PETER SAUNDERS(www.petersaunders.org.uk)Presentation to Grammar School Heads AssociationAnnual Conference, London, 19 June...
The 4 social mobility myths• UK has a serious social mobility problem• This problem is getting worse, andopportunities for...
Myth 1: The belief that we have a mobility problem• Cabinet Office, Getting On, Getting Ahead, 2008social mobility has fai...
Myth 1: The belief that we have a mobility problemOpening Doors and Breaking Barriers (Coalition’s Social Mobility Strateg...
Myth 1: Do we really have a mobility problem?Dividing the population into3 social classes:• Professional-managerial• Inter...
Myth 1: Do we really have a mobility problem?Dividing the populationinto 3 social classes:• Professional-managerial• Inter...
Myth 1: Do we really have a mobility problem?1958 cohort (National ChildDevelopment Study):45% of men and 39% womenupwardl...
Myth 1: Do we really have a mobility problem?But politicians seem ignorant or indifferent to this evidence...‘Mobility Tsa...
Myth 1: Do we really have a mobility problem?But politicians seem ignorant or indifferent to evidence...‘Mobility Tsar’ Al...
Myth 1: Do we really have a mobility problem?They claim UK has less mobility than other comparable countries...May 2012, M...
Myth 1: Do we really have a mobility problem?May 2012, Michael Gove:‘Those who are born poor are more likely tostay poor a...
Myth 1: Do we really have a mobility problem?Politicians in thrall to Sutton Trust research on incomemobility in different...
Myth 1: Do we really have a mobility problem?Sutton Trust admits:‘Large standard errors on the Australian, French, British...
Myth 1: Do we really have a mobility problem?Sutton Trust claims measures of education mobility back up its claimsBut 2010...
Myth 2: The belief that mobility has been fallingAbsolute mobility is falling as the middle classbecomes saturated.But wha...
Myth 2: The belief that mobility has been fallingPoliticians believe relative mobility getting worse:• 2011 Opening Doors ...
Myth 2: The belief that mobility has been fallingSutton Trust looks atfather-son incomecorrelations in 1958 and1970 birth ...
Myth 2: The belief that mobility has been fallingBUT...• British Household Panel Study finds no difference in incomemobili...
Myth 2: The belief that mobility has been fallingSutton Trust result seems suspect‘It seems widely believed that in recent...
Myth 3: Does class really trump ability?Government’s 2012 social mobility targets ignore ability:‘Those with parents in ma...
Myth 3: Does class really trump ability?• The goal: There should be noassociation between class origin andclass destinatio...
Myth 3: Does class really trump ability?NCDS (age 33) shows:High ability children rarely fail (irrespective of their class...
Myth 3: Does class really trump ability?
Myth 3: Does class really trump ability?CATEGORY PROPORTION OF VARIANCE EXPLAINED = 35% of which...Social advantages/disad...
Myth 3: Does class really trump ability?When they do mention ability differences, politicians claim it reflectssocial adva...
Myth 3: Does class really trump ability?This claims rests on evidence from 1970 cohort thatbright working class kids seem ...
Myth 3: Does class really trump ability?But the apparent cross-over of bright lower class childrenand dull higher class ch...
Myth 3: Does class really trump ability?
Myth 3: Does class really trump ability?Jerrim and Vignoles:‘There is currently an overwhelming view amongstacademics and ...
Myth 4: Social mobility needs more education reform50 years of policies designed to tap into ‘pools of wasted working clas...
Myth 4: Social mobility needs more education reformUndeterred, the government is still emphasising education reform as key...
Myth 4: Social mobility needs more education reformUndeterred, the government is still emphasising education reform as key...
Myth 4: Social mobility needs more education reformWe do have a mobility problem – but it’s at the bottom, not the top.Neg...
ConclusionUK is not a ‘closed shop society’• More than ½ population moves between 3 classes• Class mobility no worse in UK...
ConclusionBritain is not a ‘perfect meritocracy’• downward mobility by dull middleclass children is a bit sticky• undercla...
