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The Quest for More and More Education: Implications for Social Mobility

  • Joanne Lindley
  • Stephen Machin

In this paper, we discuss the quest for more and more education and its implications for social mobility. We document very rapid educational upgrading in Britain over the last thirty years or so and show that this rise has featured faster increases in education acquisition by people from relatively rich family backgrounds. At the same time, wage differentials for the more educated have risen. Putting these two together (more education for people from richer backgrounds and an increase in the payoff to this education) implies increasing within generation inequality and, by reinforcing already existent inequalities from the previous generation, this has hindered social mobility. We also highlight three important aspects that to date have not been well integrated into the social mobility literature: the acquisition of postgraduate qualifications; gender differences; and the poor education performance of men at the lower end of the education distribution.

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Article provided by Institute for Fiscal Studies in its journal Fiscal Studies.

Volume (Year): 33 (2012)
Issue (Month): 2 (06)
Pages: 265-286

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Handle: RePEc:ifs:fistud:v:33:y:2012:i:2:p:265-286
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  1. Philippe Belley & Lance Lochner, 2007. "The Changing Role of Family Income and Ability in Determining Educational Achievement," NBER Working Papers 13527, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Ian Walker & Yu Zhu, 2008. "The College Wage Premium and the Expansion of Higher Education in the UK," Working Papers 200817, Geary Institute, University College Dublin.
  3. Ermisch, John & Nicoletti, Cheti, 2005. "Intergenerational earnings mobility: changes across cohorts in Britain," ISER Working Paper Series 2005-19, Institute for Social and Economic Research.
  4. Jo Blanden & Stephen Machin, 2004. "Educational inequality and the expansion of UK higher education," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 17497, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  5. Paul Gregg & Lindsey Macmillan, 2009. "Family Income and Education in the Next Generation: Exploring income gradients in education for current cohorts of youth," The Centre for Market and Public Organisation 09/223, Department of Economics, University of Bristol, UK.
  6. Jo Blanden & Paul Gregg & Lindsey Macmillan, 2011. "Intergenerational Persistence in Income and Social Class: The Impact of Within-Group Inequality," The Centre for Market and Public Organisation 11/277, Department of Economics, University of Bristol, UK.
  7. Blanden, Jo & Gregg, Paul & Macmillan, Lindsey, 2007. "Accounting for Intergenerational Income Persistence: Noncognitive Skills, Ability and Education," IZA Discussion Papers 2554, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  8. Martha J. Bailey & Susan M. Dynarski, 2011. "Gains and Gaps: Changing Inequality in U.S. College Entry and Completion," NBER Working Papers 17633, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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