Why do people perceive themselves as being downwardly or upwardly mobile?
This study explores individual and contextual explanations of why some people perceive themselves as being mobile and others do not. While subjective social position in recent decades has become an important topic of sociological enquiry, only a handful of studies explicitly investigate the nature of subjective perception of intergenerational mobility. When assessing their performance in comparison to their parents, individuals are likely to consider many other aspects of their lives than the attainment of socio-economic position. For empirical analysis, I operationalise an objective indicator of intergenerational mobility, often assumed to be the central explanation of perceptions of mobility, by means of intergenerational educational trajectories. In addition to exploring individual-level explanations, I use multilevel mixed-effects Poisson regression models to test how contextual environment is associated with perceived intergenerational mobility across 35 societies in Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia. Results indicate that an objective measure of intergenerational mobility and other individual-level factors are important explanations of subjective intergenerational mobility. Further, the difference in economic development between individuals’ birth years and the year of interview is the most salient contextual factor explaining perceived intergenerational mobility, while contemporary economic development and short-term economic growth also reduce the likelihood of perceived downward mobility. The findings of this study contribute to sociological literature by highlighting the importance of contextual environment and factors beyond socio-economic characteristics for individuals’ perception of intergenerational mobility.