Московский экономический журнал 12/2019


DOI 10.24411/2413-046Х-2019-10225

Аспекты проблемы вертикальной социальной мобильности как фактора экономического роста

Aspects of the problem of vertical social mobility as a factor of economic growth

Колин Юрий Владимирович, кандидат философских наук, докторант, кафедра теории культуры, Институт философии и социально-политических наук, Южный федеральный университет, г. Ростов-на-Дону, rostovchanin-rostov@rambler.ru

Kolin Yuri Vladimirovich, PhD in Philosophy, Doctoral student, the department of cultural theory, Institute of Philosophy, Social and Political Sciences Southern Federal University, Rostov-on-Don, rostovchanin-rostov@rambler.ru

Аннотация: В статье впервые проанализированы аспекты влияния уровня вертикальной социальной мобильности на перспективы экономического роста. Актуальность проблемы усиления вертикальной социальной мобильности заключается в ее влиянии на уровень общественной поляризации в условиях высокого уровня социального неравенства в России. Целью исследования служит анализ уровня вертикальной социальной мобильности как опосредованного фактора, влияющего на перспективы экономического роста в России.

Новизна исследования заключается в анализе политики усиления вертикальной социальной мобильности как опосредованного стимула экономического роста в России.

Методология основывается на анализе социального неравенства и вертикальной социальной мобильности как факторов, влияющих на социальную интеграцию и общественную стабильность. Уровень вертикальной социальной мобильности рассматривается с точки зрения влияния на экономический рост.

Обоснована значимость сокращения социального неравенства и усиления вертикальной социальной мобильности в условиях высокого уровня общественной поляризации в России и низкого экономического роста. Существует необходимость дальнейшего исследования уровня вертикальной социальной мобильности как одного из стимулов усиления экономического роста в России.

Summary: The article analyzes aspects of the influence of vertical social mobility and prospects for economic growth for the first time. The relevance of the problem of applying models of affirmative acts in Russia lies in their influence on the vertical social mobility, and economic growth in conditions of high social inequality and increasing trends in social polarization in Russia. Objective of the research is to analyze the prospects for affirmative acts in the context of its influence on the level of vertical social mobility, social integration and, as an indirect factor, on the prospects for economic growth in Russia.

 Novelty of the research is the analysis of the policy of affirmative acts as a factor in increasing the opportunities for social mobility as an indirect stimulus for economic growth in Russia.

The methodology is based on the analysis of social inequality and vertical social mobility as factors affecting social integration and social stability. The level of vertical social mobility considered in terms of influence on economic growth.

The author substantiates the significance of social inequality and vertical social mobility in conditions of a high level of social polarization and low economic growth in Russia. The importance of affirmative acts is substantiated for stimulating economic growth, reducing social inequality, developing social integration and strengthening vertical social mobility in conditions of a high level of social polarization in Russia. There is a need for further research on vertical social mobility rate  as one of the incentives to increase economic growth in Russia.

Ключевые слова: социальное неравенство, вертикальная социальная мобильность, экономический рост.

Keywords: social inequality, vertical social mobility, economic growth.


The international community has recognized the importance of social inequality by including it in the 2015 UN Sustainable Development Goals. Social inequality in the world has reached the stage when it has become a serious obstacle to development [5; 41; 47].

OECD experts believe that a significant lag in income growth of lower social groups from higher ones is currently a global trend (OESD, 2019)[40]. Nobel laureate J. Stiglitz argues that in societies with a high level of social inequality there cannot be an effective functioning of its systems, since the highest social group concentrates too much power and the actions of society in this case are aimed at the primary implementation of the interests of these groups, and not their own [20]. A high level of social inequality is an obstacle to the development of human capital, the functioning of social elevators, the development of the consumer market and dynamic economic growth [41; 37].

Social inequality is increasingly manifested not only in income inequality (a 1% increase in the welfare of the poor and middle class gives a 0.38 % increase in GDP growth rates [4], but also in social and cultural constraints that don’t allow immigrants from lower social groups climb the social ladder and fulfil their potential.

There is a growing trend of concentration of world wealth in the hands of 1 % of the population, which actually controls world resources [41]. The closeness of higher social groups and the prevalence of various forms of nepotism, the development of plutocracy [1; 32] reduces the legitimacy of the elite, its competence and ability to adequately protect public interests and solve social problems. Income inequality is passed on to future generations in [33].

The processes of social polarization build the border between the higher and lower social groups absolute, lead to the erosion of the middle class [37] and the formation of the precariat, which is a new class of humiliated and offended people, deprived of social rights and prospects of social advancement [19].

In the work “Sociology of the Revolution”, P. Sorokin believed that the reason for both the February and October Revolutions was the inability of lower social groups to fulfil their needs, human potential due to the estate structure of Russian society [18].

