London is “off-limits” to young people from poorer backgrounds and has become an “epicentre of the elites”, a study has suggested.
The idea of going to London to "move up in the world" had become "a myth", a report from the Sutton Trust found.
Two-thirds of people from working class backgrounds never move far from home to seek their fortune, the study said, as it is more difficult for young people to move and work in the capital.
Only those from more privileged backgrounds are able to move into the London and thrive, it added.
Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust, said the research shows that since the 1980s, "London has cemented its position as the epicentre of the elites".
He added: "The Dick Whittington vision of moving to the capital to move up in the world is largely a myth.
"Those that benefit most from opportunities in London were either born there or are the economically privileged from other parts of the country."
The research found that the class-divide issue in the capital is worsened by unpaid internships, which are available only to those who can afford to live and work in London without earning.
Increasing the number of degree-level apprenticeships as an alternative to university was recommended by study authors as a way to combat the rising inequality.
The report also identified that the vast majority of the most socially-mobile people born between 1965 and 1981 had never made a long-distance move, instead choosing to stay closer to home.
“London is essentially off-limits to ambitious people from poorer backgrounds who grow up outside the capital,” said Sir Peter.
“That means that boosting London is not going to have much impact on making things fairer for anyone other than those already living there.
“In spite of the dominance of London, over two thirds of the socially mobile have never made a long-term move. It’s crucial that the new Conservative government implements its policy of creating more opportunities across the country so that talented people can benefit from them wherever they live."