Industrialization, class structure, and social mobility in postwar Japan

Br J Sociol. 2001 Dec;52(4):579-604. doi: 10.1080/00071310120084481.


This study examines intergenerational class mobility in Japan using cross-national comparisons with Western nations and cross-temporal comparisons of five national surveys conducted in postwar Japan. Cross-national comparisons highlight the similarity in relative mobility pattern between Japan and Western nations and at the same time the Japanese distinctiveness in absolute mobility rates especially regarding the demographic character of the Japanese manual working class. The results of cross-temporal comparisons of mobility pattern report some systematic trends in total mobility, inflow and outflow rates, reflecting the Japanese experience of late but rapid industrialization. The pattern of association between class origin and class destination, however, was stable in postwar Japan. It is therefore the combination of distinctive absolute mobility rates and similar relative mobility rates that characterizes the Japanese mobility pattern in comparison with the Western experience. Furthermore, Japan's distinctive pattern of postwar social mobility is characterized by a combination of rapidly changing absolute mobility rates and comparatively stable relative mobility rates.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Industry*
  • Japan
  • Social Class*
  • Social Mobility*
  • Warfare