Pedro Carneiro, Italo Lopez Garcia, Kjell G. Salvanes, Emma Tominey, 24 January 2021

Parents’ income can affect a child’s earnings later in life but most empirical studies of intergenerational mobility collapse the childhood years into a single period. This column uses administrative data of all children born in Norway 1971–1980 to examine the relationship between adult outcomes of children and the timing of parental income over three periods of childhood: early (ages 0–5), middle (ages 6–11), and late (ages 12–17). Child success increases in households where parents’ income is higher in either early childhood or during adolescence. A balanced level of income across early childhood and adolescence may also improve the child’s success.

Sascha O. Becker, Irena Grosfeld, Pauline Grosjean, Nico Voigtländer, Ekaterina Zhuravskaya, 28 January 2020

Can the experience of being uprooted by force encourage people to invest in portable assets such as education? The idea has a long history but is a difficult hypothesis to test. This column combines data from historical censuses with newly collected survey data to show that Polish people with a family history of forced migration as a result of WWII are significantly more educated today than any comparison group. The results suggest a shift in preferences toward investment in human rather than physical capital, and imply that the benefits of providing schooling for forced migrants and their children may be even greater – and more persistent – than previously thought.

Per Engzell, Felix Tropf, 26 January 2020

The debate about the influence of ‘nature versus nurture’ in human achievement persists. This column contributes to this debate by linking trends in intergenerational mobility to data from nearly 50,000 twins. The findings suggest that in countries with lower rates of social mobility, family environment (‘nurture’) plays a more significant role than it does in countries where institutions that promote mobility enjoy wide support.

Sergey Alexeev, 09 November 2019

Despite the extensive literature on intergenerational mobility, few studies have investigated the effects of non-monetary income from housing, or ‘imputed rent’, on intergenerational income mobility. This column demonstrates the significance of such an omission. Using national panel data sets for Australia, the US, and Germany, it finds that only Australia sees a noticeable reduction in mobility when imputed rent is accounted for in the measure of income. The findings challenge Australia’s basic claim of providing equality of opportunity. 

Elias Papaioannou, 30 August 2019

On average, if you are born in Africa today you have much better chances to succeed than your parents or grandparents. But which countries have the best, and worst, intergenerational mobility? Elias Papaioannou tells Tim Phillips about the four-year hunt for Africa's lands of opportunity.

Paolo Acciari, Alberto Polo, Gianluca Violante, 13 July 2019

Intergenerational mobility is viewed as a proxy for a fair and fluid society, as it sheds light on the extent to which individuals with different initial conditions are presented with equal opportunities to succeed. This column investigates intergenerational income mobility in Italy and finds income persistence to be quite linear, except at the very top of the income distribution. It also finds a steep difference by region, with provinces in the north being more egalitarian and more upwardly mobile than in the south.

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.


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