This paper takes up a theme which has been a major area of sociological inquiry since the end of the last century: the impact of industrial change on patterns of social mobility. It looks at the inter-generational mobility of black men in New York City and London, cities which have undergone ‘massive and parallel changes in their economic base, spatial organization, and social structure’ over the past twenty five years (Sassen 1991, p.4). In terms of occupations, there is seen to be a striking degree of inter-generational mobility; younger black men in the 1990’s are clearly not doing the same jobs as were their fathers or older brothers in 1970. But it is not at all obvious that this mobility can be prefixed by the term ‘upward’. If as I do, one takes earnings rather than occupation as the measure of upward mobility, then the evidence strongly suggests that the position of blacks relative to whites (the dominant ethnic group in both cities) is no better in the 1990’s than it was in the 1960’s.