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Social mobility myths

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Talk to the Grammar School Heads' Annual conference, RAF Club, London, June 2013

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  • A very helpful presentation. It gives easier access to the case you ere making on the Moral Maze tonight. So often that program sounds like the public bar of the Pig and Whistle
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Transcript of "Social mobility myths"

  1. 1. PETER SAUNDERS(www.petersaunders.org.uk)Presentation to Grammar School Heads AssociationAnnual Conference, London, 19 June 2013
  2. 2. The 4 social mobility myths• UK has a serious social mobility problem• This problem is getting worse, andopportunities for working class children aredeteriorating• Intelligence is irrelevant –social origins are themain factor shaping people’s destinies• Social mobility must be increased by (yet more)education reform
  3. 3. Myth 1: The belief that we have a mobility problem• Cabinet Office, Getting On, Getting Ahead, 2008social mobility has failed to improve , need to improve opportunitiesPanel on Fair Access to the Professions, Unleashing Aspiration, 2009‘birth, not worth, has become more a determinant of people’s life chances’Britain is ‘a closed shop society’National Equality Panel , An Anatomy of Economic Inequality in the UK,2010mobility is ‘low’ and inequality hinders opportunity
  4. 4. Myth 1: The belief that we have a mobility problemOpening Doors and Breaking Barriers (Coalition’s Social Mobility Strategy, 2011 ,updated 2012‘evidence on social mobility is not encouraging... Tragically, we can predict thelikely fortunes of too many children, because of the clear influence of socialbackground’ (Clegg)All-party parliamentary group Interim Report, 7 Key TruthsAbout Social Mobility (May 2012)‘UK mobility is low relative to other OECD countries’‘today’s 40-somethings have less mobility than their elders’Fair Access to Professional Career May 2012 (Alan Milburn’s 1st progress report)‘professions close their doors to a wider social spectrum of talent instead ofopening them’
  5. 5. Myth 1: Do we really have a mobility problem?Dividing the population into3 social classes:• Professional-managerial• Intermediate• Routine & semi-routineGoldthorpe’s classic 1970sstudy found:More than half of us are ina different class than theone we were born into• 2005 General HouseholdSurvey:• 32% men born to routineand semi-routine classparents reachedprofessional-managerialclass• 30% born to professionalparents were downwardlymobile
  6. 6. Myth 1: Do we really have a mobility problem?Dividing the populationinto 3 social classes:• Professional-managerial• Intermediate• Routine & semi-routineMore than half of us arein a different class thanthe one we were born into2005 General HouseholdSurvey:• 32% men born to routineand semi-routine classparents reachedprofessional-managerialclass• 30% men born toprofessional parents weredownwardly mobile
  7. 7. Myth 1: Do we really have a mobility problem?1958 cohort (National ChildDevelopment Study):45% of men and 39% womenupwardly mobile by age 3327% of men and 37% of womendownwardly mobile by 331970 (British Cohort Study):42% of men and 41% womenupwardly mobile by age 3030% of men and 35% of womendownwardly mobile by 30John Goldthorpe and Michelle Jackson, ‘Intergenerationalclass mobility in contemporary Britain’ BJS vol 58, 2007
  8. 8. Myth 1: Do we really have a mobility problem?But politicians seem ignorant or indifferent to this evidence...‘Mobility Tsar’ AlanMilburn’ on BBC Radio 4Today programme (5th April2011):“We still live in acountry where,invariably, if youreborn poor, you diepoor”Eighty-one per cent ofBritish men who grew upin families below thepoverty line end up inadulthood with incomesabove the poverty lineJo Blanden and Steve Gibbons, The persistenceof poverty across generations, Joseph RowntreeFoundation, 2006, Table 2
  9. 9. Myth 1: Do we really have a mobility problem?But politicians seem ignorant or indifferent to evidence...‘Mobility Tsar’ AlanMilburn’ on BBC Radio 4Today programme (5th April2011):“We still live in acountry where,invariably, if youreborn poor, you diepoor”Eighty-one per cent ofBritish men who grew upin families below thepoverty line end up inadulthood with incomesabove the poverty lineJo Blanden and Steve Gibbons, The persistenceof poverty across generations, Joseph RowntreeFoundation, 2006, Table 2
