Children who grow up in poor families have a much greater chance of doing well in life if they live in southern England, according to a report.
They are likely to earn double the income of their impoverished counterparts brought up in towns and cities across the North, it said.
The report from the Social Mobility Commission, which advises the Government, put the blame for the lesser chances of Northern children on the education system.
Only around a third of the gap in earnings between children who grew up poor in the North and in the South is a result of other factors such as family background or a lack of local jobs, it said.
The report authors wrote: ‘Where you grow up matters. In areas with the highest social mobility, disadvantaged individuals aged around 28 earn more than twice as much as their counterparts in areas of lowest mobility, over £20,000 compared with under £10,000.
Children who grow up in poor families in southern England are likely to earn double the income of their impoverished counterparts brought up in towns and cities across the North
‘Put simply, two equally disadvantaged sons with the same family background will earn very different amounts as adults, based simply on where they grew up.’
The study, published last night, found that the council area with the worst chances for poor children was Chiltern, the district around Amersham in Buckinghamshire.
This might seem surprising because Buckinghamshire is often associated with affluent commuter towns.
But the findings were based on the lives of only 52 men, whereas in most areas it was in the hundreds. And Chiltern was one of only two South East districts named in the 24 with the lowest chances for a poor child.
The study looked at income and tax records for boys born between 1986 and 1988 in more than 300 areas whose families were counted as poor because they qualified for free school meals. It followed them up to the age of 28.
Average earnings for boys in Chiltern were £6,900, but the next two least socially mobile council areas were both in the North – Bradford, where average earnings were £9,500, and Hyndburn in Lancashire, where they were £9,600.
This contrasted with average earnings of £21,200 in Forest Heath (West Suffolk) and £19,700 in West Oxfordshire.
None of the worst districts were in London, and only one was in the East of England.
Average earnings for boys whose families were counted as poor in Bradford, West Yorkshire were £9,500. Pictured: Bradford city centre
By contrast, the 15 best districts for social mobility included only one in northern England – the Eden district, centred on Penrith in Cumbria.
Of the others among the 15, five were in the East of England, three in the South East, two in London, two in the South West, and two in the East Midlands.
The study, by researchers from the Institute for Fiscal Studies and University College London, added: ‘Individuals from a disadvantaged background perform less well at school and are less likely to attend university than those from a wealthier background in the same area.’
The researchers did not look at the income of poor girls.