Why is it getting harder to secure a job that matches our qualifications, buy a home of our own and achieve financial stability?
Underprivileged people have always faced barriers, but people from middle-income families are increasingly more likely to slide down the social scale than climb up.
Duncan Exley, former Director of the Equality Trust, draws on expert research and real life experiences – including from an actor, a politician, a billionaire entrepreneur and a surgeon – to issue a wake-up call to break through segregated opportunity. He offers a manifesto to reboot our prospects and benefit all.
“ A cogent and penetrating examination of the myths and realities behind social mobility and aspiration … as well as a compelling personal account of what those terms actually mean in terms of lives lived, ambitions achieved and the barriers to real equality that exist in modern Britain” Stuart Maconie, broadcaster and author of Pies and Prejudice
"A passionate and pertinent contribution to a growing literature on social mobility in an age of inequality." Lynsey Hanley
"An accessible and illuminating book that shines a light on the processes which lock many hard-working people out of prosperity in Britain." James Bloodworth, author of Hired and The Myth of Meritocracy
"Uniquely looks at the journeys of diverse group of people’s lives who’ve experienced social mobility and then asks how they can translate into practical steps that government, businesses and communities can take to deliver the sea-change on social mobility Britain so clearly needs. A fascinating challenge to a political system that too often prefers grand ideas and debate over practical change and action.” Justine Greening, Conservative MP for Putney and former Secretary of State for Education
"A fresh and original look at social mobility using powerful personal narratives that vividly bring to life the human scale of social mobility." Diane Reay, University of Cambridge
"A detailed, often painful anatomy of a crisis. Exley's blend of exhaustive research and empathetic human narrative creates a devastating composite picture of how, at every stage of our lives, through every institution we encounter, wealth and privilege all too often shape experience and opportunity. A book that should not only be read, but urgently acted upon." Sam Byers, author of Perfidious Albion
"Exley has managed in this book to take a subject that is all too often given to dry, earnest analysis and more than a little hand-wringing and made it entirely accessible. It is anchored in robust research, but its the humanity, storytelling, and acute observations he brings to the subject of social mobility that makes this a stand-out read." Mary O'Hara, The Guardian and author of The Shame Game.
"Every politician pretends to aspire to a society where aspiration and talent are rewarded regardless of background - but few take the hard equalising steps towards making that happen. Here's a book full of personal stories and heart-breaking facts showing how far we are from every child starting out with an equal chance. But read Duncan Exley for the remedies that could give us hope." Polly Toynbee, The Guardian
Duncan Exley is the former Director of the Equality Trust, a charity founded by the authors of The Spirit Level (Penguin, second edition 2010) to address economic inequality in the UK. A former student of economic and social history, he has had a long career in leading campaigning organisations and projects that use research to change government policy and corporate practice.
Despite being the son of a shop assistant and a ‘pit electrician’, Duncan has been described as part of ‘the establishment’. He tweets as @Duncan_Exley.
Introduction: What the hell am I doing here?;
The Great Meritocracy: How socially mobile is the UK?;
Do life-chances begin at birth?;
Choosing a path;
Higher education (formal and informal);
Getting a job;
Work versus wealth;
Does social mobility matter?;