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Searching for Optimal Inequality/Incentives

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  • Anders Björklund
  • Richard Freeman

Abstract

This paper examines the evolution of economic inequality in Sweden before, during and after the major macro-economic recession in the early 1990s. Earnings and income inequality increased after the downturn, but government safety net programs buttressed disposable income for those with low income, and despite the rise in inequality, Sweden remained one of the most egalitarian economies in the world. The rise in inequality raised the return to observable skills, but the returns are still too low to explain that Sweden moved to the top of the league tables in knowledge intensive activities. Our analysis of attitudes to inequality shows that more Swedes expressed more concern over the inequity in inequality after the rise in inequality in the 1990s than in the past. Further, more Swedes expressed greater dissatisfaction with wages and working conditions. On the other hand, the rise in unemployment did not reduce overall subjective well being, probably because individuals adapted to higher levels of unemployment.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 14014.

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Date of creation: May 2008
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Publication status: published as Searching for Optimal Inequality/Incentives , Anders Björklund, Richard B. Freeman. in Reforming the Welfare State: Recovery and Beyond in Sweden , Freeman, Swedenborg, and Topel. 2010
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14014

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References

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  1. Aaberge, Rolf, et al, 2002. "Income Inequality and Income Mobility in the Scandinavian Countries Compared to the United States," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 48(4), pages 443-69, December.
  2. Björklund, Anders & Eriksson, Tor & Jäntti, Markus & Raaum, Oddbjørn & Österbacka, Eva, 2000. "Brother Correlations in Earnings in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden Compared to the United States," IZA Discussion Papers 158, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. Nahum, Ruth-Aïda, 2005. "Income Inequality and Growth: a Panel Study of Swedish Counties 1960-2000," Arbetsrapport 2005:3, Institute for Futures Studies.
  4. Richard B. Freeman & Robert Topel & Birgitta Swedenborg, 1997. "The Welfare State in Transition: Reforming the Swedish Model," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number free97-1.
  5. Anders Bjorklund & Richard B. Freeman, 1997. "Generating Equality and Eliminating Poverty, the Swedish Way," NBER Chapters, in: The Welfare State in Transition: Reforming the Swedish Model, pages 33-78 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Dan Devroye & Richard Freeman, 2002. "Does Inequality in Skills Explain Inequality of Earnings Across Advanced Countries?," CEP Discussion Papers dp0552, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  7. Magnus Gustavsson, 2007. "The 1990s rise in Swedish earnings inequality -- persistent or transitory?," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 39(1), pages 25-30.
  8. Lindquist, Matthew J., 2005. "Capital-Skill Complementarity and Inequality in Sweden," Working Paper Series 2/2005, Swedish Institute for Social Research.
  9. Bjorklund, Anders & Jantti, Markus, 1997. "Intergenerational Income Mobility in Sweden Compared to the United States," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(5), pages 1009-18, December.
  10. Martins, Pedro S. & Pereira, Pedro T., 2004. "Does education reduce wage inequality? Quantile regression evidence from 16 countries," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 11(3), pages 355-371, June.
  11. Gary Solon, 2002. "Cross-Country Differences in Intergenerational Earnings Mobility," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 16(3), pages 59-66, Summer.
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Cited by:
  1. Rooth, Dan-Olof & Stenberg, Anders, 2011. "The Shape of the Income Distribution and Economic Growth: Evidence from Swedish Labor Market Regions," IZA Discussion Papers 5486, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Nguyen Trung & Kimoon Cheong & Pham Nghi & Won Kim, 2013. "Relationship Between Socio-Economic Values and Wellbeing: An Overview Research in Asia," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 111(2), pages 453-472, April.
  3. Ruprah, Inder J. & Luengas, Pavel, 2011. "Monetary policy and happiness: Preferences over inflation and unemployment in Latin America," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 40(1), pages 59-66, February.
  4. Björklund, Anders & Roine, Jesper & Waldenström, Daniel, 2008. "Intergenerational Top Income Mobility in Sweden: A Combination of Equal Opportunity and Capitalistic Dynasties," IZA Discussion Papers 3801, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

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