What are the Drivers Intergenerational Mobility? The Role of Family, Neighborhood, Education, and Social Class: A Review of Bukodi and Goldthorpe's Social Mobility and Education in Britain
Journal of Economic Literature (Forthcoming)
The main finding of Bukodi and Goldthorpe (2019) is that there have not been improvements nor any decline in relative intergenerational mobility in Britain since WWII in terms of social class. Notably, there has not been improvement in the mobility of children from working-class backgrounds relative to other background classes. Several other findings are noteworthy. First, absolute mobility increased for individuals in the 1970s and 1980s, in the sense that children from all backgrounds have improved their class position compared with their parents. The driving force behind these patterns is primarily the availability of good jobs, which has expanded the room at the top. This increase in the room at the top appears to slow and reverse over time commencing with the 1970 cohort. Third, and importantly, they argue strongly that education is not the primary mechanism explaining intergenerational mobility in general. Education is not the key determinant of adult success in the labor market and improving the educational attainment of children from poor socioeconomic backgrounds does not help improve their labor market performance. This suggests that policies to improve the mobility of children from poor social backgrounds should not include attempts to foster human capital or education policies in general.