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Disturbing finding from LSE study - social mobility in Britain lower than other advanced countries and declining

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  • In a comparison of eight European and North American countries, Britain and the United States have the lowest social mobility
  • Social mobility in Britain has declined whereas in the US it is stable
  • Part of the reason for Britain's decline has been that the better off have benefited disproportionately from increased educational opportunity

Researchers from the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) have compared the life chances of British children with those in other advanced countries for a study sponsored by the Sutton Trust, and the results are disturbing. 

Jo Blanden, Paul Gregg and Steve Machin found that social mobility in Britain - the way in which someone's adult outcomes are related to their circumstances as a child - is lower than in Canada, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland. And while the gap in opportunities between the rich and poor is similar in Britain and the US, in the US it is at least static, while in Britain it is getting wider.

A careful comparison reveals that the USA and Britain are at the bottom with the lowest social mobility. Norway has the greatest social mobility, followed by Denmark, Sweden and Finland. Germany is around the middle of the two extremes, and Canada was found to be much more mobile than the UK.

Comparing surveys of children born in the 1950s and the 1970s, the researchers went on to examine the reason for Britain's low, and declining, mobility. They found that it is in part due to the strong and increasing relationship between family income and educational attainment. 

For these children, additional opportunities to stay in education at age 16 and age 18 disproportionately benefited those from better off backgrounds. For a more recent cohort born in the early 1980s the gap between those staying on in education at age 16 narrowed, but inequality of access to higher education has widened further: while the proportion of people from the poorest fifth of families obtaining a degree has increased from 6 per cent to 9 per cent, the graduation rates for the richest fifth have risen from 20 per cent to 47 per cent. 

The researchers concluded: 'The strength of the relationship between educational attainment and family income, especially for access to higher education, is at the heart of Britain's low mobility culture and what sets us apart from other European and North American countries.'

Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust, said: 'These findings are truly shocking. The results show that social mobility in Britain is much lower than in other advanced countries and is declining - those from less privileged backgrounds are more likely to continue facing disadvantage into adulthood, and the affluent continue to benefit disproportionately from educational opportunities. I established the Sutton Trust to help address the issue, and to ensure that all young people, regardless of their background, have access to the most appropriate educational opportunities, right from early years care through to university.'

Download a PDF of the report|

Ends

For more information, contact Tim Devlin, press officer, The Sutton Trust, 01205 290817, mobile: 07939 544487 or email tde@easynet.co.uk|  

Or Jessica Winterstein, LSE Press Office, on 020 7955 7060, email: pressoffice@lse.ac.uk| 

Notes:

Intergenerational Mobility in Europe and North America is by: Jo Blanden, research officer at the Centre for Economic Performance|, Paul Gregg, senior research fellow at the Centre for Economic Performance|, and Steve Machin, research director of the Centre for Economic Performance|.

Press cuttings

Guardian
Choice words (18 Apr 06)
Reference to April 2005 reported LSE study argued that social mobility is declining in Britain. Comparing children born in 1958 and in 1970, it found that, among those from the poorest fifth of families, the proportion obtaining a degree had risen from 6 per cent to 9 per cent. 

The Herald
Aim high in ambition stakes (24 Feb 06)
Reference to research by LSE published last year, that looked at children born to poor families in the UK and their likelihood of fulfilling their potential. 

Times Online
Britain's poor social mobility (17 Feb 06)
Research funded by LSE showed that social mobility in Britain has fallen over the last 30 years and is in a worse state than a number of comparable industrialised countries.
Independent
Johann Hari: Class still rules in Britain - as the Lib Dems should remember when choosing their leader (30 Jan 06)
Reference to study by LSE researchers on social mobility in the UK.  

Scotland on Sunday
Class divide: now it's even harder for poor to get on (11 Dec 05)
Research by the Centre for Economic Performance at LSE, that compared children born in the 1950s and the 1970s and found that greater educational opportunities disproportionately benefited those from better-off backgrounds.

Daily Telegraph
The poor are being robbed in Labour's class war (8 Dec 05)
A recent LSE study showed that the UK was the most socially immobile of eight similar advanced western countries, the others being Canada, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and the U.S. The main reason cited was disparity in educational opportunity, and the increasing link between family income and educational achievement.

Independent
Johann Hari: The Davis brand of Toryism is now becoming clear - and it is not attractive (6 Oct 05)
A study conducted by LSE shows that the policies, which candidate for Tory leadership, David Davis, wants to promote - slashing tax and spending - could in fact cause social mobility to collapse.

Observer
Hands off the NHS (2 Oct 05)
Reference to LSE research that shows that a working-class child was far more likely to get on if he was born in the 1950s rather than the 1970s. 

