Over the course of the past 20 years, welfare states are said to have evolved towards a ‘social investment’ model of welfare – characterized by a focus on equality of opportunity and upward social mobility along with a greater emphasis on individual responsibility. In view of these policy changes, it is necessary to assess whether traditional stratification cleavages (still) affect the occurrence of ‘social risks’. Using data from the 2005 EU-SILC intergenerational module, we consider the impact of social class (of origin) on a relevant selection of risks: unemployment, ill-health, living in a jobless household, single parenthood and low-paid employment. The results provide clear evidence of a substantial influence of social class. On this basis, we argue that social investment strategies need to take stock of the persistence of traditional stratification cleavages. Otherwise, a one-sided approach may create new forms of exclusion and give way to ‘Matthew effects’.