Social mobility and education gaps in the four major Anglophone countries: research findings for the Social Mobility Summit, London, May 2012: summary

Document type
Corporate author(s)
Sutton Trust
Sutton Trust
Date of publication
1 May 2012
Education and Skills, Children and Young People
Social welfare
Material type

Download (846KB )

This summary presents the latest international research findings on social mobility, educational achievement, and other key characteristics of the four major Anglophone countries - the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and Australia. Despite being similarly unequal, the four major Anglophone nations have different social mobility levels, with the UK and US significantly less mobile than Canada or Australia. In UK there are profound concerns that the educational performance and life chances of less privileged children continues to lag behind their more advantaged peers. The hope is that looking at international comparisons and the differences between countries will yield some lessons to improve mobility. What makes the comparisons of the four major Anglophone countries so interesting is that they can not be explained away by two major factors suggested by some as the drivers of social mobility. Income inequalities in the countries are by international standards similar (perhaps with the exception of the US). Equally it is safe to assume that the transmission of talent from one generation to the next through genetic inheritance follows broadly similar paths. In short there is something else about Canada and Australia that is allowing greater mobility. The questions for the Social Mobility summit are: are these differences amenable to public policy, and can they be replicated in the UK and the US?