The role of education in intergenerational social mobility

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Social Policy and Intervention

Abstract

The main objectives of this project are twofold:






  1. to examine the importance of education, relative to that of other factors, in determining individuals’ chances of social mobility in Britain over recent decades


  2. to investigate the social processes through which education actually impacts on mobility chances.




Research questions include:






  • Is education more important in promoting the upward mobility of individuals from disadvantaged social backgrounds than in helping individuals with greater family resources to maintain their parents’ positions?


  • How far do individuals’ mobility chances reflect their basic cognitive abilities and various non-cognitive attributes and how far do formal qualifications affect these chances independently of such psychological characteristics?


  • Are qualifications obtained during the period of full-time education becoming increasingly crucial for mobility chances or do individuals who leave school with only modest qualifications still have appreciable opportunities of ‘working their way up’?


  • How important in this regard are economic conditions at the time when individuals first enter the labour market?




The project will be primarily based on three British birth cohort studies covering individuals born in 1946, 1958 and 1970. The research will use advanced techniques of statistical analysis, such as path analysis with categorical variables and simultaneous hazard modelling.

Publications


10 25 50
Bukodi E (2017) The Pattern of Social Fluidity within the British Class Structure: a Topological Model in Journal of the Royal Statistical Society (Statistics in Society, Series A)
Bukodi E (2016) The pattern of social fluidity within the British class structure: a topological model in Journal of the Royal Statistical Society: Series A (Statistics in Society)
 
Description There has been no decline in absolute rates of intergenerational social mobility in Britain if mobility is treated in terms of social class. However, there has been change in the upward and downward components of the total rate. Among cohorts born in the first half of 20th century the upward component steadily increased while the downward component decreased. But across the four cohorts referred to above the trend has been in the reverse direction. As regards relative rates of intergenerational class mobility - i.e. the relative chances of individuals of different class origins being found in different class destinations - these are also essentially stable across our four cohorts, at least so far as men are concerned: i.e. 'constant social fluidity' prevails. With women, some increase in fluidity is found - i.e. relative chances become more equal. However, this trend is not general. It is confined to women who at some stage have worked part-time.
In considering the role of education in social mobility, the foregoing findings indicate that this can easily be exaggerated so far as societal levels are concerned. Levels of both absolute and relative class mobility have changed little over a historical period in which educational expansion and reform have been more or less continuous. Several further of our findings are important in this regard. Across our cohorts, there is little reduction in inequalities in educational attainment of children from different social backgrounds - and even when early life cognitive ability is controlled. Moreover, this lack of change shows up still more clearly if (a) parental status and parental education are also treated as components of social origin along with parental class and (b) education is treated in relative rather than in absolute terms. The 'class returns' to education have not increased. If education is considered in absolute terms the class returns appear in fact to decrease: i.e. there is evidence of 'over-qualification'. For example, the concept of the 'graduate job' would seem to be disappearing. If education is treated in relative terms there is no trend in the class returns. There is, then, little indication of greater social fluidity resulting from a movement towards an 'education-based meritocracy' in which individuals' class positions are determined primarily by the level of their qualifications at labour market entry. While there is some increase in the numbers of individuals moving directly from higher education into the managerial and professional positions, there is no evidence of a decline in the chances of upward mobility being achieved over the course of working life.
Overall, our findings point to an essential stability - or powerful resistance to change - in what might be called the 'endogenous mobility regime', albeit within the context of significant class structural change. We would see the main source of this stability as lying in the fact that in families holding more advantaged class positions a strong motivation to avoid downward mobility ('loss aversion') coexists with superior resources - economic, cultural and social - that can be directed to this end.
Exploitation Route Main findings suggest that a policy focus on education as a means of increasing the overall amount of mobility, and especially of upward mobility, is questionable. In increasing rates of upward mobility, economic policy would seem more relevant: that is, policy aimed at creating more 'top-end' jobs in both the public and the private sectors; otherwise, the increasing numbers of the higher-educated risks resulting in increased 'over-qualification'.
Sectors Education,Government, Democracy and Justice
 
