Sandra Black, Paul Devereux, Petter Lundborg, Kaveh Majlesi, 16 May 2019

The wealth of parents and that of their children is highly correlated, but little is known about the different roles genetic and environmental factors play in this. This column compares outcomes for adopted children in Sweden and those of their adoptive and biological parents and finds there is a substantial role for environment in the transmission of wealth and a much smaller role for pre-birth factors. And while human capital linkages between parents and children appear to have stronger biological than environmental roots, earnings and income are, if anything, more environmental. 

Barbara Biasi, 24 April 2019

Rates of intergenerational mobility vary widely across the US. This column investigates the effects of reducing differences in revenues and expenditures across school districts within each state on students’ intergenerational income mobility, using school finance reforms passed in 20 US states between 1986 and 2004. Equalisation has a large effect on mobility, especially for low-income students. The effect acts through a reduction in the gap in inputs and in college attendance between low-income and high-income districts.

Eric Hanushek, Paul Peterson, Laura M. Talpey, Ludger Woessmann, 15 April 2019

For 50 years, anti-poverty government programmes in the US have focused on improving school outcomes for poor children. This column reports new evidence that, contrary to recent thinking that gaps in student achievement by socioeconomic status have increased over the years, the gaps have been essentially flat over the past half-century. New policies and new approaches seem called for if we wish to lessen these gaps.

Shekhar Aiyar, Christian Ebeke, 03 April 2019

There are contrasting theories on the relationship between income inequality and growth, and the empirical evidence is similarly mixed. This column highlights the neglected role of equality of opportunity in mediating this relationship.  Using the World Bank’s new Global Database on Intergenerational Mobility, it shows that in societies where opportunities are unequally distributed, income inequality exerts a greater drag on growth. 

Thor Berger, Per Engzell, 28 March 2019

There are striking regional variations in economic opportunity across the US. This column proposes a historical explanation for this, showing that local levels of income equality and intergenerational mobility in the US resemble those of the European countries that current inhabitants trace their origins from. The findings point to the persistence of differences in local culture, norms, and institutions.

Juan C. Palomino, Gustavo A. Marrero, Juan Gabriel Rodríguez, 03 January 2019

The American Dream is grounded in the US being the land of opportunities, but real opportunity requires mobility across generations. This column examines the influence of parents’ income on the income of their children in the US for the period 1980-2010. Parental income has a greater influence, implying lower levels of mobility, for families with the highest and lowest levels of income. Education also plays a stronger role in economic persistence at both tails of the income distribution, while race affects mobility in the middle and lower parts of the distribution. 

Maia Güell, Michele Pellizzari, Giovanni Pica, Sevi Rodriguez Mora, 26 November 2018

Measuring intergenerational mobility and understanding its drivers is key to removing the obstacles to equal opportunities and assuring a level playing field in access to jobs and education. This column uses the informational content of Italian surnames to show that social mobility varies greatly across regions in the country, and that it correlates positively with economic activity, education and social capital, and negatively with inequality. The findings suggest that policies and political institutions are unlikely to be the main drivers of geographical differences in social mobility.

David Card, Ciprian Domnisoru, Lowell Taylor, 06 October 2018

There is wide variation in upward mobility across US states. This column uses a study of child schooling in 1940 to show that upward mobility in educational attainment is determined in part by local public education policy, with mobility greater in states with high teacher salaries, for example. This shows the potential of public education to improve equality of opportunity. 

Martin Nybom, Kelly Vosters, 15 October 2018

In 2014, Gregory Clark proposed a ‘simple law of mobility’ suggesting that intergenerational mobility is much lower than previously believed, and relatively uniform across countries. This column tests this law using US and Swedish data. The results show, in contrast to the simple law of mobility, no evidence of a rise in intergenerational persistence and no evidence of uniformity across countries.

Sauro Mocetti, Giacomo Roma, Enrico Rubolino, 16 August 2018

A large proportion of workers are employed in licensed occupations whose entry conditions and economic returns are significantly shaped by regulation. This column examines the consequences of two waves of liberalisation in professional services in Italy since the 2000s for intergenerational mobility and allocative efficiency. The analysis reveals a substantial decrease in the propensity to follow the same career as one’s parents, particularly among less able children, suggesting that anticompetitive regulation might produce inefficiencies in the allocation of talents across occupations.

Ambar Narayan, Roy Van der Weide, 02 July 2018

Intergenerational mobility is important for both fairness and economic efficiency in a society. This column uses data from a new global study spanning five decades to show that average relative mobility is lower in developing economies, with no sign that the gap with developed countries is getting smaller. In addition, income mobility in several developing economies is much lower than their levels of educational mobility would lead us to expect. Labour market deficiencies appear to be contributing to this gap between mobility in education and income. 

Raj Chetty, Nathaniel Hendren, Maggie R. Jones, Sonya R. Porter, 27 June 2018

The sources of racial disparities in income have been debated for decades. This column uses data on 20 million children and their parents to show how racial disparities persist across generations in the US. For instance, black men have much lower chances of climbing the income ladder than white men even if they grow up on the same block. In contrast, black and white women have similar rates of mobility. The column discusses how such findings can be used to reduce racial disparities going forward.

Gordon Dahl, Anne Gielen, 29 May 2018

Although an extensive literature has documented intergenerational correlations in welfare receipt, there is little evidence on whether this relationship is causal. Do benefit schemes create a culture of dependency within families? This column finds that children of parents in the Netherlands who were pushed out of disability insurance following a reform were less likely to participate in the programme as adults. The fiscal spillovers from these intergenerational links have a sizable effect on the government’s long-term budget.

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 V. 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.

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