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The Welfare Effects of Social Mobility

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  • Fischer, Justina AV
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    Abstract

    The question whether a socially mobile society is conducive to subjective well-being (SWB) has rarely been investigated. This paper fills this gap by analyzing the SWB effects of intergenerational earnings mobility and equality in education at the societal level. Using socio-demographic information on 44’000 individuals in 30 OECD countries obtained from the World Values Survey, this study shows that living in a socially mobile society is conducive to individual life satisfaction. Differentiating between perceived and actual social mobility, we find that both exert rather independent effects, particularly in their interplay with income inequality. We identify a positive interaction of perceived social mobility that mitigates its overall SWB lowering effect, supporting Alesina et al. (2004). In contrast, a high degree of actual social mobility yields an overall impact of income inequality that is SWB lowering, while for low social mobility the effect of inequality is positive. These interactions hold stronger for pre-transfer than post-transfer income inequality. Actual social mobility appears to be appreciated only by conservative persons, while leftist oriented individuals are indifferent. Robustness using a world sample is tested.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 16339.

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    Date of creation: Dec 2008
    Date of revision: Jun 2009
    Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:16339

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    Related research

    Keywords: Social mobility; Happiness; Well-Being; Life satisfaction; Inequality; Voting; Equal opportunities;

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    References

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    1. Bjørnskov, Christian & Dreher, Axel & Fischer, Justina A.V., 2010. "Formal institutions and subjective well-being: Revisiting the cross-country evidence," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 26(4), pages 419-430, December.
    2. Alberto Alesina & Eliana La Ferrara, 2001. "Preferences for Redistribution in the Land of Opportunities," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1936, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
    3. Justina Fischer & Benno Torgler, 2008. "Social Capital and Relative Income Concerns: Evidence from 26 Countries," TWI Research Paper Series 38, Thurgauer Wirtschaftsinstitut, Universität Konstanz.
    4. Claudia Senik, 2007. "Ambition and jealousy. Income interactions in the "Old" Europe versus the "New" Europe and the United States," PSE Working Papers halshs-00590828, HAL.
    5. La Ferrara, Eliana & Alesina, Alberto, 2005. "Preferences for Redistribution in the Land of Opportunities," Scholarly Articles 4552533, Harvard University Department of Economics.
    6. Borjas, George J, 1992. "Ethnic Capital and Intergenerational Mobility," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 107(1), pages 123-50, February.
    7. Corneo, Giacomo & Grüner, Hans Peter, 2001. "Individual Preferences for Political Redistribution," CEPR Discussion Papers 2694, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    8. Christian Bjørnskov & Axel Dreher & Justina A.V. Fischer, 2005. "Cross-Country Determinants of Life Satisfaction: Exploring Different Determinants across Groups in Society," University of St. Gallen Department of Economics working paper series 2005 2005-19, Department of Economics, University of St. Gallen.
    9. Christian Bjørnskov & Axel Dreher & Justina A. V. Fischer, 2005. "The bigger the better? Evidence of the effect of government size on life satisfaction around the world," CER-ETH Economics working paper series 05/44, CER-ETH - Center of Economic Research (CER-ETH) at ETH Zurich.
    10. Ada Ferrer-i-Carbonell & Paul Frijters, 2002. "How important is Methodology for the Estimates of the Determinants of Happiness?," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 02-024/3, Tinbergen Institute.
    11. John F. Helliwell & Haifang Huang, 2006. "How's Your Government? International Evidence Linking Good Government and Well-Being," NBER Working Papers 11988, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Becker, Gary S & Tomes, Nigel, 1979. "An Equilibrium Theory of the Distribution of Income and Intergenerational Mobility," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(6), pages 1153-89, December.
    13. Thomas Piketty, 1994. "Social Mobility and Redistributive Politics," Working papers 94-15, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
    14. Christian Bjørnskov, 2007. "Determinants of generalized trust: A cross-country comparison," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 130(1), pages 1-21, January.
    15. Jordahl, Henrik, 2007. "Inequality and Trust," Working Paper Series 715, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
    16. Anna Christina D'Addio, 2007. "Intergenerational Transmission of Disadvantage: Mobility or Immobility Across Generations?," OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers 52, OECD Publishing.
    17. Alesina, Alberto F & La Ferrara, Eliana, 2000. "Who Trusts Others?," CEPR Discussion Papers 2646, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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