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Intergenerational Social Mobility


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  • Orsetta Causa
  • Åsa Johansson


This paper assesses recent patterns in intergenerational social mobility across OECD countries and examines the role that public policies can play in affecting such mobility. It shows that the relationship between parental or socio-economic background and offspring’s educational and wage outcomes is positive and significant in practically all countries for which evidence is available. Intergenerational social mobility is measured by several different indicators since no single indicator provides a complete picture. However, one pattern that emerges is of a group of countries, e.g. southern European countries and Luxembourg, which appears to rank as relatively immobile on most indicators, while another group, e.g. Nordics, is found to be more mobile. Furthermore, public policies such as education and early childcare play a role in explaining observed differences in intergenerational social mobility across countries. In addition, this study also finds a positive cross-country correlation between intergenerational social mobility and redistributive policies. Mobilité sociale intergénérationnelle Cet article examine les tendances récentes de la mobilité sociale intergénérationnelle dans les pays de l’OCDE et analyse rôle joué dans ce contexte par les politiques publiques. On observe, dans la quasitotalité des pays pour lesquels les données sont disponibles, une relation positive et significative entre l’origine sociale et familiale et le niveau d’éducation et/ou de salaire d’un individu. La mobilité sociale intergénérationnelle est ici mesurée au travers d’une batterie d’indicateurs, parce qu’il n’existe pas d’indicateur unique permettant d’apprécier les phénomènes de persistance entre générations. Néanmoins l’analyse met clairement en évidence l’existence de deux groupes de pays: d’un coté les pays du Sud de l’Europe et le Luxembourg, où l’on mesure une faiblesse relative de la mobilité sociale intergénérationnelle, et ce quel que soit l’indicateur utilisé, et de l’autre les pays Nordiques, où l’on mesure une réalité inverse. De plus, l’article montre que certaines politiques, telles que les politiques éducatives et scolaires ou les politiques liées à la petite enfance, peuvent affecter la mobilité sociale entre générations. L’analyse empirique met également en évidence une association positive entre les politiques de redistribution du revenu et la mobilité sociale intergénérationnelle.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by OECD Publishing in its series OECD Economics Department Working Papers with number 707.

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Date of creation: 07 Jul 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:oec:ecoaaa:707-en

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Keywords: education; public policy; intergenerational education mobility; intergenerational wage mobility; mobilité sociale intergénérationnelle de l'éducation; politique publique; mobilité sociale intergénérationnelle des salariés; éducation;

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Cited by:
  1. Boris Cournède & Antoine Goujard & Álvaro Pina, 2013. "How to Achieve Growth- and Equity-friendly Fiscal Consolidation?: A Proposed Methodology for Instrument Choice with an Illustrative Application to OECD Countries," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 1088, OECD Publishing.
  2. Brian Nolan & Gosta Esping-Andersen & Christopher T. Whelan & Bertrand Maitre, 2010. "The Role of Social Institutions in Inter-Generational Mobility," Working Papers 201018, Geary Institute, University College Dublin.
  3. Bjornskov, Christian & Dreher, Axel & Fischer, Justina A.V. & Schnellenbach, Jan & Gehring, Kai, 2013. "Inequality and happiness: When perceived social mobility and economic reality do not match," MPRA Paper 44827, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  4. Joachim Frick & Kristina Krell, 2011. "Einkommensmessungen in Haushaltspanelstudien für Deutschland: Ein Vergleich von EU-SILC und SOEP," AStA Wirtschafts- und Sozialstatistisches Archiv, Springer, vol. 5(3), pages 221-248, December.
  5. Nicola Brandt, 2012. "Reducing Poverty in Chile: Cash Transfers and Better Jobs," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 951, OECD Publishing.
  6. Francesco Vona, 2011. "Does the Expansion of Higher Education Reduce Educational Inequality? Evidence from 12 European Countries," Documents de Travail de l'OFCE 2011-12, Observatoire Francais des Conjonctures Economiques (OFCE).
  7. Giovanni D'Alessio, 2012. "Wealth and inequality in Italy," Questioni di Economia e Finanza (Occasional Papers) 115, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.


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