Social Mobility is an issue that comes up time and again in the comments section of Atlantic Review and other blogs. Why? Because fairness and equal opportunities are so important to the US and European self-image. Or in the words of the researcher of the London School of Economics: "The level of intergenerational mobility in society is seen by many as a measure of the extent of equality of economic and social opportunity."
In 2005 they published these "disturbing findings" (HT: Influx):
A careful comparison reveals that the USA and Britain are at the bottom with the lowest social mobility. Norway has the greatest social mobility, followed by Denmark, Sweden and Finland. Germany is around the middle of the two extremes, and Canada was found to be much more mobile than the UK. Comparing surveys of children born in the 1950s and the 1970s, the researchers went on to examine the reason for Britain's low, and declining, mobility. They found that it is in part due to the strong and increasing relationship between family income and educational attainment.
My guess is social mobility declined in many countries in the five years since the publication of the survey. Fortunately, the situation is still better than in North Africa. The lack of social mobility was the key factor in the protests/revolution.