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Book Review: Social Mobility and its Enemies by Lee Elliot Major and Stephen Machin

September 2019
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Tags: cep; social mobility and its enemies; book review; lee elliot major; stephen machin

In Social Mobility and its Enemies, Lee Elliot Major and Stephen Machin offer a thought-provoking assessment of the state of social mobility in Britain. In the context of much social and political change and rising levels of inequality in Britain, this book is able to dispel the myth of meritocracy and suggest evidence-informed avenues for achieving a fairer society for all, writes Ross Goldstone.

Have you ever wondered why those at the top tend to come from the same backgrounds? Or how severe the social mobility crisis in Britain really is—and what has, and continues to, cause it? If so, then Lee Elliot Major and Stephen Machin’s recent contribution to the Pelican Books series, Social Mobility and its Enemies, is a must-read. Through critically engaging with rigorous and reputable research in this area, the book provides a thought-provoking assessment of the state of social mobility in Britain. In so doing, the authors spell out what might be done to reverse the trend of low social mobility which has accelerated over decades, so that a fairer society, with opportunities for all to achieve social mobility, can be created. The book comes at a time of growing economic and social inequality in Britain that has ushered in a social mobility crisis and thus holds contemporary policy relevance. Considering the part played by stagnant opportunities for significant proportions of the population in current political events, such as the UK EU referendum result (71), also enables the book to contribute to existing debates over how to move forward in post-Brexit Britain.