Has Social Mobility in Britain Declined? New Findings from Cross-Cohort Analyses

Erzsebet Bukodi, University of Oxford
John Goldthorpe, University of Oxford
Lorraine Waller, University of Oxford

Attempts at determining trends in rates of social mobility give rise to a range of methodological issues which have in the British case resulted in much uncertainty and confusion. In this paper we attempt to take account of these issues in the following ways. First, we focus on social mobility as understood in terms of intergenerational class mobility, using an established and well validated class schema - NS-SEC. Second, we base our analyses on data for four birth cohorts, the experience of whose members allows us to extend our knowledge of class mobility from the twentieth into the twenty-first century. Thirdly, we maintain throughout the distinction between absolute and relative rates of mobility which in the economics literature is often not explicitly and systematically recognised. We produce results to show that claims of declining social mobility in Britain, generally accepted in political and media circles, have in fact little foundation.

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Presented in Session 205: Intra- and Intergenerational Mobility in the U.S. and U.K.