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More mobile than we think

Britain has more upward social mobility than is often assumed. But there is least movement where it matters most, at the very top and the bottom. Can Gordon Brown help out?

By David Goodhart   December 2008

America has elected not just a black president but a leader who is the son of a single mother who was, at least briefly, dependent on food stamps. It couldn’t happen here, says the political and media consensus in Britain which alleges that social mobility ground to a halt sometime in the 1980s, after a brief golden age in the 1950s and 1960s.

Not everyone agrees with that consensus. “There really has been a lot of nonsense talked about the death of mobility,” says the eminent sociologist John Goldthorpe. He is himself a beneficiary of social mobility, having been born…

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