  10. 10. Myth 1: Do we really have a mobility problem?They claim UK has less mobility than other comparable countries...May 2012, Michael Gove:‘Those who are born poor are more likely tostay poor and those who inherit privilege aremore likely to pass on privilege in England thanin any comparable country. For those of uswho believe in social justice, this stratificationand segregation are morally indefensible.’2011 Opening Doors report :‘We are less socially mobile than othercountries.’2012 Damien Hinds MP (chair, 7 Key Truths...report):‘There are plenty of other countries that havemuch more mobility than us... the UK is alwaysalmost in the worst position.Breen (Social Mobility in Europe,2004) placed Britain in themiddle of the internationalrankings, ahead of Germanyand Denmark, but behindSweden and the USAOECD (IntergenerationalTransmission of Disadvantage2007) puts UK around themiddle between Sweden,Canada and Norway (morefluid) and Germany, Ireland,Italy and France (more rigid)
  11. 11. Myth 1: Do we really have a mobility problem?May 2012, Michael Gove:‘Those who are born poor are more likely tostay poor and those who inherit privilege aremore likely to pass on privilege in England thanin any comparable country. For those of uswho believe in social justice, this stratificationand segregation are morally indefensible.’2011 Opening Doors report :‘We are less socially mobile than othercountries.’2012 Damien Hinds MP (chair, 7 Key Truths...report):‘There are plenty of other countries that havemuch more mobility than us... the UK is alwaysalmost in the worst position.But evidence on occupational mobility puts UK about averageBreen (Social Mobility inEurope, 2004): Britain aheadof Germany and Denmark,but behind Sweden and theUSAOECD (IntergenerationalTransmission ofDisadvantage 2007) UKbetween Sweden, Canadaand Norway (more fluid) andGermany, Ireland, Italy andFrance (more rigid)
  12. 12. Myth 1: Do we really have a mobility problem?Politicians in thrall to Sutton Trust research on incomemobility in different countriesThis puts UK behind Italy, France, Norway, Australia,Germany, Sweden, Canada, Finland & Denmark.But many problems with this research...
  13. 13. Myth 1: Do we really have a mobility problem?Sutton Trust admits:‘Large standard errors on the Australian, French, British and US estimatesmake it unclear how these countries should be ranked’‘There is a great deal of uncertainty about comparisons made on the basisof income mobility’Jo Blanden, ‘How much can we learn from international comparisons of social mobility? Centre for the Economics of Education Departmental Paperno.111, November 2009, London School of Economics, pp.15 & 37OECD warns:‘These comparisons can be invalid because different studies use differentvariable definitions, samples, estimation methods and time periods’‘Intergenerational mobility in OECD countries’ 2010, p.9
  14. 14. Myth 1: Do we really have a mobility problem?Sutton Trust claims measures of education mobility back up its claimsBut 2010 OECD report ranks Britain:• 9th out of 30 on how far children’s educational attainment isindependent of their parents’ socio-economic status;• in the middle of the rankings on the probability of a child attendinguniversity if their parents are not graduatesUK Dept for Education confirms:‘Student attainment is no more closely related to socio-economicbackground than on average across the OECD’DfE Research Report No.206, April 2012, p.2
  15. 15. Myth 2: The belief that mobility has been fallingAbsolute mobility is falling as the middle classbecomes saturated.But what concerns politicians is relative mobility –the chances of working class children relative tochances of middle class childrenSlowdown in growth of middle class has nonecessary implications for relative mobilitychances
  16. 16. Myth 2: The belief that mobility has been fallingPoliticians believe relative mobility getting worse:• 2011 Opening Doors report: ‘social mobility for children born in GreatBritain in 1970 got slightly worse than for children born in 1958.’• 2012 7 Truths report: ‘Today’s 40-somethings have shown less mobilitythan their elders.’Media pick up on this and exaggerate it:“soul-sapping immobility” (New Statesman)“sad death of opportunity in an increasingly class-bound Britain” (DailyMail)This belief that things getting worse again reflects Sutton Trust research...
