Buscha, F. & Sturgis, P. (2014) UK LS 2011 Census Linkage Launch Event, Church House, Westminster, London, 6 March 2014 [ONS LS]
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The level of intergenerational mobility in a society is widely taken as a key barometer of its fairness and equality, outwardly signalling whether citizens achieve social and economic status through hard work and ability, or as a result of advantages bestowed upon them by their parents. As a concept social mobility has become one of the key motifs of our political epoch, with politicians of both left and right now championing it as a core policy objective (Saunders 2010). In 2011, for example, the coalition government announced its ‘social mobility strategy’ in which improving relative intergenerational mobility was specified as the government’s most important social policy objective for the parliament (Cabinet Office, 2011).
However, in contrast to the near universal consensus amongst politicians and social commentators that social mobility in Britain is waning, academic research on the question presents a far less united front. Within the past ten years, leading academic researchers have concluded that social mobility in the UK has declined (Blanden et al 2004; Nicoletti and Ermisch, 2007), increased (Lambert et al 2007; Li and Devine 2011) and remained static (Goldthorpe and Jackson 2007; Goldthorpe and Mills 2008). Logically, of course, it is difficult to envisage the circumstances in which all these authors can be correct....