The New Social Mobility
How the Politicians Got It Wrong

Seven: The pessimism of earlier academic mobility analysis


A review of three key mobility studies demonstrates that all the blame for under-estimating mobility does not lie with the ‘Westminster Bubble’. The highly influential LSE study in 1954 produced figures now recognised to be implausible, due to reasons revealed here for the first time. The Nuffield Mobility Study in the 1970s had a ‘Marxisant character’ strongly favouring greater openness, and used analytical techniques which inadvertently gave an impression of less mobility and change, than there was. Despite its huge impact since 2005, the work by LSE economists on income mobility has severe technical flaws. In none of these most important studies, representing the old approach to mobility, was there adequate discussion of gender, ethnicity, geography, or the significance of labour market dynamics.

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