  17. 17. Myth 2: The belief that mobility has been fallingSutton Trust looks atfather-son incomecorrelations in 1958 and1970 birth cohorts.Find apparent fall influidity in later cohort.1958 (NCDS)• 35% of kids from top incomequartile got to top quartile• 17% fell to bottom quartile1970 (BCS)• 42% of kids from top incomequartile got to top quartile• 11% fell to bottom quartile‘coefficient of elasticity’ rosefrom 0.21 for the 1958 cohortto 0.29 for 1970 cohort
  18. 18. Myth 2: The belief that mobility has been fallingBUT...• British Household Panel Study finds no difference in incomemobility for cohorts born in this period: ‘There are no strongchanges in intergenerational mobility across cohorts from1950 to 1972’Ermisch & Nicoletti ISER WP 2005• No studies find any difference in class mobility between 1958and 1970 cohorts: ‘The pattern of fluidity is very much thesame’Goldthorpe and Jackson, Br Jnl Soc, 2007
  19. 19. Myth 2: The belief that mobility has been fallingSutton Trust result seems suspect‘It seems widely believed that in recent decades intergenerational mobilityhas declined. This prevailing view is simply mistaken’(Goldthorpe and Mills. Nat Instit Ec Rev 2008)It is the only study reporting a mobility fall‘This slender analysis has had more influence on public policy debate thanany academic paper of the last 20 years. The lazy consensus which hasdecreed the end of social mobility is both wrong and damaging’(David Goodhart, Prospect, 2008)
  20. 20. Myth 3: Does class really trump ability?Government’s 2012 social mobility targets ignore ability:‘Those with parents in managerial or professional occupationsare almost twice as likely as others to end up in thoseoccupations as adults. This is one of the indicators that we willuse to measure progress’But how bright are these children?How many middle class children should we expect to end up inmiddle class jobs?
  21. 21. Myth 3: Does class really trump ability?• The goal: There should be noassociation between class origin andclass destination• Assumes equal distribution of talentacross every class• But in a meritocracy, talented peoplewill be recruited to the higherclasses...• ...where they produce more talentedchildren (parent-child IQ correlation =0.5).• So we should expect children ofhigher class parents to achieve highersuccess levels.STEP 1: Bright youngsters dowell at school and get top jobsSTEP 2: They meetbright partnersSTEP 3: They have children ofabove average abilitySTEP 4: Their children inturn do well at school andget top jobs
  22. 22. Myth 3: Does class really trump ability?NCDS (age 33) shows:High ability children rarely fail (irrespective of their class of origin):• 65% of top IQ quartile get to professional-managerial class• Only 5% of top IQ quartile end up in semi- or unskilled manual jobsBut low ability middle class children do sometimes succeed when they‘shouldn’t’:• 41% of middle class children in the lowest IQ quartile end up in professional-managerial class• 21% of working class children in the lowest IQ quartile end up in professional-managerialclass
  23. 23. Myth 3: Does class really trump ability?
  24. 24. Myth 3: Does class really trump ability?CATEGORY PROPORTION OF VARIANCE EXPLAINED = 35% of which...Social advantages/disadvantages:Parents class 3%Housing conditions <1%Independent school <1%Parents’ behaviour and attitudes:Aspirations for child 1%Interest in child’s education 3%Individual characteristics:Academic ability 17%Ambition and hard work 5%Qualifications 6%TOTAL VARIANCE EXPLAINED 35%
  25. 25. Myth 3: Does class really trump ability?When they do mention ability differences, politicians claim it reflectssocial advantages and disadvantages:• 2011 Opening Doors... Report: ‘Gaps in development betweenchildren from different backgrounds can be detected even at birthand widen rapidly during the first few years of life’• Clegg 2011: ‘By the age of five, bright children from poorerbackgrounds have been overtaken by less bright children fromricher ones – and from this point on, the gaps tend to widen evenfurther.’• Gove 2010: “In effect, rich thick kids do better than poor cleverchildren when they arrive at school and the situation as they gothrough gets worse”
  26. 26. Myth 3: Does class really trump ability?This claims rests on evidence from 1970 cohort thatbright working class kids seem to fall behind dull middleclass kids by 10:‘Social inequalities appear to dominate the apparent early positive signs ofacademic ability for most of those low SES children who do well early on.’(Feinstein, Centre for Economic Performance Paper No.146, June 2003)
  27. 27. Myth 3: Does class really trump ability?But the apparent cross-over of bright lower class childrenand dull higher class children is generated entirely byregression to the mean. It is a statistical artefactJerrim and Vignoles ,Department of Quantitative Social Science Working Paper no.11-01, April 2011, Institute of EducationCan correct for this by using different tests to:• Assign children to high/low ability at outset• Measure their changing ability scores over timeUse data from 2000 Millenium cohort where 2 differentability tests were used...
