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A comparison of upward and downward intergenerational mobility in Canada, Sweden and the United States

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  • Corak, Miles
  • Lindquist, Matthew J.
  • Mazumder, Bhashkar

Abstract

We use new estimators of directional rank mobility developed by Bhattacharya and Mazumder (2011) to compare rates of upward and downward intergenerational mobility across three countries: Canada, Sweden and the United States. These measures overcome some of the limitations of traditional measures of intergenerational mobility such as the intergenerational elasticity, which are not well suited for analyzing directional movements or for examining differences in mobility across the income distribution. Data for each country include highly comparable, administrative data sources containing sufficiently long time spans of earnings. Our most basic measures of directional mobility, which simply compare whether sons moved up or down in the earnings distribution relative to their fathers, do not differ much across the countries. However, we do find that there are clear differences in the extent of the movement. We find larger cross-country differences in downward mobility from the top of the distribution than upward mobility from the bottom. Canada has the most downward mobility while the U.S. has the least, with Sweden in the middle. We find some differences in upward mobility but these are somewhat smaller in magnitude. An important caveat is that our analysis may be sensitive to the concept of income we use and broader measures such as family income could lead to different conclusions. Also, small differences in rank mobility translate into rather large differences in absolute mobility measured in dollars, due to large differences in income inequality across countries.

Suggested Citation

  • Corak, Miles & Lindquist, Matthew J. & Mazumder, Bhashkar, 2014. "A comparison of upward and downward intergenerational mobility in Canada, Sweden and the United States," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(C), pages 185-200.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:labeco:v:30:y:2014:i:c:p:185-200
    DOI: 10.1016/j.labeco.2014.03.013
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Miles Corak & Andrew Heisz, 1999. "The Intergenerational Earnings and Income Mobility of Canadian Men: Evidence from Longitudinal Income Tax Data," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 34(3), pages 504-533.
    2. Anders Bohlmark & Matthew J. Lindquist, 2006. "Life-Cycle Variations in the Association between Current and Lifetime Income: Replication and Extension for Sweden," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(4), pages 879-900, October.
    3. Jäntti, Markus & Bratsberg, Bernt & Røed, Knut & Raaum, Oddbjørn & Naylor, Robin & Österbacka, Eva & Bjørklund, Anders & Eriksson, Tor, 2005. "American exceptionalism in a new light: a comparison of intergenerational earnings mobility in the Nordic countries, the United Kingdom and the United States," Memorandum 34/2005, Oslo University, Department of Economics.
    4. Bhashkar Mazumder, 2005. "Fortunate Sons: New Estimates of Intergenerational Mobility in the United States Using Social Security Earnings Data," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 87(2), pages 235-255, May.
    5. Steven Haider & Gary Solon, 2006. "Life-Cycle Variation in the Association between Current and Lifetime Earnings," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(4), pages 1308-1320, September.
    6. Mazumder, Bhashkar, 2014. "Black–White Differences in Intergenerational Economic Mobility in the U.S," Economic Perspectives, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, issue Q I, pages 1-18.
    7. Philip Oreopoulos & Marianne Page & Ann Huff Stevens, 2008. "The Intergenerational Effects of Worker Displacement," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 26(3), pages 455-483, July.
    8. Grawe, Nathan D., 2006. "Lifecycle bias in estimates of intergenerational earnings persistence," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 13(5), pages 551-570, October.
    9. Bernt Bratsberg & Knut Røed & Oddbjørn Raaum & Robin Naylor & Markus Ja¨ntti & Tor Eriksson & Eva O¨sterbacka, 2007. "Nonlinearities in Intergenerational Earnings Mobility: Consequences for Cross-Country Comparisons," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 117(519), pages 72-92, March.
    10. Black, Sandra E. & Devereux, Paul J., 2011. "Recent Developments in Intergenerational Mobility," Handbook of Labor Economics, Elsevier.
    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.
    12. Bhashkar Mazumder, 2001. "The mis-measurement of permanent earnings: new evidence from Social Security earnings data," Working Paper Series WP-01-24, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
    13. Jeff Larrimore & Richard V. Burkhauser & Shuaizhang Feng & Laura Zayatz, 2008. "Consistent Cell Means for Topcoded Incomes in the Public Use March CPS (1976-2007)," NBER Working Papers 13941, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. Solon, Gary, 1992. "Intergenerational Income Mobility in the United States," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(3), pages 393-408, June.
    15. Bjorklund, Anders & Chadwick, Laura, 2003. "Intergenerational income mobility in permanent and separated families," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 80(2), pages 239-246, August.
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    17. Corak, Miles, 2006. "Do Poor Children Become Poor Adults? Lessons from a Cross Country Comparison of Generational Earnings Mobility," IZA Discussion Papers 1993, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    18. Donal O’Neill & Olive Sweetman & Dirk Van de gaer, 2007. "The effects of measurement error and omitted variables when using transition matrices to measure intergenerational mobility," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 5(2), pages 159-178, August.
    19. Debopam Bhattacharya & Bhashkar Mazumder, 2011. "A nonparametric analysis of black–white differences in intergenerational income mobility in the United States," Quantitative Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 2(3), pages 335-379, November.
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    Blog mentions

