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Money talks! - Social mobility among Swedish-American returnees 1900-1930

Publiceringsår: 2005
Språk: Engelska
Dokumenttyp: Konferensbidrag


The Swedish migration to America during the late 19th century and early 20th century was once the subject of a major research project at the University of Uppsala, called “Sweden and America after 1860”. The research project produced a large amount of dissertations on why, where and how people migrated as well as some research on what happened to the migrants in America. The return migration, despite its immense volume, was however not given much thought, Only a few of the volumes produced in Uppsala touches the subject more than briefly and the general view in these are that the Swedish-American returnees had no upward social mobility and that the migration brought no major changes upon the returnees. In this paper I argue that the conclusions drawn in these dissertations does not tell the entire story and that upward social mobility occurred more frequently among the returnees than in the general population.

Social mobility is a topic that has been heavily discussed during the past century with almost as many models and opinions as there have been researchers. Many researchers have used one variable to measure social mobility. This variable has often been the occupation of the subjects. Social mobility is however a complex issue that most often cannot be handled by a single variable alone, instead a multivariable analysis is necessary. To use only one variable often puts the entire research in jeopardy if it is not waterproof. In this paper I explore the methodological issues dealing with the problem of how to measure social mobility among returnees and how the results may differ depending on which method being used.

Time is in many ways an essential factor when measuring social mobility. You cannot measure social mobility among returnees by investigating the returnee at the time of the return. It takes time to find the right property to buy or to establish a company and so on. It takes time to establish oneself in the community after being absent for several years. It takes time to accustom oneself to the new social position that you might have acquired and the unwritten codes that accompanies it. The mere fact of economically belonging to a certain class does not necessarily mean that your economic peers automatically accept you as an equal. A prominent symbol for class membership is the knowledge of how to act in given situations. People who recently moved to the area or moved upward socially tends to break the unwritten rules of the already established as they have the wrong habitus and thus does not know the cultural codes in this social environment.


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