Unexceptional children with rich parents are more likely to earn a big salary when they grow up than children who are bright but poor, according to a study by the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission.
On average, affluent children with little academic ability are 35 per cent more likely to be paid a large wage in middle age than high-achievers from struggling backgrounds.
This, according to the report, is because of the higher level of attention and nurturing wealthy children receive as they are growing up, and also because it means they are more likely to receive a private education and go to university.
They argue that if politicians are to really encourage upward social mobility, greater downward social mobility for the less capable will have to be accepted as an unavoidable consequence of this.
“In a world where ‘room at the top’ is increasing only slowly it is simply not possible to increase any form of upward mobility without a commensurate rise in downward mobility, the report says.
The researchers identified the importance of parents' salary in determining success by examining the cognitive ability scores of 17,000 people born in 1970 at age five, and comparing the results with the amount they earned at age 42.
The trend was most noticeable for girls, among whom receiving a low cognitive score age five but going to private school, increased the chance of falling into the top fifth of earners in middle age by 29 per cent compared to high attainers who attended comprehensive schools.
For boys, low attainers who went to private schools were 18 per cent more likely to become high earners than high bright boys who went to comprehensive schools.