Description During the time that our research has been in progress, the level, trend, pattern and determinants of social mobility have remained central issues in political and policy making circles and have also attracted much attention in the media. In this context, our research has generated a great deal of interest and we have been active in disseminating the results we have obtained and discussing their implications with a range of interested parties, as summarised below. Government We have given invited presentations in the Cabinet Office, the Treasury (twice) and the Department of Local Government and Communities. We have acted as consultants to the Government Office of Science in connection with their Future Foresight of Skills project and have taken part in a workshop organised by the GOS in connection with this project. For the duration of its existence - 2012 and 2016 - Co-I John Goldthorpe served as a member of the Social Mobility Transparency Board, established within the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, and was able to draw on our research in order to inform several initiatives taken by the Board. Third Sector We have throughout been in close touch with the Sutton Trust and together with them submitted a research grant proposal, in extension of our project, to ESRC. This was not supported but a revised version of the proposal has now been funded by the Nuffield Foundation and research is under way. We have also given assistance to Boston Consulting Group, who are working with the Sutton Trust in compiling a general review of the state of social mobility in Britain. Through her position as Senior Research Fellow in the Oxford Martin School, University of Oxford, PI Erzsébet Bukodi has established links between our work and the Employment, Equity and Growth project, funded by the Resolution Foundation and directed by Professor Brian Nolan. Some joint research, comparing mobility in Britain with that in other European nations, is now in progress. General Public Several of the papers we have published have attracted significant media attention, and we have taken the opportunity to disseminate the results of our research and analysis as widely as possible, including through BBC interviews and articles published in Prospect and the Observer. Co-I John Goldthorpe used the occasion of the inaugural British Academy Lecture in Sociology to present an overview of our research and to raise related policy issues. There was a large, overflow audience and a good deal of correspondence with members of the public has ensued. In addition, requests for the text of the lecture (now published) were received from the Cabinet Office and also from the Sutton Trust, the Resolution Foundation and Policy Exchange. Discussions have in each case followed and seem likely to continue.
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Societal,Policy & public services
 
Description John H. Goldthorpe is a member of the Social Mobility Transparency Board
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Membership of a guidance committee
Impact John H. Goldthorpe was appointed a member of the Government's Social Mobility Transparency Board in 2012. The task of the Board is to ensure the widest possible availability and integration of official statistics and other quantitative data in the public domain that are of relevance to issues of social mobility. Goldthorpe has played a leading role, based on our research experience, in attempts to improve the extent and quality of data relevant to social mobility that are collected in the Labour Force Survey; and he has also been involved in attempts, again informed by our research, to co-ordinate data relevant to assessing the extent of 'secondary effects' in social class differentials in educational attainment: i.e. effects resulting from differences in educational choices controlling for level of previous attainment.
 
Description Open call
Amount £181,487 (GBP)
Organisation Nuffield Foundation 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK)
Start 07/2015 
End 12/2017
 
Description The John Fell Fund
Amount £72,788 (GBP)
Organisation University of Oxford 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK)
Start 06/2013 
End 05/2015
 
Title National Child Development Study and 1970 British Cohort Study Educational Qualifications Histories, 1981-2009. 
Description Bukodi, E. (2017). National Child Development Study and 1970 British Cohort Study Educational Qualifications Histories, 1981-2009. [data collection]. University of London. Institute of Education. Centre for Longitudinal Studies, [original data producer(s)]. UK Data Service. SN: 8127, http://doi.org/10.5255/UKDA-SN-8127-1. The National Child Development Study and 1970 British Cohort Study Educational Qualifications Histories, 1981-2009 provides a continuous and comprehensive account of National Child Development Study (NCDS) and 1970 British Cohort Study (BCS70) cohort members' educational qualifications histories between the ages of 16 and 38. The two data-sets are fully harmonised, which facilitates cross-cohort comparison. This study includes two datasets, one derived from the BCS70 and one the other one from the NCDS. Both are providing detailed information on the following: cohort members' sex; date and age cohort members left full-time education; type, year and date of academic qualification; highest academic qualification attained; type, year and date of occupational qualification; highest vocational qualification attained; type, year and date of vocational / occupational (combined) qualification attained; highest (academic and vocational combined) qualification obtained 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact N/A 
 
