Relative income mobility
UK data on the link between parents’ and children’s income over time.
Summary main findings
The link between parents’ and children's incomes got stronger between 1991 and 2004, and has remained at a similar level since.
The link is lower when the respondents’ income is measured during their 20s. It increases in their 30s and 40s, before going down again at age 50.
|Year||Estimate||95% confidence interval|
|2009 to 2016||0.27||0.22–0.32|
|1975 to 1978||0.36||0.14–0.57|
- Study period 1975 to 1978 – Atkinson and others (1981), based on a follow up of the 1950 social survey of York.
- Study period 1991 to 2004 – Blanden and Machin (2008), based on National Child Development Study and Birth Cohort Study 1970.
- Study period 2009 to 2016 – Rohenkohl (2019), based on linked British Household Panel Study and UK Household Longitudinal Study (UKHLS) data.
- Study period 2020 – Calculations based on the UKHLS 2009 and 2020.
1975 to 2020
What the data measures
The data shows the link between parents’ and children’s incomes at different ages, over time.
Things you need to know
The 1975 to 1978 study measured the weekly earnings of fathers and sons. The age of the sons was not specified.
The 1991 study measured parents’ household income and their children’s earnings at 33 years old.
The 2004 study measured parents’ household income and their children’s earnings at 34 years old.
The 2009 to 2016 study measured parents’ gross household income and their children’s gross household income at 25 years of age or older.
The 2020 study measured parent’s gross household income and their children’s gross personal income at 25 years of age or older.
There are differences between the data and methodology of the different studies, which makes comparisons between them difficult. The 1991 and 2004 studies are closest in methodology and safest to compare. The estimates are likely to be underestimates of the likely strength of the link between parents’ and children’s income.
The "95% confidence interval" column shows 95% confidence intervals. These intervals show where we expect the true value from a population to be 95% of the time. For example, a confidence interval with the range of values from 5 to 10 implies that there is a 95% chance that the true population value is between 5 and 10, and a 5% chance that it is outside of this range. The narrower the confidence interval or range, the more precise the estimate. Read more about confidence intervals
Type of data
Read more in State of the Nation 2023 on GOV.UK.
This file contains the following variables:
- 95% confidence interval