England & Wales

In pursuit of “cost-effective” social mobility


Social Mobility – A Literature Review was published by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS)

Social Mobility – A Literature Review (pdf) gives an indication of the broader concerns guiding the government’s policy decisions in the context of social mobility – defined as “the ability of individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds to move up in the world, akin to the notion of equality of opportunity”.

Firstly, it states that the government is committed to a relative measure of social mobility, although it acknowledges the political difficulties involved in pursuing this, as it implies downward movement for rich and middle income families.

Secondly, the need for “cost effectiveness” is emphasised, particularly in relation to the fact that “policies to improve the social mobility of individuals in the middle of the distribution rather than the bottom may be more (cost) effective.”

A number of conclusions are drawn. Early intervention is far more effective than later intervention, but to achieve the best results, early intervention must be followed up by later intervention.

The review also considers discussions of the difference between cognitive (IQ, literacy, numeracy) and non-cognitive (teamwork, leadership, self esteem, self awareness) skills, suggesting that the latter are being increasingly highly valued by the labour market. As non-cognitive skills remain far more malleable than cognitive skills, particularly in adolescence and early adulthood, later intervention could therefore focus on these skills.

This post is based on a LGiU members briefing written by Toby Hill. Briefings are available through individual subscriptions and accessible to all officers and elected members of our member authorities. For more information on joining the Local Government Information Unit please follow this link.