Richer people tend to be more rightwing. You’re less into redistribution if you’re the one being distributed from, rather than to. This probably isn’t a shock.
But what about social mobility? How does doing better than your parents shape your views? That’s less clear, in part because those who have been upwardly mobile tend to have higher incomes. The task is to disentangle the direct effect of being mobile from that of being richer.
A new study takes this on, tracking people in a British survey that importantly holds information on the occupational status of their parents when they, their children, were 14 years old. It confirms that those in higher-status jobs are more rightwing, particularly when it comes to redistribution (the effect is there, but less marked, on other economic questions such as public ownership).
If you just look simplistically at those who have been socially mobile (doing a higher-status job than their parents), they’re also more rightwing on average. But, and here’s the important bit, once we control for their own (on average, higher) status, being socially mobile is actually associated with more leftwing preferences and voting habits.
What’s driving this? In part, it’s about fairness. Growing up in a poorer household makes you less likely to think society is fair, and you doing well reinforces that view (which surprised me, given the popularity of “I made it, so anyone trying can” attitudes). This points to a vicious cycle risk: a less socially mobile society opposes measures to reduce inequality, further hitting social mobility.
So wealthier people are still rightwing if they came from humble beginnings – but less so. Never’s overdoing it, but you only partially forget where you came from.