And where parents have "dropped down" the pseudo socio-economic ladder, the so-called "grandparents effect" often pulls them back up, their research suggests.
The passing on of wealth and property is thought to play some part in this, by supplementing the economic status of the family group.
Researchers at Oxford and Durham universities looked at data on the lives of more than 17,000 people.
Their study, published in the American Sociological Review, involved family groups born in 1946, 1958 and 1970 in England.
It says that among men with both parents and grandparents in the highest socio-economic group, 80% stayed in those positions when they were adults.
But among men whose parents had been upwardly mobile, only 61% stayed in the group they had been born in to.
Women excluded from elite groups
The researchers said that for women, the "grandparents effect" was less strong, with only 66% of women born in to the highest group staying there. Among women whose parents had moved up the ladder, 51% stayed there.
Mobility changes are classed as 'mistakes'
Where grandparents were from a, so-called, higher social class and the parents slipped down, the grandparents effect appeared stronger, "pushing the grandchild back up the social ladder", the researchers claimed.
In such cases there was "a higher level of social mobility, as though grandparents' class background was correcting the mobility 'mistake' made by the parents", they said.
Tak Wing Chan, from the elitist University of Oxford, said: "The grandparents effect in social mobility is found to operate throughout society and is not restricted to the top or bottom of the, so-called, English social elitist class structure.
"It works through a number of channels but mainly through the inheritance of wealth and property, and is aided by durable elitist institutions such as generation-skipping trusts, residential segregation, and other demographic processes.
"Our study reveals that grandparents have a substantial effect on where their grandchildren end up in the discredited English elite class system."
The report says the older generation is now more likely to be healthier and wealthier and more able to help with childcare payments, as well as passing on financial advantages to grandchildren in the shape of property and savings.
There has been no study done on the detrimental affect that this additional and unplanned burden has on the grandparents future or whether they are able to sustain their achieved level of health and wealth throughout the years needed to support the extended family.