Data for social mobility: improving the collection and availability of data across government

Jude Hillary and Elizabeth Davies on behalf of the Social Mobility Commission

14 December 2022

Research report on the Social Mobility Commission

Data has the power to provide understanding of the causes of poor life outcomes. However, there are often gaps in the data and barriers to sharing and linking data, which limits the scope for potential analyses to shed light on the causes of socio-economic disadvantage and its implications on social mobility. The Social Mobility Commission contracted NFER to identify the current barriers to finding and using socio-economic data, to outline an ambition of what an improved data environment could look like and how it might benefit future policymaking.

Key Findings

  • Due to Universal Credit (UC) transitional arrangements, it is no longer possible to identify the length of time a pupil has been disadvantaged. The DfE should undertake a review to identify how best to collect this information.
  • A national household-level data set based on administrative data would help to better understand socio-economic differences. The government should set up a central programme to work towards developing such a data set which can be used across government and beyond.
  • Improved data could lead to the development of better measures of socio-economic disadvantage which can improve the targeting of support. The ONS, with SMC input, should lead a cross-government project to conduct research into developing improved social background measures.
  • Some important socio-economic factors such as data about a person’s occupation are rarely collected or maintained by any government administrative system. The government should implement current proposals to collect and – critically – share occupational data, as well as reviewing other gaps in administrative data.