Social mobility and ethnicity

Think tank: Institute for Fiscal Studies

Author(s): Lucinda Platt; Carolina V. Zuccotti

June 29, 2021

This report from UK think tank the IFS looks at the complexities involved in understanding ethnic inequalities.

Today’s second-generation ethnic minority adults, who were born and brought up in the UK, did much better in the education system than the white majority despite much less advantaged economic backgrounds. This was true, though differentially so, for all the main minority groups. It contrasts with the experience of most ethnic minorities in other European countries. This educational success does not, however, translate fully into success in the labour market. After leaving education, they are less likely to be employed, and some ethnic groups are less likely to reach managerial/professional occupations, than the white majority. A new report published as part of the IFS Deaton Review of Inequalities, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, illustrates the complexities involved in understanding ethnic inequalities. One can’t simply conclude that the labour market deficits people from ethnic minorities face are explained by their less advantaged family backgrounds. Those same backgrounds do not hold them back in the education system. Nor do we have a full understanding of why they are so successful educationally.