Sunday Times
Technology kicks away the career ladder (2 Oct 05)
Employees who once climbed from shopfloor to boardroom are being kept in their place by the microchip, says Mike Dixon. Today's aspiring CEOs are finding it much harder to work their way up from the bottom than the generation before -poor children born in the 1970s were 30 per cent less likely to improve their position in society than those born in the 1950s, according to research by LSE.  

Daily Telegraph
Classic comedy sketch on lack of social mobility has the last laugh (30 Sep 05)
Reference to research by LSE into social mobility.

Guardian
Full text: David Davis at the IPPR (14 Sep 05)
Reference made to LSE report into social mobility. 

Daily Post Liverpool
Should poorer pupils be sent to private schools? (30 Aug 05)
According to research by LSE, sponsored by the Sutton Trust, of eight advanced countries Britain's social mobility is the lowest and mobility in Britain has actually declined in recent decades, in part because advances in education have disproportionately benefited the affluent. 

Sunday Telegraph
Access all areas (21 Aug 05)
The growing performance gap between state and private schools is creating an educational apartheid, says Sir Peter Lampl. The best independent schools must be opened up to all children likely to benefit. Reference to research by LSE, which we also funded, social mobility in Britain has actually declined in recent decades, and of eight advanced countries Britain's mobility is the lowest. 

BBC News Online
Stark reality of the American dream (18 Aug)
Humphrey Hawksley in the US examines whether that once universal idea of the American dream still exists. Reference to Centre for Economic Performance research on how easy or difficult it was to get rich or move our of poverty in different parts of the world. The research cited is The Sutton Trust report Intergenerational Mobility in Europe and North America.

Times 
chools for a scandal (9 August 05)
Reference to LSE research on how comprehensive schools damage social mobility.

Observer
Long live grammars (31 July 05)
The unacceptable face of British elitism lies in a school system where money matters more than talent. Reference to research by Jo Blandon [sic] and colleagues at LSE on Britain becoming 'an aristocracy of wealth'. The LSE found that on average a boy born to a well-to-do family in 1958 earned 17.5 per cent more than a boy born to a family on half the income. 

Sunday Times 
Education: Grammars: the regeneration (31 July 05)
Are grammar schools set for a Doctor Who-like rebirth? Quite possibly if unions are voting for them, say Deirdre Fernand and Jasper Gerard. Reference to LSE research published last month showed that the decline of grammar schools had helped deepen class divisions, effectively kicking the ladder away from bright children. The LSE study found a link between income and educational achievement.

Times 
Education gap between rich and poor children has grown (25 July 05)
Despite millions of pounds of investment in primary schools, there is still an achievement gap between children from rich and poor families. A study published by the LSE showed that children born in 1970 were less likely to break free of their background and fulfil their potential than children born in 1958.

Daily Telegraph
Grammars double number of 'three straight As (26 June 05)
Researchers from the London School of Economics found that a growing gap between rich and poor was preventing many young people from fulfilling their potential

The Business
Blame poor schooling for our lack of social mobility (26 June 05)
The Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics compared the chances of children brought up in the 1970s and 1980s with those who grew up a decade later and found that social mobility had registered a drop compared to other developed countries. Should the results of the study be accepted blindly or be put into prospective?
No link available

Daily Mail
Mugging the middle classes (21 June 05)
Reference to research by LSE that reveals that the ending of educational selection has actually reduced opportunities for the poor and widened the class gulf. The LSE report shows conclusively that the 11-plus was an 'escape route' and removing it has undermined social mobility.

How the war on grammars deepened the class divide (21 June 05)
A recent study by LSE has revealed how Britain's levels of social mobility are lower than in all the other countries analysed (Canada, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland). This is due to a growing link between family income and educational attainment. (no direct link)

No way out (21 June 05)
Social mobility through education was one of the great ideas of socialism. But attacks on grammar schools in the 60s and 70s and Tony Blair's destruction of the assisted places scheme has in fact reduced the opportunities for the poor and widened the class gulf, as revealed in a recent study by LSE.  

Belfast Telegraph
Research misrepresented (20 May 05)
Letter from Jo Blanden, LSE, on how LSE research into English grammar schools have been misrepresented.

Scotsman
Labour has unleashed the dogs of class war (24 May 05)
Recent research from LSE demonstrates that the annihilation of the grammar schools severely reduced the opportunities for the poorest in society to work their way up. As a result, Britain now has lower social mobility than comparable western countries.

Press Association
Public school is still key for legal high-fliers (24 May 05)
The legal profession is still dominated by people who went to public school, according to a report published today. Education charity the Sutton Trust said the situation had not significantly improved in the last 15 years. Research by LSE published last month showed that social mobility has declined in Britain over the last 30 years and Britain, together with the US, has the lowest mobility of the eight industrial countries surveyed.  

Belfast Telegraph
Grammar schools get thumbs up (17 May 05)
New research by LSE has revealed grammar schools are the best way to improve a person's social and economic status.

