Screen shot 2010-06-03 at 12.12.57 A new report from the Civitas think tank slams as "absurd" a recent claim by the Conservative Party that social mobility has 'ground to a halt'.

The report – Social Mobility Myths – by Peter Saunders of the University of Sussex notes the following:

  • Dividing the working population into three social classes (professional-managerial, intermediate, and 'working'), more than half of us are in a different class than the one we were born into.
  • Movement between classes in Britain is roughly the same as elsewhere in the western world.
  • At least 3 different studies show social fluidity is still increasing (especially for women).
  • If we look at all children in the top quarter of the ability range, 65% of them end up in professional/managerial jobs and only 5% end up in manual working class jobs.
  • Ability is well over twice as important as class origins, three times more powerful than the degree of interest parents show in their child's schooling, and five times more powerful than parents' level of education or the aspirations which parents have for their children. Talent and hard work are the two key factors in class placement.

Saunders worries that wrong beliefs about social mobility have led to bad public policy including:

  • The preoccupation with expanding entry into higher education, even at the expense of academic standards;
  • The 'grade inflation' unleashed by pushing ever-increasing numbers of pupils through GCSEs and A-levels;
  • Moves towards 'positive discrimination' in university selection designed to make it harder for bright, middle class applicants to get accepted;
  • The fallacious belief that flattening the income distribution through higher taxes and more generous welfare benefits will promote mobility.

The full report can be purchased via Amazon.