Description 'Persistent Inequalities Reconsidered' - International conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Keynote speech entitled 'Linking the Macro to the Micro: A Multidimensional Approach to Educational Inequalities in Four European Countries'
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Anglo-German Workshop Series on Skill Formation in Context, WZB, Berlin 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact A talk entitled 'Linking the Macro to the Micro: A Multidimensional Approach to Educational Inequalities in Four European Countries'; discussing plans for future collaborative research
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Barnett Papers in Social Research British-Swedish paper - Press release 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact There was a feature on the research on the BBC news website.

Our research prompted widespread discussion and we were contacted by many interested parties to learn more about the research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Blog 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact UCL IoE Blog; entry entitled 'International Women's Day: we cannot take progress for granted'. The research mentioned here is reviewed in: Why do we need longitudinal survey data? IZA World of Labor 2016: 308 doi: 10.15185/izawol.308.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://ioelondonblog.wordpress.com/2017/03/08/international-womens-day-we-cannot-take-progress-for-...
 
Description British Journal of Sociology Social Mobility paper - Press release 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Prompted wide media interest in our research findings, e.g. BBC 4 Today programme (John H. Goldthorpe was featured on the programme discussing the research) and news articles including in the following: Independent, Guardian, Economist, Times, Telegraph, Daily Mail, Mirror, Wales Online, ITV news website, Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard, Herald Scotland, The Yorkshire Post, Yahoo News, Phys.org, International Business Times, The Courier, The University of Oxford website frontpage and FullFact.org.

Our research prompted widespread discussion and we were contacted by many interested parties to learn more about the research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity
 
Description Cabinet Office; Policy seminar 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact A talk entitled 'Social mobility: the disconnect between academic research and public policy discussion'.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Cumulative educational inequalities over life-course: Social origins and life-long learning in Britain - Seminar presentation at the Department of Education, University of Oxford, UK 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact The talk sparked questions, academic debate and further discussion afterwards.

The talk shared new findings and increased understanding of social mobility trends in Britain;
The talk increased understanding of the application of quantitative methods in this field;
New academic contacts were made;
There were requests from peers for further information about our research findings and ongoing research;
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Current issues in Social Mobility research - Keynote conference presentation at Social Mobility Conference at Bocconi University, Milan, Italy 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact The talk sparked questions, academic debate and further discussion afterwards.

The talk shared new findings in social mobility research;
The talk provided guidance for other researchers in the social mobility field (nationally and internationally) on new emerging trends and methodologies arising from our project;
New academic contacts were made;
There were requests from peers for further information about our research findings and ongoing research;
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Department of Local Government and Communities - policy seminar 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Invited talk entitled 'Social Mobility in Britain: Trends and the Role of Education'
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Does career still matter? Social origins, education and class histories in Britain - Conference presentation at the Spring Meeting of ISA RC28, Budapest, Hungary 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact The talk sparked questions, academic debate and further discussion afterwards.

The talk shared new findings and increased understanding of social mobility trends in Britain;
New academic contacts were made;
There were requests from peers for further information about our research findings and ongoing research;
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Educational attainment - relative or absolute? - as a mediator of intergenerational class mobility - Conference presentation at European Consortium for Sociological Research 2014 conference, Berlin, Germany 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact The talk sparked questions, academic debate and further discussion afterwards.


The talk shared new findings and increased understanding of social mobility trends in Britain;
The talk stimulated interest in new theoretical approaches in social mobility research;
New academic contacts were made;
There were requests from peers for further information about our research findings and ongoing research;
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Has social mobility in Britain declined? New findings from cross-country cohort analyses - Conference presentation at the Spring Meeting of ISA RC28, Trento, Italy 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact The talk sparked questions, academic debate and further discussion afterwards.

