More 'dropping down social ladder'
More people in Britain are moving down the "social ladder" rather than up it, a study has revealed.
Researchers at Oxford University found that while there has been no decline in social mobility over recent decades, there has been a marked change in the direction of social movement.
The shift is due to changes in class structure, the study found.
It said that between the 1950s and 1980s there was a major expansion of professional and managerial-level employment, with ever more "room at the top".
But this expansion has now slowed, and the children of those who benefited from it through upward mobility now have less favourable prospects than their parents did when they were young.
Associate Professor Erzsebet Bukodi, the study's lead author from the university's Department of Social Policy and Intervention, said: "There is a clear change in the direction of mobility.
"Over the past four decades the experience of upward mobility has become less common, and going down the social ladder has become more common."
She added: "It is not that there has been an increase in the risk of downward mobility but rather an increase in the numbers 'at risk', or the proportion of children starting off in professional and managerial families."
The study looked at more than 20,000 British men and women over four birth cohorts, from 1946, 1958, 1970 and 1980-84.
Comparing the social class of each individual when in their late 20s or 30s with the class of their fathers, they found that around three-quarters of men and women alike ended up in a different class to the one they were born into, and that this proportion was more or less constant across the four cohorts.
The study also found that inequalities in the chances of people of different class origins ending up in different class destinations have not increased, though neither have they been reduced.
Co-author and Oxford sociologist Dr John Goldthorpe said: "Politicians are saying that a new generation of young people don't have the same opportunities for social advancement as their parents, and these results seem to bear that out.
"The trend shows that while social mobility has not stalled, more mobility is going in a downward direction than in the past. The emerging situation is one for which there is little historical precedent and that carries potentially far-reaching political and wider social implications."
:: The study by Oxford University, with the London School of Economics and Political Sciences, is published today in the early online issue of the British Journal of Sociology.