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Low Level of Equal Opportunities in Germany: Family Background Shapes Individual Economic Success


  • Daniel D. Schnitzlein


For many years, securing equal life opportunities has been a normative goal shared by all democratic societies in the western world. Although, in principle, all citizens enjoy the same rights, in reality, individual life opportunities still vary according to family background which, in turn, shapes the prevailing pattern of social inequality. This is not a specifically German phenomenon. Based on a new methodology, the present findings demonstrate that, in Germany, family background has a significant impact on individual earnings, family income, hourly wages, and also educational success: 40 percent of individual earnings inequality can be explained by family background. In the case of educational achievement, this figure even exceeds 50 percent. By international standards, this places equality of opportunity in Germany at a similarly low level as in the US and significantly lower than in Denmark.

Suggested Citation

  • Daniel D. Schnitzlein, 2013. "Low Level of Equal Opportunities in Germany: Family Background Shapes Individual Economic Success," DIW Economic Bulletin, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research, vol. 3(5), pages 3-8.
  • Handle: RePEc:diw:diwdeb:2013-5-1

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Vieider, Ferdinand M. & Chmura, Thorsten & Martinsson, Peter, 2012. "Risk attitudes, development, and growth: Macroeconomic evidence from experiments in 30 countries," Discussion Papers, WZB Junior Research Group Risk and Development SP II 2012-401, Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB).
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    More about this item


    Equal opportunities; sibling correlations; intergenerational mobility; . - SOEP;

    JEL classification:

    • D1 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior
    • D3 - Microeconomics - - Distribution
    • J62 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Job, Occupational and Intergenerational Mobility; Promotion


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