Pitfalls on the path to social mobility

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By Claire Crawford, Paul Johnson and Anna Vignoles

This Government, alongside most of its predecessors, is concerned about social mobility. A society in which one’s prospects are largely or wholly determined by chance of birth is not one with which many will feel comfortable. But any strategy to increase social mobility must be long term, multi-faceted and cautious in its claims.
As the Coalition Government prepares to launch its own strategy for tackling social mobility, recent work at IFS exploring the literature on social mobility has highlighted some important conclusions that the Government would be wise to bear in mind.
First, countries with higher income inequality tend to have lower social mobility (at least when using income-based definitions of mobility). In an unequal society there is further to travel to get from the bottom to the middle or the top. The UK has relatively high income inequality and low social mobility. It is therefore likely to be ve

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