The Social Mobility Commission published a report called Social Mobility Commission – The Long Shadow of Deprivation, in October 2020. The report builds on the work published in the earlier 2017 State of the Nation report, which identified social mobility hot and cold spots and created an index of social mobility by local authority area.

This report looks at whether where a person lives influences earnings in adulthood, i.e. does growing up in one town rather than another affect your life chances.

Using a newly linked dataset researchers have tracked the journey of all state-educated sons in England who were born in 1986 to 19881. The young men were followed through their primary and secondary school journey at a time of considerable change and investment in education; to their transition into work at the time of the 2008 recession; and through to their earnings in 2014 to 2016, aged 28. In particular, the study looked at how the earnings of sons from disadvantaged backgrounds vary across local authorities (LAs) in England, and the role of education and the labour market in explaining these differences.

The findings are challenging, confirming that where an individual grows up does directly influence their earnings in adulthood. Most striking was the finding that in the most unequal areas, i.e. those with the largest pay gap and the poorest social mobility, up to a third of the earnings gap is driven by family background and local labour markets, over and above educational achievement. The report found compelling evidence that the greatest inequality is driven by factors outside education, and in these areas, it is far harder to escape deprivation.

The SMC – The Long Shadow of Deprivation 2020 – Briefing summarises some of the findings of this latest report.