Alberto Alesina, Stefanie Stantcheva, Edoardo Teso, 21 June 2017

Americans are generally thought to view the economic system as fair and see wealth as a reward for ability and effort, while Europeans tend to believe that the economic system is unfair, and that wealth is the result of circumstances. This column tests this using new evidence on beliefs about intergenerational mobility in four European countries and the US, and confirms that Europeans do indeed tend to be overly pessimistic about moving up the social ladder compared to reality, while Americans are overly optimistic. These perceptions have important implications for how redistribution and equal opportunity policies will be received.

Assaf Razin, 01 April 2017

Israel has received almost one million immigrants from the former Soviet Union, close to 19% of its established population. The extraordinary exodus of Soviet Jews to Israel in the 1990s is relevant to the current debate about globalisation. This column argues that the wave of immigration was distinctive for its large high-skilled cohort and its quick integration into the domestic labour market. Soviet-Jew immigration raised productivity, underpinned technological prowess, and had a large impact on income inequality and redistribution in Israel’s welfare state.

James Heckman, 06 March 2017

Intergenerational mobility in the US is relatively low. In this video, James Heckman presents a study promoting social mobility of both parents and children. This video was recorded at the American Economic Association in Chicago in January 2017.

Rasmus Landersø, James Heckman, 12 September 2016

The Scandinavian model of social welfare is often contrasted favourably with the US model in terms of promoting social mobility across generations. This column investigates the accuracy of these claims, focusing on the case of Denmark. Denmark invests heavily in child development, but then undoes the beneficial effects by providing weak labour market incentives for its children to attend school compared to the US. This helps explain why the influence of family background on educational attainment is similar in the two countries.

Guglielmo Barone, Sauro Mocetti, 17 May 2016

Societies characterised by a high transmission of socioeconomic status across generations are not only more likely to be perceived as ‘unfair’, they may also be less efficient as they waste the skills of those coming from disadvantaged backgrounds. Existing evidence suggests that the related earnings advantages disappear after several generations. This column challenges this view by comparing tax records for family dynasties (identified by surname) in Florence, Italy in 1427 and 2011. The top earners among the current taxpayers were found to have already been at the top of the socioeconomic ladder six centuries ago. This persistence is identified despite the huge political, demographic, and economic upheavals that occurred between the two dates. 

Maia Güell, Giovanni Pica, Michele Pellizzari, José Rodríguez Mora, 22 March 2015

We apply a novel measure of intergenerational mobility (IM) developed by Güell, Rodríguez Mora, and Telmer (2014) to a rich combination of Italian data allowing us to produce comparable measures of IM of income for 103 Italian provinces. We then exploit the large heterogeneity across Italian provinces in terms of economic and social outcomes to explore how IM correlates with a variety of outcomes. We find that (i) higher IM is positively associated with a variety of “good” economic outcomes, such as higher value added per capita, higher employment, lower unemployment, higher schooling and higher openness and (ii) that also within Italy the “the Great Gatsby Curve” exists: in provinces in which mobility is lower cross-sectional income inequality is larger. We finally explore the correlation between IM and several socio-political outcomes, such as crime and life expectancy, but we do not find any clear systematic relationship on this respect.

Gregory Clark, 04 April 2014

Gregory Clark talks to Viv Davies about his new book titled "The Son Also Rises: Surnames and the History of Social Mobility". Using surname data from eight countries, the study concludes that fate and social status is determined by ancestry and that social mobility rates are lower than conventionally estimated, they do not vary across societies and are resistant to social policies. Effectively, capitalism has not led to pervasive, rapid mobility. The interview was recorded in London in March 2014.

Raj Chetty, Nathaniel Hendren, Patrick Kline, Emmanuel Saez, 04 February 2014

The US is supposed to be the land of opportunity. This column presents evidence that is better thought of as the ‘lands of opportunity’. Economic mobility varies dramatically across US cities. Some have upward-income mobility comparable to the most mobile countries in the world. Others have rates below that of any developed country. These geographical differences are correlated with five factors: segregation, income inequality, local school quality, social capital, and family structure.

Pedro Carneiro, Costas Meghir, Matthias Parey, 08 October 2007

In the last 50 years, there has been a striking increase in inequality in children’s home environments across families where mothers have different levels of education. Given that the tendency is rooted in the experience of each family, it is difficult for the welfare system to import change and direct interventions require the invasion of family autonomy and privacy. The authors of CEPR DP6505 assess an alternative potential policy, which targets future parents while still in their youth by affecting their education before they start forming a family.