Do wealthy families create a 'glass floor' by hoarding opportunities for their children?
This was the conclusion of the latest report from the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission which was produced by Dr Abigail Mcknight from the LSE. It was based on data from the British Cohort study which analyses the socioeconomic position of 17,000 individuals born in 1970. The report found evidence that children from wealthier middle-class families were more likely to be protected from downward social mobility due to the ability of their parents to secure greater educational opportunities and to use informal networking to improve labour market prospects.
What is the glass floor?
- Many studies on social class concentrate on the concept of social mobility to consider how people rise up the social ladder. A 2011 Department for Business, Innovation and Skills literature review highlighted the difficulty of defining what constitutes social mobility and lists key reports. This was echoed in 2012 in a paper by John Goldthorpe which referred to a confusion and missunderstanding of social mobility in Britain.
- A different approach is to consider how certain groups are able to prevent moving downwards. In 1998 Charles Tilly coined the term 'opportunity hoarding' to consider historically how social privilege is maintained down generations. A good discussion of this can be found on the Understanding Society Blog
- in 2013, Reeves used data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth to consider how in the USA those from affluent backgrounds are prevented from falling down the social ladder by a 'glass floor'.
- The Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission monitors the progress of the UK government in improving social mobility. Its website provides free access to reports on its nature and extent in Britain today
- The Sutton Trust regularly conducts research on privilege and entry into the professions
- Stratification and Culture Network is an academic collective which considers the importance of cultural processes in the reproduction of class.
- ESRC funds research projects into social inequality many of which cover social stratification. It supported the famous 1961-62 study of affluent workers in Luton which examined changes in working-class identity in industrial Britain. This and other large-scale data sets can be downloaded from the UK Data Archive
- LSE staff and students can also locate journal articles
on this topic using Socindex
IBSS; ISI Web of Science