More than half of parents shun their nearest school to send children almost two miles to lessons every day, according to official figures.
Pupils from middle-class families are more likely to commute long distances as parents go to extreme lengths to find the best secondary schools.
The exodus means the state education system is more "segregated" than when Labour first came to power as deprived children are concentrated in a small number of schools, said a Government report.
The best schools - including grammar and faith schools - are less likely to reflect their local communities than comprehensives, said the study by the Department for Children, Schools and Families.
And despite Government opposition to grammar schools, more English schoolchildren now attend selective state schools than 1997.
The conclusions will raise fresh concerns that Britain has become more divided along class lines over the last 10 years.
This week, Gordon Brown insisted Margaret Thatcher was to blame for Britain's low rates of social mobility - saying she had created a lost generation by "denying many children the chance to progress".
But a separate survey published today by the Sutton Trust, an education charity, suggested the country was more divided than ever.
Three-quarters of adults said the gap between rich and poor was too wide - while 69 per cent insisted children had less chance of climbing the social ladder than a generation ago.
Dr Lee Elliot Major, the charity's director of research, said: "Opportunities in this country remain heavily determined by parental background. A wide range of research places Britain at or near the bottom of the league table of mobility, particularly in terms of the link between children's educational achievement and parental income. These findings suggest unease among the public about life opportunities in modern Britain."
Data published by the Government yesterday underlined how the chances of getting into the best state schools in England remain inexplicably linked to social class.