In Focus: Intergenerational Wealth  

What the great wealth transfer means for social mobility

What the great wealth transfer means for social mobility
 Photo by Christina Morillo via Pexels

Meritocracy in Britain is a myth.

Despite our wish that education would act as the great leveller between more wealthy and poor children, a Sutton Trust study indicates that is not the case.

Instead, as the education system aims to equalise opportunities, the education trust's study found the wealthier classes are once again finding new ways to gain an advantage through postgraduate qualifications, exclusive internships and elite undergraduate degrees. 

It is wealth that sets the elite apart, and the social and cultural benefits that come with it. It is known that the great wealth transfer is beginning to take place, disadvantaging low earners, ensuring that children will never start from the same place. 

This has never been more clear than in my final year of university, where those with wealthier families who have more established professional networks have secured internships and work experience through connections, or seem to have a better idea of what they want to do because they have family members in similar professional fields. 

Particularly in journalism, it can be so hard to get your first professional media internship that the door is largely shut to working-class students who do not have the connections, do not live in London or cannot work for free. 

Sutton Trust's study confirmed that your success in life has more to do with your background than your hard work and grades, showing that virtually every key profession is dominated by privately educated pupils snaffling the senior jobs. 

Analysing the educational background of 5,000 people in top jobs, it found that these influential people were five times more likely to be privately educated than the average population despite the fact that only 7 percent of Britons are privately educated. 

Some 65 per cent of senior judges, 57 per cent of the House of Lords, 61 per cent of doctors, 52 per cent of Foreign Office diplomats and 43 per cent of the 100 most influential news editors and broadcasters all hail from a private school background. 

This has only become worse because of the pandemic, as internship and graduate schemes were postponed, limiting opportunities for the disadvantaged who are without connections in the relevant industries, such as financial services. 

The Social Mobility Commission has recently commented that social mobility will become "much harder’’ and faces a "dangerous’’ moment in Britain as the pandemic exacerbates existing issues and risks undoing progress, the head of a government advisory body has warned. 

For instance, Sir Peter Lampl, chairperson of the Sutton Trust, said: "There is a real concern at the widening of the gap in education achievement between low and high-income students which has grown at an alarming rate.’’ 

With such a large proportion of those in influential positions coming from the same backgrounds, we are all the worse off.