London has been labelled an “epicentre of the elites” and a “ghetto of wealth” as social mobility in the U.K. capital plummets to new lows.
“London is essentially off-limits to ambitious people from poorer backgrounds who grow up outside the capital,” says Sir Peter Lampl, founder and chairman of the Sutton Trust, which released research on Wednesday showing how people who move to London from elsewhere in the U.K. are less likely to thrive.
Just one in eight of those born between 1975 and 1981 have “experienced long-range mobility,” a report from the Trust shows. This ratio has steadily worsened since the 1950s according to data analyzed by the London School of Economics (LSE).
The Sutton Trust defines “mobility” as “moving into a higher professional or managerial job from a working-class background.” The aspiring mobile are statistically better off staying where they grew up, rather than moving to the U.K.’s capital, the research shows.
London is often celebrated as the capital of wealth, not just in the U.K. but the world. Last year it was named by global real estate consultancy Knight Frank as the world’s leading wealth center. A month later, the European Banking Authority found the U.K. to be home to Europe’s best-paid bankers and fund managers, with most of them living in London.
Another report earlier this month said London was the seventh most expensive city globally, and the priciest in Europe.
All of this means that people moving to London from other parts of the country struggle to get ahead in their careers. More expensive house prices, living costs and tougher job competition compared to the rest of the U.K. have made mobility especially difficult for millennials aged between between 30 and 36.
“The ‘Dick Whittington’ concept of moving to the capital to move up in the world has dwindled,” says Lampl. Instead, children who are either bought up in the capital or are “economically privileged” have a higher chance to excel.
This keeps wealth within a closed loop as the highest paying jobs go to people who are already settled in the capital, or have the means to attain those jobs through other means, like unpaid internships.
Meanwhile, the top earners themselves are “surrounded by numerous other people like themselves,” says the report, meaning this loop can be reinforced through simple ignorance.
A Wealth Ghetto In The Making
Valerie Edmond, an actor who has featured in the second season of HBO’s Succession, a series about extreme wealth, recalls moving to London from Glasgow in 1998: “It became apparent early on that the algorithm of life in London worked out at double the cost of living for half the quality of life compared to Glasgow, but we were young and daft and talented so we took the odds.”
The London she has seen since making the move has changed rapidly, she says, as other creatives talents have started to stay away. “And that’s a real worry because what you’re left with is a ghetto of financial wealth builders instead of a celebration of culture and art and artists.
“My worry in London is that there will one day very soon only be a version of the truth left. A version created exclusively by wealth.”
I write about the vast fortunes of Europe’s wealthy amidst the continent’s political ups and downs. I cover where their money ends up: The charities and philanthropic endeavours of the rich; the music and arts they support; the sports clubs and hobbies they accumulate. Having previously advised governments, companies and charities on the behaviours of the wealthy, I bring a unique perspective of this hidden and curious world. You can follow me on twitter @ollieawilliams or email me at ow [at] oliverwilliams.me
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