  28. 28. Myth 3: Does class really trump ability?
  29. 29. Myth 3: Does class really trump ability?Jerrim and Vignoles:‘There is currently an overwhelming view amongstacademics and policymakers that highly able children frompoor homes get overtaken by their affluent (but less able)peers before the end of primary school. Although thisempirical finding is treated as a stylised fact, themethodology used to reach this conclusion is seriouslyflawed. After attempting to correct for the aforementionedproblem, we find little evidence that this is actually thecase in current data.’This research has been completely ignored by politicians.
  30. 30. Myth 4: Social mobility needs more education reform50 years of policies designed to tap into ‘pools of wasted working class talent’• Education Priority Areas• End 11+ and replace grammar schools with comprehensives• End academic streaming• Raise school leaving age to 16• Abolition of direct grant schools• ‘Progressive’ teaching methods and reading schemes• Move to an all-graduate teaching profession• Amalgamation of universities and polytechnics• Introduction of the core curriculum• Doubling of schools expenditure by Blair and new build programme• Huge expansion of higher education – 50% target for 18 year-olds• Extension of free pre-schooling to the under-fives• 30 year inflation of GCSE and A-level grades• Introduction of academies• Replacement of school catchment areas by ballots and other contrivancesYet throughout this period, relative social mobility rates have hardly shifted.
  31. 31. Myth 4: Social mobility needs more education reformUndeterred, the government is still emphasising education reform as key toits social mobility strategy‘fair access to universities’:Financial penalties on universities which fail to achieve ‘fair access’ targetsBut no evidence of class bias in university recruitment:IFS finds social class differences in university enrolments entirely explainedby gaps in applicants’ prior educational attainments (reported in ‘7 KeyTruths...’)So govt social mobility strategy will make a meritocratic system anti-meritocratic!
  32. 32. Myth 4: Social mobility needs more education reformUndeterred, the government is still emphasising education reform as key toits social mobility strategy‘fair access to universities’:Financial penalties on universities which fail to achieve ‘fair access’ targetsBut no evidence of class bias in university recruitment:IFS finds social class differences in university enrolments entirely explainedby gaps in applicants’ prior educational attainments (reported in ‘7 KeyTruths...’)So govt social mobility strategy will make a meritocratic system anti-meritocratic!
  33. 33. Myth 4: Social mobility needs more education reformWe do have a mobility problem – but it’s at the bottom, not the top.Neglectful or inadequate parenting is the key problem:• only 1/3rd of the poorest children living with both biological parents, compared with 88% in themiddle income group• 1 in 5 poorest kids been born to teenage mothers• over 1/3rd had parents with no good GCSE between them• children start school unable to distinguish numbers and letters; some still in nappies• 11 month gap between average verbal test scores of children from low and middle income families- 40% of it due to home environment and parental factorsWaldfogel & Washbrook, Low income and early cognitive development in the UK Sutton Trust Research Report, February 2010University admissions quotas irrelevant to this
  34. 34. ConclusionUK is not a ‘closed shop society’• More than ½ population moves between 3 classes• Class mobility no worse in UK than elsewhere• Comparative income mobility data unreliable; education data look quite favourableSocial mobility is not declining• No change in class mobility in 1958-1970 cohorts• No change in income mobility in BHPS in this same periodIndividual characteristics mainly determine outcomes• Ability & hard work much more important than class origins• Half variance in occupational outcomes explained by IQ alone• Not true that ‘rich thick kids’ overtake poor clever onesAttacking elite universities and independent schools is tackling the wrong problem• Underclass parenting is the key problem• University recruitment is wholly meritocratic
  35. 35. ConclusionBritain is not a ‘perfect meritocracy’• downward mobility by dull middleclass children is a bit sticky• underclass children damaged by poor parentingBut for most UK children, if you are bright andwork hard, you will almost certainly succeed.
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