Briefing 39: Social mobility in the UK is falling

Differences in income between children are increasingly likely to be mirrored as adults

What people earn in life increasingly reflects what their parents earned

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Explaining the data

The Institute of Education used data from the National Child Development Study (NCDS) of children born in 1958 and the British Cohort Study (BCS) of children born in 1970 to compare the association between parental income and adult income for each of the cohorts. For the children born in 1958, the IoE found that just under 30% of the differences in incomes in childhood are mirrored in what they earn around the age 40. For those born in 1970 this has gone up to around 40% of childhood circumstances being reflected in what they earn in adulthood. There is no more recent data, because funding to study a cohort of children born in the 1980s was scrapped, but findings from a cohort born in 1991 should emerge in 2020. To see the full report visit

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