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Low social mobility in UK has not improved in 30 years - finds LSE research

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Social mobility in the UK remains at the low level it was for those born in 1970, with recent generations of children's educational outcomes still overwhelmingly tied to their parents' income.

This is one of the key findings from Recent Changes in Intergenerational Mobility in Britain, a report by Dr Jo Blanden and Professor Stephen Machin, Centre for Economic Performance at LSE, funded by the Sutton Trust.

The report reviews evidence related to children born between 1970 and 2000, to determine whether the decline in social mobility between previous generations has continued.

The main findings show that:

  • Intergenerational income mobility for children born in the period 1970-2000 has stabilised, following the sharp decline that occurred for children born in 1970 compared with those born in 1958
  • The UK remains low in the international rankings of social mobility when compared with other advanced nations
  • Parental background continues to exert a very powerful influence on the academic progress of children:
    • Those from the poorest fifth of households but in the brightest group at age three drop from the 88th percentile on cognitive tests at age three to the 65th percentile at age five. Those from the richest households who are least able at age three move up from the 15th percentile to the 45th percentile by age five
    • If this trend were to continue, the children from affluent backgrounds who are doing poorly at age three would be likely to overtake the poorer but initially bright children in test scores by age seven
    • Inequalities in degree acquisition meanwhile persist across different income groups. While 44 per cent of young people from the richest 20 per cent of households acquired a degree in 2002, only 10 per cent from the poorest 20 per cent of households did so

Dr Jo Blanden commented:

'By looking at the relationship between children's educational outcomes at different ages and parental income we can predict likely patterns of mobility for cohorts who have not yet reached adulthood. On this basis we cannot find any evidence that the sharp drop in mobility observed for children growing up in the 1970s and 1980s has continued. But nor can we find evidence that mobility has improved.'

Click here for a full copy of the report.|



Dr Jo Blanden, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE and Economics Department, University of Surrey by emailing j.blanden@surrey.ac.uk|

Professor Steve Machin, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE and Department of Economics, University College London by emailing s.machin@ucl.ac.uk|

Esther Avery, LSE Press Office, by calling 020 7955 7060 or emailing e.avery@lse.ac.uk|

Tim Devlin, Press Officer, The Sutton Trust, on 07939 544 487

Press cuttings

Daily Telegraph (14 December)
Nothing has changed for our poor children
If you look at the latest evidence on social mobility - the link between a child's life chances and their parents' income - it paints a depressing picture. The report the trust has just released from the London School of Economics offers few crumbs of comfort.

Windsor Star, Canada (14 December)
Social mobility stalls in Britain
(Source: Vocus)

In the news (13 December)
Class divides remain
Bright children from poor families are overtaken by less intelligent classmates from wealthier backgrounds. A study from the London School of Economics and Surrey University found the UK is at the bottom of the international league for social mobility and that children born in deprived backgrounds are no more likely to emerge from poverty than they were 30 years ago.

Guardian (13 December)
Class divisions 'have not closed'
The Government has failed to narrow the gap between rich and poor, leaving class divisions as wide as they were 30 years ago, research has suggested. By the age of seven, bright children from poor homes will be overtaken academically at school by less gifted pupils with the wealthiest parents, according to the report from the London School of Economics. 

BBC News Online
Bright poor children 'slip back'

Brightest poor children do worse than wealthy but dim classmates

Daily Telegraph
Deprived UK children 'still trapped by poverty'

Financial Times
Social mobility still at 1970s levels

Daily Mail
Child poverty trap 'worse than 1950s' despite billions poured into education

Education system 'favours children of the rich'

BBC Radio 4
Today Programme
Research by Dr Jo Blanden and Professor Steve Machin published today on social mobility in the UK.

BBC Breakfast Time

Channel 4 News

13 December 2007