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July 2015
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Monthly Archives: July 2015

Downward mobility, opportunity hoarding and the ‘glass floor’: Latest SMCP Commission Report

Posted by: Alex Linley, CEO, Capp


The Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission just released their latest report – ‘Downward mobility, opportunity hoarding and the ‘glass floor” –


This report examines the relationships between family background, childhood cognitive skills and adult success in the labour market, using a sample of several thousand people from the British Birth Cohort Study 1970, who have been tracked since their births over the course of a single week in 1970, and were aged 42 at the time of the latest data collection.


The study set out to compare and contrast the outcomes and trajectories of distinct groups on a two-by-two matrix within the Birth Cohort Study 1970. First, participants were classified as high attainers or low attainers in relation to labour market success, and second, they were classified as coming from high or low socioeconomic and educational backgrounds. The focus of the research was to understand how people achieved high attainer status in their labour market outcomes, and if this was different for people from low or high socioeconomic backgrounds respectively.


The findings were clear and consistent. People from lower socioeconomic backgrounds were less likely to achieve higher labour market outcomes (that is, high level jobs) than people from higher socioeconomic backgrounds, even when controlling for their childhood cognitive ability. This is believed to be related to the wider network of factors that influence labour market success, so-called ‘signalling’ effects that have been identified by economists, and include confidence, self-presentation and conduct in social settings.


The research indicated that having better-educated parents, who were in higher level jobs themselves, and could therefore provide more resources, as well as more access to opportunities, served to protect their less able children and young people from higher socioeconomic backgrounds (so-called ‘opportunity hoarding’). As a result, whether deliberately intended or otherwise, this also served to restrict access to more able children and young people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, who did not have access to these resources (so-called ‘glass floor’ effects).


The SMCPC report calls for changes in recruitment processes to address these biases, something which Capp has been delivering consistently through our work in strengths-based recruitment for a number of years. Strengths-based recruitment assesses a person’s innate ability and potential, depending far less on their ability to give examples that can only have been honed through their access to opportunity to that point (e.g., a typical competency question such as, “Tell me about a time when you have held a position of responsibility?”)


This levelling of the playing field, providing access to opportunity for all, enabling talent, drive and meritocracy, rather than rewarding privilege and connection, is also core to Jobmi, the job matching place. Jobmi provides free access to online assessments, developmental feedback and practice tests, while also enabling people from all backgrounds to complete assessments and be matched to job opportunities on the basis of the profile that Jobmi builds up about them. The Jobmi approach, using this insightful assessment of talent and ability, overcomes the biases inherent in ‘signalling’ effects, and provides more equal access to opportunity for all.


With these improvements in talent assessment, the measurement of potential, and job matching technology, it truly is possible to do a lot more that addresses the challenges, and also the opportunities, of promoting and enabling greater social mobility across Britain. In doing so, we benefit individuals, the economy and society as a whole.



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