The role of education in intergenerational social mobility

The main objectives of this project were twofold:

  1. to examine the importance of education, relative to that of other factors, in determining individuals’ chances of social mobility in Britain over recent decades
  2. to investigate the social processes through which education actually impacts on mobility chances.

Research questions included:

  • Is education more important in promoting the upward mobility of individuals from disadvantaged social backgrounds than in helping individuals with greater family resources to maintain their parents’ positions?
  • How far do individuals’ mobility chances reflect their basic cognitive abilities and various non-cognitive attributes and how far do formal qualifications affect these chances independently of such psychological characteristics?
  • Are qualifications obtained during the period of full-time education becoming increasingly crucial for mobility chances or do individuals who leave school with only modest qualifications still have appreciable opportunities of ‘working their way up’?
  • How important in this regard are economic conditions at the time when individuals first enter the labour market?

The project was primarily based on three British birth cohort studies covering individuals born in 1946, 1958 and 1970. The research used advanced techniques of statistical analysis, such as path analysis with categorical variables and simultaneous hazard modelling.

DSPI Principal Investigator: Erzebet Bukodi
Funded by: Economic and Social Research Council

Completed: 2015


Bukodi, Erzsebet (2017) "Cumulative Inequalities over the Life-Course: Life-long Learning and Social Mobility in Britain", Journal of Social Policy 46 367-404. doi: 10.1017/S0047279416000635

Bukodi, Erzsebet; Goldthorpe, John H.; Halpin, Brendan; Waller, Lorraine (2016) "Is Education Now Class Destiny? Class Histories across Three British Birth Cohorts", European Sociological Review  . doi: 10.1093/esr/jcw041

Gugushvili, Alexi, Bukodi, Erzsebet and Goldthorpe, John (2017) "The Direct Effect of Social Origins on Social Mobility Chances: ‘Glass Floors’ and ‘Glass Ceilings’ in Britain ", European Sociological Review 33: 2 305-316. doi:  10.1093/esr/jcx043

Bukodi, Erzsebet; Goldthorpe, John; Waller, Lorraine; Kuha, Jouni (2014) "The mobility problem in Britain: Some new results", British Journal of Sociology  . doi: 10.1111/1468-4446.12096. URL:

Bukodi, Erzsebet; Goldthorpe, John H.; Kuha, Jouni (2017) "The pattern of social fluidity within the British class structure: a topological model", Journal of the Royal Statistical Society (Statistics in Society, Series A)  . doi: 0964–1998/17/180000

Bukodi, E., Goldthorpe, J.H., Joshi, H. and Waller, L. (2017) "Why have relative rates of class mobility become more equal among women in Britain?", British Journal of Sociology  . doi: DOI: 10.1111/1468-4446.12274