Britain 'Has Worst Social Mobility in the Western World'

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Byline: Daniel Martin Whitehall Correspondent

SOCIAL mobility in Britain is the worst in the Western world and the gap between rich and poor has become ingrained in children as young as three, MPs conclude today.

They quote a study showing that the prospects of half of all children born in the UK can be almost entirely linked to the circumstances of their parents - compared to only 15 per cent of those in Denmark.

Differences are also noticeable at a very young age, with toddlers doing far better in vocabulary tests if they grow up in a more affluent household.

Controversially, the MPs call for more intervention in the lives of under-threes. The report also shows that despite all the money spent to get more teenagers into university, the access gap between rich and poor has actually widened in recent years.

Last night Tory backbencher Damian Hinds, chairman of the All-Party Group on Social Mobility, which wrote the report, said: 'For a long time, we have lagged behind our international competitors in ensuring all Britons can realise their potential.

'To bridge the gap will require a shared commitment between schools, universities and firms, government and the voluntary sector. The scale of the challenge is immense.'

The report quotes a study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development which compared the extent to which children's prospects are predictable from parents' circumstances.

In the UK, the OECD says 50 per cent of children's prospects are predictable from the position of their parents - a sign of low social mobility. This was worse than Italy (48 per cent), the US (47 per cent) and France (41 per cent).

The prospects of poorer children born in Australia (17 per cent) and Denmark (15 per cent) are much brighter.

Britain's failure means a poor child born in 1970 is less likely to have gone to university than one born in 1958, the MPs say. The report makes it clear the differences become ingrained as young as the age of three. …