White working class children are held back by low ambitions and a culture of failure, according to Birmingham MP Liam Byrne.
Mr Byrne, minister for the cabinet office, is publishing a report which warns poor white boys have lower ambition than any other group, and are falling further behind in exam results.
The study warned government succeeded in tackling some of the problems of deprived communities, such as poor schools and high crime – but has done little to challenge cultural attitudes which hold children back.
It concluded some communities in deprived neighbourhoods do worse than others, and white working class youngsters are the lowest performers.
Mr Byrne, (Lab, Hodge Hill), was appointed minister for the cabinet office in Gordon Brown’s government in October, with the task of improving the way Whitehall departments work together.
The report, Aspirations and Attainment in Deprived Communities, is based on government research into the expectations and ambitions of young people. Children aged 11 to 14 were asked whether they expected to continue in education after 16.
Youngsters in more wealthy neighbourhoods were likely to be more ambitious, the study found. But there were significant variations between ethnic groups even in deprived areas.
Children from traditional working class families in the West Midlands and North of England, as well as parts of East Anglia and the West Country, tended to have low ambitions.
This was a particular issue in former industrial areas, where communities had relied on traditional manufacturing jobs which had been lost.
But Asian children in deprived areas tended to be more ambitious even if equally poor, the study found.
Mr Byrne will publish a white paper in January setting out proposals for improving social mobility.
The report said: “In some very deprived communities – often ethnically diverse, mobile, urban neighbourhoods – young people tend to have high aspirations for the future. In other areas – often traditional working class communities in ex-industrial areas – low aspirations may be preventing young people from achieving their potential.”