The Herald
Why Pollok man will never live as long as the Methuselahs of Poole (29 April 05)
We should still be doing more to spread wealth more evenly. A report from the London School of Economics last week maintained that children born to poor families in Britain are less likely to fulfil their potential than in other developed countries.

Lidove noviny
Land of opportunity (29 April 05)
Britain is ranked bottom of an international league table of social mobility. A study of eight industrialised nations, produced by the London School of Economics on behalf of the educational charity the Sutton Trust, shows that Britons find it harder than other nations to earn more money and get better jobs than their parents.

Guardian
Angry Labour voters don't care about social justice (27 April 05)
Passing mention of LSE report on the link between social mobility, education and parental income.

What they said about... (27 April 05)
Passing mention of LSE report on the link between social mobility, education and parental income. 

The Times
Labour's policy plays truant (27 April 05)
When it comes to Britain's failing secondary schools, the Labour manifesto is disturbingly silent... A report this week by the London School of Economics found that social inequality is widening.

Infoshop
Capitalism and inequality (26 April 05)
Mention of LSE report on inequality produced for the Sutton Trust.

Metro West Midlands
How hard up pupils are trapped in worst schools (25 April 05)
A study by the London School of Economics has revealed that Britain has one of the lowest levels of social mobility in the developed countries, with people born in 1970 less likely to escape their class backgrounds than those born in 1958.

Belfast Telegraph
Education class gap 'is growing' (25 April 05)
A study by the London School of Economics on behalf of the Sutton Trust charity reveals that pupils from poor families remain trapped in the worst schools and never achieve their potential. The level of social mobility in Britain is much lower than in other advanced countries. Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust described the results as 'truly shocking'.

Also reported in
Western Daily Press, Press & Journal and The Northern Echo (25 April 05)

Daily Mail
Class divide widens as grammars decline (25 April 05)
A new report by the London School of Economics claims that the end of the grammar school system has helped widen the gap between rich and poor. The study also found that Britain has the world's lowest social mobility. 

Daily Express
How poorest suffer for failures of state schools (25 April 05)

Metro London
How hard-up pupils are trapped in worst schools (25 April 05)
A report by the London School of Economics has revealed that children from poor families are being denied the chance to fulfil their potential because of their poor education. Britain now has one of the lowest rates of social mobility among developed countries. Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the charity which sponsored the study, defined the findings as 'really shocking'. 

Sify News
US, UK no longer lands of opportunity (25 April 05)

The American Thinker
Social mobility (25 April 05)

Sydney Morning Herald
Born poor, stay poor (25 April 05)

BBC News Online
Poor need more 'school support' (25 April 05)
Findings of a new CEP report with the Sutton Trust

Daily Telegraph
Poorest pay for failures of state schools (25 April 05)
THE gap between rich and poor is growing because state education is failing children from the poorest homes, two studies say today. Research by the London School of Economics says that poor families have been confined to ghettos of under-achievement while the better-off have benefited most from the expansion of university places.

Financial Times
University expansion fails to help the poor (25 April 05)

Agence France Presse
La Grande-Bretagne en queue de peloton en terme de mobilité sociale (25 April 05)

Guardian
Has Labour brought us German efficiency? (25 April 05)
Gordon Brown has made raising Britain's productivity a central aim of Labour's economic policy since 1997, following a long tradition of chancellors who have fretted that the average British worker seems less productive than his or her foreign counterpart. Britain has a problem. The average German works two months less a year than us, but produces nearly as much, according to a new report out today from the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics. 

UK low in social mobility league, says charity (25 April 05)
Children born to poor families in Britain are less likely to fulfil their potential than in other developed countries, according to a report published today. Researchers at the London School of Economics found that Britain appeared to have one of the worst records for social mobility in the developed world. 

Independent
Britons struggle more than others to get ahead (25 April 05)
A study of eight industrialised nations, produced by the London School of Economics on behalf of the educational charity the Sutton Trust, shows that Britons find it harder than other nationalities to earn more money and get better jobs than their parents.

Britain the land of least opportunity (25 April 05)

Times
Demise of grammar schools leaves poor facing uphill battle (25 April 05)
Children from poorer families have far less chance of improving their lives in Britain than those in many other wealthy countries, according to research by LSE published yesterday.

The Sun
Rich/poor the gap gets wider (25 April 05)
Article about report with comment from author of the report Stephen Machin.

Press Association
Pupils from poor families 'trapped in worst schools' (25 April 05)
LSE report with the Sutton Trust

The Scotsman
UK bottom of class as social mobility gap grows (25 April 05)

Reuters
Social inequality entrenched in Britain (25 April 05)

KeralaNext.com
UK bottom of class as social mobility gap grows: (25 April 05)

Politics.co.uk
UK comes near bottom in social mobility (25 April 05)

Stuff.co.uk
Social inequality entrenched in UK and US, says study (25 April 05)

Dehavilland
Social mobility worse under Labour (25 April 05) 

25 April 2005

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