Open Access
December 2021 Mediation analysis for associations of categorical variables: The role of education in social class mobility in Britain
Jouni Kuha, Erzsébet Bukodi, John H. Goldthorpe
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Ann. Appl. Stat. 15(4): 2061-2082 (December 2021). DOI: 10.1214/21-AOAS1467


We analyse levels and trends of intergenerational social class mobility among three postwar birth cohorts in Britain and examine how much of the observed mobility or immobility in them could be accounted for by existing differences in educational attainment between people from different class backgrounds. We propose for this purpose a method which quantifies associations between categorical variables when we compare groups which differ only in the distribution of a mediating variable, such as education. This is analogous to estimation of indirect effects in causal mediation analysis but is here developed to define and estimate population associations of variables. We propose estimators for these associations which depend only on fitted values from models for the mediator and outcome variables, and propose variance estimators for them. The analysis shows that the part that differences in education play in intergenerational class mobility is by no means so dominant as has been supposed and that, while it varies with gender and with particular mobility transitions, it shows no tendency to change over time.

Funding Statement

This research was supported by funding from the Economic and Social Research Council (Grant ES/I038187/1).


The authors would like to thank the anonymous reviewers and the Editor for their constructive comments which improved the quality of this paper.


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Jouni Kuha. Erzsébet Bukodi. John H. Goldthorpe. "Mediation analysis for associations of categorical variables: The role of education in social class mobility in Britain." Ann. Appl. Stat. 15 (4) 2061 - 2082, December 2021.


Received: 1 July 2020; Revised: 1 February 2021; Published: December 2021
First available in Project Euclid: 21 December 2021

MathSciNet: MR4355089
zbMATH: 1498.62322
Digital Object Identifier: 10.1214/21-AOAS1467

Keywords: Categorical data analysis , finite-population estimation , multinomial logistic models , path analysis

Rights: Copyright © 2021 Institute of Mathematical Statistics

Vol.15 • No. 4 • December 2021
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