From education to employment

Shocking stats that reveal the true extent of social immobility in the UK

Have you ever wondered how your place of birth could determine your career and path in life?

Using official data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), have combined the latest figures from the UK House Price Index (HPI) and graduate earnings one, three, five and ten years after leaving University, to determine the most and least affordable areas of the UK.

And it’s bad news for those born in the North East – graduates born from this region, no matter which University they attended – will earn on average just £29,200 ten years after leaving University.

While it’s an improvement on the £16,900 they can expect to earn one year after leaving higher education, such a salary means those born in the North East have the least ability to live and work in the different regions of England, just 70% in fact.

Taking monthly mortgage payments and the cost of living into account, single graduates from the North East will on average only have £2,239.98 left over each year as complete disposable income or savings.

Finding a partner to share the costs of living makes life a lot easier, two graduates from the North East can afford to live in 94.89% of England, with average savings totalling a healthy £14,537.93!

At the other end of the spectrum, Graduates born in London can expect to earn the highest salary after leaving University – £35,600 to be exact, ten years after graduating.

While not that much higher than the poorest graduates of the North East, it’s amazing how many more areas of England open up: 84.94% in fact! 

Once again, coupling up has it’s financial advantages. A graduate couple, both born in London can afford to live in 98.30% of England and will have a very healthy £24,839.38 in disposable income to spend or save each year.

The full list of the areas where you can afford to live as a single individual and as a couple are:

Birth Region

Average Salary (10 years after graduation)

Single cost of Living per month (Incl. Mortgage)*

Can afford to live in % of England [Single]

Can afford to live in % of England [Couple]

North East





North West





Yorkshire and the Humber





East Midlands





West Midlands





South West





East of England





South East










*Cost of living data for couples has not been included in the table above, but was used as part of the calculations for the Can afford to live in% of England [Couple] column. The cost was 2.4 times higher.

So what are the cheapest areas for graduates to live?

Based on the lowest graduate earnings (North East), the number one place to live in order to maximise the amount of disposable income each month and year is Burnley! Single graduates living in this part of England will have a spare £13,113.68 each year – that’s over £1,092.81 per month!

The top five areas for singles to maximise their disposable income/savings can be found below.

Table of Graduate Disposable Income/Savings – Singles


House Price

Disposable Income (month)

Disposable Income (Annual)





















With regards to the cheapest areas for couples to live, due to differences in the cost of living, Hartlepool comes top. Couples on the lowest salary (£29,200 each) living in this part of England will have a disposable income of £27,651.68 per annum. That’s over £2,304.31 per month!

The top five areas for couples to maximise their disposable income are below.

Table of Graduate Disposable Income/Savings – Couples


House Price

Disposable Income (month)

Disposable Income (Annual)

Redcar and Cleveland





















And finally, the areas of the UK that are completely off limits for graduates.

Again, the calculations for this have been based on the lowest earning region of the UK**, that being the North East.

If you would like to be in £54,704 debt per year, head to the luxury London borough of Kensington and Chelsea. The situation improves slightly if you couple up – you’re only £44,472 in debt per year – but with average house prices of £1,380,000 and monthly mortgage payments of £5,778.66 (after a 20% deposit), it’s clear this part of England is out of reach for everyone except the super rich.


House Price

Disposable Income (month)

Disposable Income (Annual)

Kensington And Chelsea




City of Westminster








City of London




Hammersmith and Fulham




Looking at the top 5 most expensive areas of England and London (unsurprisingly) dominates. In fact looking at the top 25 most expensive areas and boroughs of London account for 68% (17/25) – completely unsustainable for the future development of the city.

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