report Downward mobility, opportunity hoarding and the ‘glass floor’ by Abigail
McKnight has been published by the Social
Mobility and Child Poverty Commission. It examines the evidence for a
cohort of British children born in 1970 in terms of the relationship between
family background, childhood cognitive skills and adult success in the labour
market. In particular it considers the role of parents’ education, later
childhood performance in reading and maths, social and emotional skills in
childhood, type of secondary school attended and whether or not individuals go
on to attain a degree.
The research finds
that, on average, children from lower income families or those with less
advantaged social class backgrounds do not perform as well in a series of
cognitive tests taken at age 5 as children from higher income families or those
from advantaged social class backgrounds. Children from more advantaged family
backgrounds are more likely to have high earnings in later adult life and are
more likely to be in a “top job”. This is not simply due to different levels of
cognitive ability as it holds within attainment groups as well as over the
complete distribution. Analysis is focused on a group of initially high
attaining children and a group of initially low attaining children and follows
their progress through to labour market outcomes at age 42.
The research identifies a number of factors that account for the fact that
children from more affluent family backgrounds are more likely to be highly
successful in the labour market as adults: highly educated parents; higher
maths skills age 10; stronger social and emotional skills age 10; greater
likelihood of attending a Grammar or a Private secondary school; more likely to
attain a degree level qualification. The hoarding of opportunities by
better-off families is likely to contribute to the reduced success of initially
high attaining children from less advantaged families converting early potential
into later labour market success.
Richard Reeves of the
Brookings Institute, whose own research focusing on American social mobility has
been influential, has written an interesting blog
about this report.
As part of our Social Policy in a Cold
Climate programme (SPCC) we have produced a summary of recent
research on social
mobility and education attainment
based on research by Jo Blanden,
Claire Crawford, Ellen Greaves, Paul Gregg, Lindsey Macmillan, Abigail McKnight,
Luke Sibieta and Anna Vignoles.
A new working paper in this theme from
the SPCC programme is now available:
When and Why do Initially High Attaining Poor
Children Fall Behind? by Claire Crawford, Lindsey Macmillan and Anna Vignoles.
More research on this theme is
forthcoming in Autumn 2015. If you’d like to receive email updates
sign up here.
News Posted: 17 July 2015
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