Promoting social mobility through the Internet

Policymakers often worry that the Internet creates a small number of winners and too many losers in the economy. At the same time, we have heard stories about the rise of self-employment and the creation of fast-growing companies in garages (like Google). In order to investigate the Internet’s impact on social mobility and equality, we asked British economist and former Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Kitty Ussher, to investigate.

Her new research, published this month, analyzed government data and Google Apps customers, and reached a surprising conclusion. Rather than worsening inequality, the Internet is improving the lot of economically vulnerable people across the United Kingdom. One example: the report shows that parents of young children are more likely to engage in online selling from home than singles. In other words, the Internet allow potentially vulnerable families convenient alternatives to traditional employment.

Interestingly, Internet success no longer requires PhDs. Nearly half of Google Apps customers surveyed whose highest qualification is a GSCE high school diploma, secured incomes of over £45,000. Another 20 percent earned between £30,000 and £45,000. These people achieved above average incomes through online selling, impossible before the Internet.

Success on the Internet can be achieved anywhere, with businesses from more remote parts of the UK taking advantage. As Ms Ussher concludes, “It is not just the uber-professional elite that is exploiting the commercial opportunities that the Internet has to offer.”

The Internet is a leveler. It offers new options to make a living regardless of one’s background or education. This new opportunity is paying dividends for families across the UK.