Downward Circulation. There are three oft-neglected aspects of social class mobility: (1) the tendency of classes to perpetuate themselves through the institution of the family; (2) the relative smallness of each class as over against the class immediately beneath it, thus "minimizing the probability of getting into it"; 56 and (3) the competition the "extra sons," if any, of the upper classes afford to the ambitious climbers of the lower classes. This latter aspect is best termed the downward circulation of persons who must adjust themselves to a position one or more rungs on the social ladder below that of their parents. These persons seek to stabilize their "fall" at the first possible level; their immediate relatives and friends assist them in their efforts at stabilization.
There have been centuries wherein the upper classes have borne many children, and because of their superior environment, they were able to keep a greater proportion of their offspring alive than was true of the lower classes. One recalls the malaria plagues in Louisiana and Virginia which took such a large toll of human life among the working classes but which was avoided by those who moved to the healthy highlands for the season. Wertenbaker says that "It must be remembered that the mortality among the servants in the tobacco fields in the early days of the colony was extremely heavy." 57
If the following figures describe the differences in infant mortality in the modern world, one can imagine that in other times the significance of environment must have been tremendous.
|450 - 549
|550 - 649
|650 - 849
|850 - 1049
|1050 - 1249
|1250 and over
These rates apply to seven cities studied by the Children's Bureau. 58Next Page
Mention is made here of downward circulation because it is a phase of social class theory pertaining to social mobility which is often neglected. The fact that the upper classes, especially in Roman and modern American times, sometimes fail to reproduce their kind, thus allowing for a certain amount of inevitable social class mobility upward, is very well known. But it would seem that in other periods of human history, especially among the middle classes of the last three centuries in America and Europe, there has been a sufficient increase in numbers to fairly shut out competition from the lower classes.
Ont the question as to which is the more favorable for social improvement, a situation in which the upper classes rear more children and force competition upon those immediately beneath them, or a situation in which the upper classes fail to reproduce their numbers, thus facilitating vertical social mobility, all other things being equal, it would seem reasonable to argue that the better choice would like definitely with the former proposition. It is a healthier condition when the gentry send their fourth sons into the crafts than when the alumni of Vassar cannot reproduce the student body. Kuczynaki quotes Ammon as saying that the most significant factor affecting the different social classes was "the dying out in the educated and middle classes." 59 That was the end of the last century. However, even as late as that, Kuczynaki was able to show that although the crude birth rates among the poor were higher, the number of children raised to maturity showed no such disparity. 60
The question of downward circulation in former times should be noted by social theory today for one reason, at least: The modern world has shifted from a situation in which there were "extra" upper class sons to one in which there are too few. This factor, mingled in with other forms of intense competition, occasioned by universal education, war, and revolutions, contributes greatly to the confusion of the realm of social class alignments. For instance, in the United States the following groups have recently been known to multiply rapidly: the poor whites of the South and Southwest, the Mexicans, the French-Canadians, the families on relief, farm laborers generally, and the poor in general. Statistics according to occupational groupings reveal the following: 61
Thus, in the United States between 1900 and 1930, the size of the family decreased ten per cent among the professional groups, six per cent among the proprietary classes, five per cent among the clerical, three per cent among the skilled and semi-skilled, one per cent among the unskilled and farm owners; and it increased five per cent among farm renters and thirteen per cent among farm laborers.
If the history of America were rewritten in terms of this factor alone, the story might read something like this: The colonial period was one of high reproduction rates among the upper classes, therefore checking social class mobility. The nineteenth century was a period in which many sons of the middle classes could move westward and almost all achieve a status similar to that of the parents. The twentieth century is one of greater mobility because of the sharp decline in respectable class reproduction.
The Úlite. The current discussion about the circulation of the elite and the theories appertaining thereto deserve special consideration in this chapter. In reviewing the opinions of Pareto and others Sims makes the following statements: 62
Class circulation is always slowly at work changing the governing elite. The transformation goes on like the flow of a river . . .
Thus revolutions are precipitated when the "circulation of the elite" fails, causing an accumulation of superior elements in the subject class and a glut of inferior elements in the ruling class.
56. Ibid., p. 11
57. Thomas Jefferson Wertenbaker, The Planters of Colonial Virginia (Princeton, 1922) p. 80.
58. Cited in Ogburn and Nimkoff, op. cit., p. 311.
59. R. Kuczynaki, Der Zug nach der Stadt (Stuttgart, 1897) p. 145; translation ours.
60. Ibid., pp. 150 and 153.
61. Constantine Panunzio, Major Social Institutions (New York, 1939) p. 422.
62. Newell LeRoy Sims, The Problem of Social Change (New York, 1939) pp. 385 - 6.