Author Lauren Howells

 The income gap between men who have richer parents and those who have less wealthy parents is widening, a new working paper published by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has revealed. 

According to the study, which explored the “importance of family background for household income”, 42-year-old employed men whose parents were in the richest fifth of households, earned on average 88% more in 2012 than men who were from the poorest families. However, in the year 2000, the same demographic of men from richer backgrounds earned, on average, only 47% more than their counterparts from poorer families.

Higher rates of marriage and lower rates of relationship breakdown for those from richer backgrounds 

The study discovered that whilst only 1 in 7 42-year-old men from the better-off families did not live with a partner in 2012, the same was true for over 1 in 3 men of the same age from the less-well-off backgrounds.

Additionally, while 5% of men from high-income backgrounds were found to be divorced, this more than doubled for those men from poorer backgrounds, with 11% of them being divorced. The data also revealed that men from low-income backgrounds were almost twice as likely to have never been married (36% compared to 20% of men from higher-income backgrounds). 

Again, this is a marked difference compared to men born 12 years earlier, where there was “less of a difference in partnership status by family background”, thus highlighting the problem of the income gap.  

Income Gap and Reduced social mobility 

This report will provide more evidence to those who are concerned about reduced social mobility in the UK.

Alison Park, Director of CLOSER, said:

“This new research highlights the role of longitudinal studies in helping us understand how society is changing from generation to generation. It shows how existing differences in the earnings of men from richer and poorer backgrounds are exacerbated by a new divide, with poorer men in their early 40s being less likely than those from wealthier backgrounds to be living with a partner.”

Men from poorer backgrounds twice as likely to be out of work 

The Income Gap

The study also revealed that men from poorer backgrounds were twice as likely to be out of work than their counterparts from richer backgrounds, further highlighting the income gap, with more than 15% of men from the poorest fifth of households out of work at age 42, compared to 7% of men who were brought up in the richest fifth of households.  

Those from a poorer background were also found to be more likely to receive disability benefits. 

Chris Belfield, a research economist at IFS and an author of the paper, said:

“Focusing solely on the earnings of men in work understates the importance of family background in determining living standards. As well as having higher earnings, those from richer families are more likely to be in work, more likely to have a partner and more likely to have a higher-earning partner than those from less well-off backgrounds. And all these inequalities have been widening over time.”