Think tank in child poverty warning
Child poverty is likely to increase because the rich are increasingly marrying within their own ranks, a think-tank warned.
Only 16% of women now in their early 30s are married into a higher social class, less than half the 38% among those born in 1958 who did so, a study by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) found.
It said the trend was a serious concern because the children of well-off couples got more time and money devoted to them - risking a decline in social mobility and increased hardship at the bottom.
IPPR director Nick Pearce said: "While governments have no business telling people who to marry, and have plenty of bigger economic inequalities to aim at, it is important for policymakers to understand these trends if they are to have a full understanding of what's driving the stagnation in social mobility."
The study was based on analysis of Understanding Society (2009/10), the British Cohort Study and the National Child Development Study by the think-tank as part of a wider look at "women's aspirations and expectations across generations". It also found a significant increase in the number of women marrying men seven or more years older than them which has almost doubled over the period to one in five.
According to the IPPR analysis, in 1991 around two in five 33-year-old married women (39%) had husbands from the same social class - based on occupation - but almost as many (38%) had "married up".
By the time the same questions were asked of women born in 1970, that gap had grown to 45% against 32% - though the number married to someone of a lower standing had remained around the same at 23%.
In the most recent survey, among those born between 1976 and 1981, a clear majority (56%) had stuck to their own social sphere in choosing a partner, with only 16% choosing a man from a higher class. There was, however, an increase in those "marrying down", which stood at 28%.
The IPPR suggested the move towards picking a life partner similar to yourself - known among academics as "assortative mating" - could partly be down to changes in the workplace. One factor was the decline of young women in clerical jobs in the 1950s and 1960s "marrying the boss", it suggested.
The IPPR said its conclusions were supported by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which has suggested that 11% of the rise in inequality since the mid-1980s can be accounted for by assortative mating.