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The opinions expressed on this page are mine alone. Any similarities to the views of my employer are completely coincidental.

Monday, 15 December 2014

With Lenin in Turku - and on social mobility in Britain

I'm just back from Turku where I was participating in an excellent workshop hosted (very generously)  by Jani Erola and Elina Kilpi-Jakonen as part of their INDIRECT project. We were kept pretty busy in the conference room  during the day and in other ways during the evening so I didn't have much time for sight-seeing until the morning of my departure when I took a quick look around the city.

Turku is a charming place with a lot of elegant Jugenstil buildings in the vicinity of the central market square. The Swedish influence is still evident and the Svenska Teater was advertising a forthcoming production of  Ronja Rövardotter. Love of Astrid Lingren is a part of North European culture that Britain doesn't really share. To be sure Pippi Långstrump is  known over here but that's about it. My own daughter's love of Astrid Lingren comes from her mother reading the stories to her in German and Ronja Raubertochter is one of her favourites.

My wandering took me to the Turku Art Museum - a fine building in Nordic Romantic style - where there was an  exhibition of the work of the controversial Icelandic collage artist Erro. I'd never seen anything by him before and the  juxtaposition of incongruous images - the People's Liberation Army marching through New Jersey - was amusing and at the same time slightly unsettling.

Just opposite the museum is a  bust of Lenin who apparently stayed in the building behind it in 1907 when he was on the run from the secret police. It doesn't say on the plaque how long he was there, but it turns out that it must have been less than five hours as he was pretty anxious to get on a boat to Stockholm - well you would if the alternative was a lengthy stay in Siberia. 

 And what was I doing there? Well I was giving a paper on long-term trends in social class mobility in the UK. If you take the care to assemble as much of the broadly comparable evidence as you can it turns out that (at least for men - hold the headline for women) there is a pretty convincing case for believing that over the last 50 years - and possibly longer - there has been a continuous decrease in baseline levels of association of very roughly 1% per year ie relative rates of social mobility have increased. Trimming the data and applying all sorts of data exclusions doesn't alter the story much. 

Social mobility crisis? What crisis? You can find the slides from my presentation here.

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