    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. 'The Dangerous Separation of the American Upper Middle Class'
      by Mark Thoma in Economist's View on 2015-09-03 18:55:05
    2. Richard V. Reeves — The dangerous separation of the American upper middle class
      by contrarianmedia@hotmail.com (Mike Norman) in Mike Norman Economics on 2015-09-04 02:24:00

    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Miles Corak, 2017. "Divided Landscapes of Economic Opportunity: The Canadian Geography of Intergenerational Income Mobility," Working Papers 2017-043, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.
    2. Abbott, Michael G. & Beach, Charles M., 2013. "Earnings Mobility of Canadian Immigrants: A Transition Matrix Approach," CLSSRN working papers clsrn_admin-2013-47, Vancouver School of Economics, revised 27 Oct 2013.
    3. Espen Bratberg & Jonathan Davis & Bhashkar Mazumder & Martin Nybom & Daniel D. Schnitzlein & Kjell Vaage, 2017. "A Comparison of Intergenerational Mobility Curves in Germany, Norway, Sweden, and the US," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 119(1), pages 72-101, January.
    4. Martin Nybom & Jan Stuhler, 2017. "Biases in Standard Measures of Intergenerational Income Dependence," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 52(3), pages 800-825.
    5. Mazumder, Bhashkar, 2015. "Estimating the Intergenerational Elasticity and Rank Association in the U.S.: Overcoming the Current Limitations of Tax Data," Working Paper Series WP-2015-4, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
    6. Jantti, Markus & Jenkins, Stephen P., 2013. "Income mobility," ISER Working Paper Series 2013-23, Institute for Social and Economic Research.
    7. Daniel D. Schnitzlein, 2014. "A New Look at Intergenerational Mobility in Germany Compared to the US," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 689, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
    8. repec:kap:iecepo:v:14:y:2017:i:2:d:10.1007_s10368-016-0371-1 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Chen, Wen-Hao & Ostrovsky, Yuri & Piraino, Patrizio, 2017. "Lifecycle variation, errors-in-variables bias and nonlinearities in intergenerational income transmission: new evidence from Canada," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 1-12.
    10. Shinhye Chang & Rangan Gupta & Stephen M. Miller & Mark E. Wohar, 2018. "Growth Volatility and Inequality in the U.S.: A Wavelet Analysis," Working papers 2018-05, University of Connecticut, Department of Economics.
    11. Mehtabul Azam, 2016. "Household Income Mobility in India, 1993-2011," Economics Working Paper Series 1705, Oklahoma State University, Department of Economics and Legal Studies in Business.
    12. Markussen, Simen & Røed, Knut, 2017. "Egalitarianism under Pressure: Toward Lower Economic Mobility in the Knowledge Economy?," IZA Discussion Papers 10664, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    13. repec:bla:revinw:v:62:y:2016:i:4:p:650-667 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. Leone, Tharcisio, 2017. "The gender gap in intergenerational mobility: Evidence of educational persistence in Brazil," Discussion Papers 2017/27, Free University Berlin, School of Business & Economics.
    15. Murray, Chelsea & Clark, Robert & Mendolia, Silvia & Siminski, Peter, 2017. "Direct Measures of Intergenerational Income Mobility for Australia," IZA Discussion Papers 11020, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

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