there is still a strong intergenerational stickiness in terms of both educational achievement and occupational distribution among these marginalized communities.

Income Mobility: Room for Improvement

In terms of income mobility, there have been some positive developments, particularly at the village level where consumption levels have improved in real terms. However, discrimination in hiring practices and attitudes that limit minority groups, especially Muslims and ST/SCs, from accessing high-paying jobs continues to be a major barrier. Additionally, despite an average increase in assets held by people since 1990, this does not necessarily translate to upward mobility on the income scale.

Occupational Mobility: The Role of Caste-based Traditions

In terms of occupational mobility, social status and caste continue to play a dominant role. For instance, individuals from lower castes such as the Scheduled Castes tend to have lower social status and face difficulty in transitioning from menial labour to more desirable occupations such as construction work.

The Way Forward

Breaking the cycle of poverty and promoting upward mobility requires addressing a range of factors including access to productive assets, early childhood experiences, education and skill acquisition, employment opportunities, and anti-discriminatory policies. The government must focus on improving the labour market and providing access to quality healthcare and education to limit downward mobility. Additionally, there must be a proper feedback mechanism in place to assess the effectiveness of current policies such as Skill India and MGNREGA. Finally, policies must be introduced to support socio-economic mobility and challenge age-old traditions that limit the mobility of marginalized communities.


Intergenerational mobility is crucial in determining the well-being of individuals across generations. In India, despite some positive developments, discrimination and caste-based traditions continue to limit upward mobility. The government must take a multi-pronged approach to address the challenges of intergenerational mobility, including improving the labour market, providing access to quality healthcare and education, and challenging discriminatory attitudes and traditions. Only by breaking the cycle of poverty and promoting upward mobility can India achieve a more equal and just society.


By Sanjida

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