Where is the Land of Hope and Glory? The Geography of Intergenerational Mobility in England and Wales

Bell, B., Blundell, J. & Machin, S. (2019) LSE CEP Discussion Paper 1591 (Replaced December 2018 version), [ONS LS]

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Does the importance of your family background on how far you get in adulthood also depend on where you grow up? For England and Wales, a paucity of data has made this a difficult question to reliably answer. This paper presents a new analysis of intergenerational mobility across three cohorts in England and Wales using hitherto previously unstudied linked decennial census microdata. These data permit study of mobility in occupation, home ownership and education, at the spatial level through time. In the aggregate, there is little overall change in occupational mobility, but a substantial decline in home ownership mobility over the late 20th century in England and Wales. The picture for educational mobility is less clear, because higher education expanded dramatically. In terms of geographical variation, there are strong sub-regional patterns, with four main results emerging. First, area-level differences in upward occupational mobility are highly persistent over time. Second, consistent with evidence from other countries, absolute and relative mobility are positively correlated for all measures and particularly strongly for home ownership. Third, there is a robust relationship between upward educational and upward occupational mobility. Last, there is a small negative relationship between upward home ownership mobility and upward occupational mobility, revealing that social mobility comparisons based on different outcomes can have different trends.

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