In England, where you grow up dictates what you earn, study finds

by Amber Milne | @hiyaimamber | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Tuesday, 15 September 2020 17:01 GMT

People walk past a branch of Jobcentre Plus, a government run employment support and benefits agency, as the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Hackney, London, Britain, August 6, 2020. REUTERS/John Sibley

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Those who grew up in well-off areas on average now earn more than twice as much as those from most deprived places

By Amber Milne

LONDON, Sept 15 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Young men who grew up in affluent areas of England earn twice as much as those from poorer areas, according to a major study released on Tuesday, as concerns rise about the economic impact of COVID-19 on already deprived parts of the country.

The study by Britain's Social Mobility Commission purports to be the first to prove that where you grow up in England dictates what you earn.

Using newly available data, researchers tracked all young men who were born between 1986 and 1988 and went to state schools, finding those in areas with the highest social mobility now earn more than twice those in areas of lowest mobility.

"Put simply, two equally disadvantaged sons with the same family background will earn very different amounts as adults, based simply on where they grew up," said the report, by Britain's Social Mobility Commission.

"This extends to an even wider pay gap between disadvantaged sons and those from more affluent families, which also varies widely across the country."

Education was found to be the biggest factor deciding future earnings, with those from poorer neighbourhoods attending lower performing schools and less likely to go to university.

The study only looked at men's earnings because young women from disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to work part time and public records do not distinguish between full-time and part-time earnings.

COVID-19 will further exacerbate inequality, said the report's authors, urging the government to act urgently to mitigate its impact in areas already struggling with a shortage of jobs.

It was released as new unemployment data showed nearly 700,000 jobs were lost during the pandemic in Britain, with young people particularly hard hit.

The report's author Laura van der Erve said the trend could be seen in areas all across England, bucking the popular perception of a wealthy south and a deprived north.

"What you find is that it is not just a north versus south story," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"It's not just a whole region that's doing very badly, but growing up slightly further away in a neighbouring area might have a big impact on your life chances," said van der Erve, a research economist at the Institute for Fiscal Studies in London.

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(Reporting by Amber Milne; Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit

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