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Education and

Social Mobility

Key message

Education provides children with skills that allow them to secure better jobs and pay, increasing their social mobility and providing a pathway out of poverty.

Societies with elevated social mobility are more equal, inclusive and peaceful, with increased economic growth. Education increases the chances that youth will remain socially mobile and not fall back into poverty or pass it onto the next generation.
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  • Education is a strong predictor and driver of social mobility. In Tanzania, workers with primary education were 20% less likely to be poor, and those with secondary education 60% less likely. Contrarily, 82% of workers with less than a primary education lived below the poverty line.
    (Guarcello et al., 2012)
  • Society is more peaceful when there is opportunity for social mobility. When people believe that they can climb the social ladder by virtue of their abilities and efforts, the likelihood of realising social cohesion is greater.
    (D’Addio, 2007)
  • Providing education for all will impact the social mobility of the poorest on a large scale. Securing universal secondary education would lift 420 million people out of poverty, cutting the number of poor globally in half.
    (UNESCO, 2017)
  • Education alleviates income inequality, a key barrier to social mobility. Education equips children with skills that increase employment opportunities and incomes, raising the most marginalised from the bottom of the ladder.
    (UNESCO, 2017)  (Corak, 2013)
  • Education helps mitigate the chances of reduced social mobility. In Indonesia, one additional year of school decreased the probability of falling back into poverty by 25%.
    (EFA GMR, 2013)
  • Higher education is a ticket to increased social mobility. A child born into the poorest quintile who obtains a college degree is one-third less likely to remain in the poorest quintile, and 15% more likely to reach the richest quintile, compared with a child in the poorest quintile who does not obtain a college degree.
    (Haskins et al., 2008)
  • Social mobility is good for economic growth. If social mobility were increased by 10% globally, economic growth would increase by almost 5% over the next decade.
    (World Economic Forum, 2020)
  • Increased investment in quality early childhood education sets a fair playing field and expands social mobility. Increasing the educational effectiveness of early childhood programmes would have a greater impact on increasing social mobility than simply increasing attendance, with benefits that outweigh the costs.
    (Barnett & Belfield, 2006)
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Key talking points
  • Education promotes social mobility by giving people skills that allow them to get better and more secure work.
  • Social mobility creates more peaceful and equal societies.
  • Society mobility supports economic growth.
  • Higher education increases a person’s social mobility and their chances of escaping poverty.
  • Improving the effectiveness of early childhood education boosts social mobility.
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