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Social Mobility

Social mobility is a person's ability to mobilize themselves in society, and receive economic opportunities.

- Leah Dyck, Founder, Fresh Food Weekly

Social Mobility

The OECD: The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is an international organization that works to build better policies for better lives. The following is an overview of the OECD’s position on social mobility in today's society. Examples of the real-life programs were added for context: 

People from disadvantaged backgrounds have fewer opportunities to climb the socio-economic ladder. In the OECD’s research, they found that it takes nearly five generations for children from low-income families to approach the average income in their country. Unequal opportunities are not only a moral concern, they also undermine economic and social prosperity. 

Unequal Resources, Unequal Ambitions

Child Watching TV

Many drivers of long-term inequality are exacerbated during childhood. While almost six of 10 children from privileged socio-economic backgrounds are exposed to regular home learning before primary school, only just over three of 10 children from disadvantaged backgrounds are.

Socio-economic status also shapes a child's ambitions. These unequal ambitions and resources affect achievements later in life. 

Considerations for policymakers

Children from disadvantaged households start with unequal resources and improving their well‑being requires measures to mitigate the impact of social and economic disadvantage at the source. An example of this could be supporting a single-mother from the pre‑natal period by providing food security, and ensuring the prescribed food gets inside of her home. 

Child Learning

Geography of Inequalities

Toronto Average Hourly Rate

Regional inequalities are rising globally. While differences in income narrowed between countries over the last 20 years, regional disparities have increased in over 50% of OECD countries. Meanwhile, metropolitan regions across the OECD have seen 32% higher GDP per capita than other regions.


Deep structural inequalities between places are stretching beyond economic outcomes, with impacts on broader well-being – in skills and education, health, and digital connectivity. 

As of March 2024, the average annual salary in Toronto was $57,550, which works out to be approximately $27.67 an hour. This is equivalent of $1,106 a week or $4,795 a month.


As of January 2024, the average annual salary in Barrie was $43,073, which works out to be approximately $20.71 an hour, or $828 a week or $3,589 a month. Most salaries in Barrie range between $34,166 (25th percentile) to $50,500 (75th percentile) annually.

Barrie Average Hourly Rate

Unequal Educations

A+ Student

Students' performance tends to be worse in schools where most students come from disadvantaged backgrounds – regardless of their own parents’ socio-economic standing. Segregation and low social-mixing can therefore reinforce inequality of opportunity.

Inequalities between socio-demographic groups also play a key role in academic outcomes. 


Differences in education lead to a difference in access to high-quality jobs where youth can further develop professional skills, in particular those needed in an increasingly digital world. Youth from disadvantaged backgrounds may also face stronger barriers to mobility due to scarce local job opportunities, discrimination and limited availability of on-the-job training.  

Considerations for policymakers

  • Differences in socio-economic status, background, and environment – among other factors – determine what children learn, if they succeed in school, and the jobs they pursue. To reverse these inequalities, policies are needed to ensure that all children have equal access to resources and opportunities. 

  • Policymakers must invest in education, including tools for online learning, while not exacerbating existing digital divides. An emphasis on lifelong learning is also key to helping young people gain skills as new sectors and industries emerge.

F Student

Unequal Adulthoods

Happy Young Adult at Work

Unequal starting points lead to unequal chances later in life. As adults, employment opportunities differ greatly according to where one lives, not only across regions but also within cities. For example, in the United States, fewer jobs tend to be available within commuting distance of neighbourhoods characterized by higher minority rates.


Social mobility is particularly challenging for those in low-quality jobs and have limited chances to leave low-paid or temporary work. Chances are also restricted for the less educated, who tend to have limited opportunities to re- or up-skill. This was observed during the COVID-19 pandemic, when prospects for informal training eroded for middle- and low-skilled workers.

Public Housing in The Bronx

The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) is a public housing provider in The Bronx, New York and they have a program called ‘Green City Force’ which is dedicated to hiring and training it’s own young adult residents between the ages of 18 and 24 who have a high school diploma or GED in urban farming:  

Help Wanted Article

2024 Resident Jobs Programs & Training 

In fact, they just came out with their 2024 Resident Jobs Programs & Training Overview, which we’ve made available here, for easy access. 

NYCHA Resident Jobs Programs & Training
Public Housing in The Bronx

The Exclusion of Disadvantaged People in Policy-Making is Notorious

The Community Service Society of New York (CSS) works with New Yorkers to promote economic opportunity and champion an equitable city and state. Victor Bach has been the Senior Housing Policy Analyst at the CSS since 1983, and in 2018, he published this article titled ‘How to End the Culture of Cover-up in New York City Public Housing’, and prefaced it with; “NYCHA needs to start providing safe public housing to deserving tenants”. 

It appears that things have really turned in the right direction over there. In 2020, the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) published this report titled ‘NYCHA in Flux: Public Housing Residents Respond’. This report is prefaced with: 

“…they [NYCHA] are facing tectonic shifts in the authority’s plans, as well as changing institutional arrangements for overseeing and reforming NYCHA to better meet its challenges. These unsettling changes include the rapid turnover in leadership (four NYCHA chairs in two years); stepped-up NYCHA plans to transfer public housing to the hands of public- private partnerships; and complicated, new arrangements—triggered by a milestone law suit brought by the US Attorney, Southern District of New York (SDNY)—under which a federal monitor has been appointed to oversee NYCHA operations and guide structural change, particularly in its flawed property management functions.” 

NYCHA IN FLUX Residents Respond

The lead author on this report was Victor Bach. 


DC Housing Authority Board Taps D.C. Native, Former Barry Farm Resident To Run Agency.

On Nov. 1, 2023, a former resident of a public housing residence in D.C., USA, became the Authority’s Executive Director.

Public Housing Hires CEO with Lived Experience
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