Educational inequality: the widening socio-economic gap

Publication type

Journal Article


Publication date

June 1, 2004


In this paper, we consider research on links between higher education and family background, focusing particularly on the experiences of two cohorts of individuals born in 1958 and 1970. The findings point to a rise in educational inequality during the period relevant to these two cohorts. Specifically, links between educational achievement and parental income / social class strengthened during this period. Furthermore, a person’s actual (measured) ability became a poorer predictor of whether they would get a degree than was previously the case. The expansion of higher education in the UK during this period appears to have disproportionately benefited children from richer families rather than the most able. Furthermore, the labour market success or failure of individuals became more closely connected to their parents’ income, revealing a fall in the extent of intergenerational mobility over time.

Published in

Fiscal Studies


Volume: 25 (2):107-128



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