Social mobility is about ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to build a good life for themselves regardless of their family background. In a socially mobile society, every individual has a fair chance of reaching their potential. But in today’s Britain, where you start from has a big influence on where you end up. Indeed, for young people it seems that the link between demography and destiny is becoming stronger rather than weaker.
But Britain’s social mobility problem is not just one of income or class background. It is increasingly one of geography. A stark social mobility postcode lottery exists today, where the chances of someone from a disadvantaged background getting on in life is closely linked to where they grow up and choose to make a life for themselves.
There has been much focus in recent years on the divisions of income and class that exist in our country but far less on the geographical divide in opportunity. In this State of the Nation report we aim to redress that. Our focus is on the place-based social mobility lottery. In England, we have ranked all 324 lower-tier local authorities according to a range of social mobility indicators. This analysis highlights those parts of the country that are social mobility hotspots and coldspots. We have not been able to perform the same detailed analysis in Scotland and Wales due to data constraints, but we have nonetheless done some ranking to highlight geographical variations in outcomes in those countries.
The Social Mobility Index, which is at the heart of this report, provides a unique picture of England’s social mobility problem at the local level (see Figure 1.1 and Table 1.1). It builds on the initial version of the index that we published in January 2016. The overall picture is complex, but the broad patterns are clear – and very similar to the initial version of the index. London (and the commuter belt areas around it) is massively advantaged compared with the rest of the country. Children, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds, achieve excellent results at school and benefit from better further and higher education opportunities. If you live in or near London, you have a much higher chance of being a high earner than anywhere else in the country.
In contrast, disadvantage has become entrenched in certain areas of the country. Isolated rural and coastal towns and former industrial areas feature heavily as social mobility coldspots. Young people growing up in these areas have less chance of achieving good educational outcomes and often end up trapped by a lack of access to further education and employment opportunities.
Our report highlights examples of areas that buck these overall trends – often due to strong local initiatives involving the local authority and other organisations working in partnership to improve life outcomes for people living in their area. The report highlights examples of best practice and contains recommendations for how