Currently the gap between the higher and lower social groups in Russian society reaches 15 times, with a continuing trend of a decrease in the disposable income of the lower population groups and an increase in the concentration of income in the higher social group [6; 4].

In Russia, the social inequality problem is recognized both in the May decrees of President Putin (2012) and the government, but no specific strategy has yet been developed to solve it [4].


According to researchers, about 90 % of all property and financial resources of the Russian Federation are concentrated in the highest social group, comprising 3 % of the population, which exceeds the indicators of 1905 [21; 24; 15].

The share of wealth owned by the top decile in Russia (actually 1 %) is 86 %, in Brazil — 73 %, in the USA — 75%, in the UK — 54% [43]. Analysts have argued that the level of social inequality in Russia is redundant and its structure has been stable since the early 2000s [16].

10 % of the wealthiest citizens account for 82 % of all personal wealth in Russia, according to the Global Wealth Report (2018) prepared by Credit Suisse. In terms of the concentration of wealth, Russia is ahead of the United States, where 10 % of the wealthiest citizens account for 76 % of the total personal income in the country. In China, 10 % of the wealthiest citizens have 62 % of the total personal income of the population .

The processes of social polarization has been going on in Russian society: contrary to the current trend of a general decrease in disposable incomes of citizens [9], according to the Global Wealth Report (2016) study conducted by Credit Suisse Bank, the Russian Federation took third place in the world (96 people) by the number of dollar billionaires, second only to the United States and China [17].

Developing a social system in the openness and mobility direction, developing forms of social advancement of lower social groups representatives without bridging deep social gaps, the closed top group of the Russian business elite (3 % of the Russian population), which currently owns 90 % wealth of the entire population, becomes the main beneficiary of economic growth Russian property [24], which creates conditions for the instability of Russian society.


Within the framework of free competition and the free market [49], the problem of the closedness of the social hierarchy and the insurmountable border between higher and lower social groups cannot be solved as it can be seen from the history examples. In history, this problem veriety of the social polarization has been reduced by administrative methods through state intervention.

The low level of vertical social mobility [37] does not contribute to the development of human capital; a huge gap in income and property of higher and lower social groups is an indicator of the closedness of the social system and contributes to low rates of economic growth.

For social growth in the post-industrial era, the level of human capital development [29], career growth, and the possibilities of creative self-realization of citizens become decisive. Successful stimulation of economic growth requires the strengthening of vertical social mobility as one of the conditions for the development of human capital, renewal and increase the diversity of the social system.

According to researchers [35], the greatest efficiency of an organization is promoted not so much by increasing employee incomes as by increasing their involvement in the organization’s activities, based on personal growth of employees and career progression opportunities.

Economic growth requires career opportunities, a high level of vertical social mobility, strong social lifts, while, according to researchers, in modern society there are gender, social and national restrictions on vertical social mobility [40].

There is a trend to increase social barriers between higher and lower social groups [33] and to build an insurmountable border between them, unless measures are taken at the state level to stimulate vertical social mobility of representatives of lower social groups.

There is a global conflict between the society needs in the development of human capital, social integration, the expansion of mechanisms for renewing the elite, the strengthening of economic growth drivers and the processes of social polarization, raising social barriers, the rigid hierarchical structure of modern society, which sets an insurmountable border for the social progression of lower social groups representatives.

The high level of social inequality and the low level of vertical social mobility are largely determined by ineffective policies related to lower social groups, both from the state and private entities.


One of the forms of limiting social inequality and social polarization in Western society are affirmative act programs. As compensatory justice [39], affirmative act programs are aimed at increasing the level of social integration and strengthening the vertical social mobility of lower social groups according to social, racial, national or gender criteria. The policy of limiting social gaps and increasing the economic opportunities of lower social groups was used as one of the ways to overcome the Great Depression in the 30-s. XX century [30]. US President F. Roosevelt attached great importance to equalizing starting positions as a condition for achieving legal equality, who proposed the adoption of the Second Bill of Rights, dedicated to social rights [45].

Unlike in Great Britain, calls are being made to return to the classical principles of liberalism in the USA: free competition and equal rights for all individuals, which imply limiting affirmative act programs as inconsistent with market principles [2; 48]. Critics of the affirmative acts position see it as an artificial interference in the of social processes course course, giving the non-market advantage of one of the social groups. Advocates of affirmative acts [31; 46; 34] see the significant results of affirmative acts as a tool to enhance social inclusion, increase the stability of the social system and overcome the effects of racial segregation in the world of work and education.

The social origin criteria [12], as a condition of social advancement, despite its shortcomings, was part of the Soviet policy of affirmative act and contributed to a partial equalization of the starting opportunities for representatives of higher and lower social groups [8; 6]. The level of social inequality, the gap between the incomes of higher and lower social groups was one of the lowest in the world in the USSR (with a generally low level of income): 4 times in the USSR and about 5.5–6 times in European countries, at that time as in the USA, this gap reached 15 times [6].

