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Perpetuum mobile?

Social mobility does not work as most people imagine, and it's hard to do much about it

By John Goldthorpe   November 2005

Social mobility is again the focus of intense interest in political circles. There has been much concern, especially on the centre-left, that mobility appears to have slowed or even reversed, despite eight years of a Labour government committed to redistribution, increased investment in state education and so on.

This concern is understandable, but there is much confusion surrounding mobility rates and their relation to wider socioeconomic trends, which it is worth trying to sort out.

First, we need to understand that there are two quite distinct types of intergenerational mobility. Sociologists label these as “class structural change” and “fluidity” within…

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