London has become the “epicentre of the elites” in the UK, making it “off limits” for young people from poorer backgrounds, says a social mobility charity.
The Sutton Trust says the high cost of housing has become a social barrier.
A report, using London School of Economics research, says social mobility is easier outside the capital.
Trust founder, Sir Peter Lampl, said the idea of going to London to “move up in the world” had become “a myth”.
The report says it is increasingly difficult for young people to move to London to get the high-paying jobs concentrated in the capital.
“Those that benefit most from opportunities in London were either born there or are the economically privileged from other parts of the country,” said Sir Peter.
“London is essentially off-limits to ambitious people from poorer backgrounds who grow up outside the capital.”
This is exacerbated by practices such as unpaid internships, which are available only to those who can afford to live and work in London without earning.
The report, Elites in the UK: Pulling Away? highlights the rise of the ultra-rich in London in recent decades, with their wealth often deriving from finance and banking.
The study warns of a lack of self-awareness among this wealthy elite, who would back “meritocratic beliefs” and not see themselves as being particularly advantaged.
They do not see themselves as “especially fortunate” because they are “surrounded by numerous other people like themselves”, says the study.
But the report says there has been more social mobility outside London – among those who have stayed near to their home towns.
Two-thirds of the most socially mobile, who had climbed the ladder from deprived backgrounds into high-status professions, were living near to their home towns.
While those born into wealthier families were more likely to have moved elsewhere – such as to London – those who had risen from a poorer start in life, were more likely to have remained near to home.