According to the data for 1983, among respondents aged 50–59, 82.1 % had a social and professional status higher than their parents, among respondents 40–49 years old — 74%, and among 30–39 years old — 67%, which serves as an example of a high level of social progression in the Soviet social system [22; 23; 12]

Examples of quick social development: during the USSR industrialization [38; 36] and in China from the 1970s to the present [25], they have some common features: large-scale activation of social elevators based on affirmative act policies. Periods of rapid social growth in the USSR [14] correlate with periods of maximum application of the positive discrimination policy and promotion of a high level of vertical social mobility. Statistical data allow us to conclude that the policy of stimulating vertical social mobility can serve as one of the indirect drivers for economic growth.

By the time of the collapse, economic growth in the USSR showed a negative value, and the level of vertical social mobility also reached a minimum. A policy of affirmative act formally existed, but was actually relinquished, a closed social group, the highest social caste formed: the “nomenclature”, which, according to researchers, was one of the reasons for the stagnation and collapse of the USSR [3; 11].

As Russia moved to a market economy, within the liberal concept framework and criticism of the totalitarian past, the forms of affirmative acts that existed in the USSR were canceled. Claims that a policy of affirmative acts may not be evidence of a return to the past, but a path to Russia’s dynamic development are unpopular among researchers.

In developed Western countries, they have abandoned the classical understanding of the liberal model and don’t consider the rejection of the use of affirmative act as the prospects for the development of the liberal concept, but a form of increasing its effectiveness.

Formed in the first years after the collapse of the USSR, in Russian society, the rigidity of a high level of social inequality and a low level of vertical social mobility has remained in Russian society since the 2000s [23; 16; 4], which correlates with a low rate of economic growth in Russia [42]. The social stratification of Russian society is almost twice as high as the distribution of income between the higher and lower social groups compared with those in Eastern Europe [7].

The gap between the higher and lower social groups in Russian society reaches 15 times, with the continuing trend of social polarization: a decrease in the disposable income of the lower population groups and an increase in the concentration of income in the higher social group [6; 4].

According to some researchers [50], the brain drain, Russia’s loss of its human capital due to emigration, the inability of highly skilled workers to realize their opportunities for social advancement, has become one of the most tangible losses of Russia since the collapse of the USSR, seriously limiting its potential for economic growth.

Despite the significant differences between the programs of affirmative acts in the USSR and in the West, they had a positive effect in terms of social integration, social stability and improving the quality of human capital, providing a wider representation in the fields of education, science, and the state apparatus of representatives of social, gender, national and racial groups that were at the lower levels of the social hierarchy.

A high level of vertical mobility is noted by researchers as one of the main conditions that determine long-term dynamic economic growth [13]. And here the experience of the widespread use of affirmative act models aimed at increasing vertical social mobility may be in demand in Russia as a way to increase the contribution of lower social groups to social wealth and accelerate social growth.

There is a relationship between high levels of social inequality, low levels of vertical social mobility and low levels of economic growth, which makes it relevant to analyze the applicability of Western and Soviet models of positive discrimination in the new conditions of modern Russia as one of the ways to reduce social inequality, increase vertical social mobility and accelerate economic growth.


The policy of stimulating vertical social mobility, expanding the prospects for social advancement for lower social groups in Western countries is a significant factor in improving the quality of human capital, increasing civic participation and the contribution of lower social groups to economic growth.

There is a very high level of social inequality and government policy is in demand in Russian society, aimed at increasing social integration, increasing vertical social mobility and reducing social polarization.

The correlation analysis of the vertical social mobility level and the level of economic growth in the framework of the Soviet and Western experience in using affirmative act models can be useful in determining the forms of affirmative act in modern Russia. Attention level of Russian researchers and government institutions to the problem of affirmative act as a factor in reducing social polarization and an indirect factor in accelerating economic growth cannot be considered sufficient.


The problem of the correlation of the vertical social mobility level and the level of economic growth has not been sufficiently studied in Russian and foreign research literature.

Most Russian and foreign researches of the social inequality problem focus on the analysis of economic factors stimulating economic growth, while the analysis of increasing vertical social mobility to reduce social inequality, develop human potential and accelerate economic growth is out of the researchers scope.

Trends in low economic growth and an increase in social polarization in Russia make it possible to study affirmative act models as a way to reduce social polarization and increase the contribution of lower social groups to economic growth.

Discussing the relevance of affirmative act models in Russia, Soviet and Western experience merits further research and development. This study can be considered as an invitation to further discussion on the problem of affirmative act as an indirect factor in enhancing social integration and stimulating economic growth in Russia.


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