Parliamentary report on social mobility uses evidence from 1958, 1970 and millennium cohort studies

2 May 2012

An all-party parliamentary group has launched a report outlining seven “truths” about social mobility and the challenges they pose for policy-makers.

The report draws on evidence from the 1958, 1970 and millennium cohort studies to describe the current level of social mobility in the UK. It emphasises that social mobility is low by international standards and, judging by a comparison of the 1958 and 1970 cohorts, it is not improving.

According to the report, the seven truths about social mobility are:

  1. The point of greatest leverage for social mobility is between ages 0 and 3, primarily in the home.
  2. Social mobility can also be improved through education.
  3. The most important controllable factor is the quality of teaching.
  4. Access and take-up of extra-curricular activities, including tutoring, summer camp and work experience programmes, also have an impact on social mobility.
  5. Going to university can improve social mobility more than any other factor, but fewer young people from the lowest socio-economic group apply and are accepted. Low attainment among poorer children at school can help explain the gap in higher education participation.
  6. While university is a critical factor, skill development and training in later life can also increase a person’s social mobility.
  7. Personal resilience and emotional wellbeing are crucial in moving up the social ladder.

The report emphasises the importance of children’s early years (ages 0 to 3). Citing evidence from the Millennium Cohort Study, the report states that toddlers’ cognitive test scores vary dramatically by their parents’ socio-economic group – over and above innate differences in ability. This gap does not appear to narrow between the ages of 3 and 5, and persists through the school years. The report suggests that early years policy interventions should focus on parenting skills and techniques to address these inequalities.

Read the full report, 7 Key Truths about Social Mobility.