The talk shared new findings and increased understanding of social mobility trends in Britain;
New academic contacts were made;
There were requests from peers for further information about our research findings and ongoing research;
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Has social mobility in Britain declined? New findings from cross-country cohort analyses - Presentation at a Royal Statistical Society Meeting, London, UK 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact The talk sparked questions, academic debate and further discussion afterwards.


The talk shared new findings and increased understanding of social mobility trends in Britain - to both academics and non-academics;
New contacts were made;
There were requests for further information about our research findings and ongoing research;
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Intergenerational social mobility in Europe - A new account 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Public lecture in The Oxford Martin School Lecture series 'Inequality'
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.oxfordmartin.ox.ac.uk/videos/view/610
 
Description Lecture in British Academy - Social class mobility in modern Britain: Changing structure, constant process 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact General lecture in sociology in the British Academy on social mobility in Britain - based on the main finding of our ESRC-funded research project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description NCRM event British Academy 'Is social mobility grinding to a halt?' - workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact A half-day workshop to showcase the main findings of two ESRC-funded projects in the area of social mobility.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Room at the top - John H. Goldthorpe - Feature in Prospect magazine 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The feature prompted discussion about social mobility trends in Britain.

Our findings challenging the current media and political consensus on social mobility were disseminated nationally to the public.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Socio-economic differences in children's educational outcomes - Seminar presentation at the Institute for Policy Research, University of Bath, UK 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact The talk sparked questions, academic debate and further discussion afterwards.

The talk shared new findings and increased understanding of social mobility trends in Britain;
New academic contacts were made;
There were requests from peers for further information about our research findings and ongoing research;
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description The effects of social origins and cognitive ability on educational attainment: A British-Swedish comparison - Conference presentation at the Annual Conference of Longitudinal and Life-course Studies, Amsterdam, Netherlands 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact The talk sparked questions, academic debate and further discussion afterwards.


The talk shared new findings and increased understanding of social mobility trends in Britain and Sweden;
New academic contacts were made;
There were requests from peers for further information about our research findings and ongoing research;
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description The effects of social origins and cognitive ability on educational attainment: Evidence from Britain and Sweden - Seminar presentation at the Department of Sociology, University of Mannheim, Germany 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact The talk sparked questions, academic debate and further discussion afterwards.

The talk shared new findings and increased understanding of social mobility trends in Britain and Sweden;
New academic contacts were made;
There were requests from peers for further information about our research findings and ongoing research;
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Trends in intergenerational class mobility in Britain: New findings from birth cohort data - Conference presentation at the Annual Meeting of Population Association of America, New Orleans, USA 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact The talk sparked questions, academic debate and further discussion afterwards.

The talk shared new findings and increased understanding of social mobility trends in Britain;
New academic contacts were made;
There were requests from peers for further information about our research findings and ongoing research;
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Trends in intergenerational class mobility in Britain: New findings from birth cohort data - Seminar presentation at the Department of Social Policy and Intervention Colloquium Series, University of Oxford, UK 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact The talk sparked questions, academic debate and further discussion afterwards.

The talk shared new findings and increased understanding of social mobility trends in Britain amongst a social policy audience;
There were requests from peers for further information about our research findings and ongoing research;
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Trends in intergenerational class mobility in Britain: New findings from birth cohort data - Seminar presentation in Nuffield College Sociology Seminar Series, University of Oxford 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact The talk sparked questions, academic debate and further discussion afterwards.

The talk shared new findings and increased understanding of social mobility trends in Britain;
There were requests from peers for further information about our research findings and ongoing research;
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Understanding - and Misunderstanding - Social Mobility in Britain - Presentation at the Institute for Public Policy Research, London, UK 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/parliamentarians
Results and Impact The talk sparked questions, debate and further discussion afterwards.

The talk shared new findings and increased understanding of social mobility trends in Britain;
New non-academic contacts were made;
There were requests for further information about our research findings and ongoing research;
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description University of Bocconi, Milan, Italy; 'Social Mobility Conference' 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Key-note address in a one-day international conference on the main issues in social mobility research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014