Sir Peter Lampl wrote for the Sunday Times on new social mobility research.
What sort of society is Gordon Brown inheriting? As the new prime minister finally enters No 10 next week there will be many challenges in his in-tray. But for me one issue stands above all others: Britain has the lowest social mobility of any advanced nation for which figures are available. I know that tackling this is a matter of extreme urgency for both him and the Conservatives, which has set up a taskforce on social mobility led by David Davis, the shadow home affairs spokesman.
Social mobility defines the chances of an individual climbing the social ladder and moving from a lower to a higher-income bracket as an adult. It is a barometer of how meritocratic and fair a society is. It is a powerful measure of equality of opportunity as it highlights the prospects for our children and indeed our children’s children.
The Sutton Trust helped to place this issue at the top of the political agenda when in 2005 we published a study showing that there had been a sharp fall in cross-generational mobility between those who grew up in the 1960s and 1970s and those who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s. This was shocking enough. But the study by Stephen Machin’s group at the London School of Economics (LSE) also found the US and Britain were less mobile than other advanced countries. We – a nation that prides itself on fairness – and the US (the land of opportunity) were bottom of the league table. In no other country were the prospects of those from nonprivileged backgrounds more limited.
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