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Nordic exceptionalism? Social democratic egalitarianism in world-historic perspective

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  • Fochesato, Mattia
  • Bowles, Samuel

Abstract

In what respect, if any, are the Nordic economies exceptionally egalitarian when viewed from a world historical perspective? Our answer is based on archaeological, historical and ethnographic as well as contemporary evidence over the past three thousand years. The countries exemplifying the Nordic model are not exceptionally equal in the ownership of material wealth. Moreover, the advent of social democracy in the Nordic nations did not result in a more equal distribution of years of schooling. But intergenerational economic and social mobility appears to be exceptional in the Nordic nations, and by most measures, inequalities in living standards in the Nordic economies are less than in other advanced economies. The closest Nordic analogy in our data set is to the egalitarian distribution of well-being and limited intergenerational transmission of wealth found in some horticultural and (especially) forager economies.

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  • Fochesato, Mattia & Bowles, Samuel, 2015. "Nordic exceptionalism? Social democratic egalitarianism in world-historic perspective," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 127(C), pages 30-44.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:127:y:2015:i:c:p:30-44
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jpubeco.2014.03.001
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    3. Roberto Iacono & Elisa Palagi, 2020. "Still the lands of equality? On the heterogeneity of individual factor income shares in the Nordics," LEM Papers Series 2020/13, Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM), Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy.
    4. Brezis, Elise S. & Hellier, Joël, 2018. "Social mobility at the top and the higher education system," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 52(C), pages 36-54.
    5. Bas van Bavel, 2022. "Wealth inequality in pre‐industrial Europe: What role did associational organizations have?," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 75(3), pages 643-666, August.
    6. Ranaldi, Marco, 2024. "Compositional Inequality: Measurement, Stylized Facts, and Normative Aspects," SocArXiv 75ghp, Center for Open Science.
    7. Roberto Iacono, 2019. "The Norwegian Oil Bonanza and the Scandinavian Model in Comparative Perspective," Comparative Economic Studies, Palgrave Macmillan;Association for Comparative Economic Studies, vol. 61(1), pages 63-82, March.
    8. Ingvild Almås & Alexander W. Cappelen & Bertil Tungodden, 2020. "Cutthroat Capitalism versus Cuddly Socialism: Are Americans More Meritocratic and Efficiency-Seeking than Scandinavians?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 128(5), pages 1753-1788.
    9. Stiglitz, Joseph E., 2015. "Leaders and followers: Perspectives on the Nordic model and the economics of innovation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 127(C), pages 3-16.
    10. Manuel Castelo Branco & Catarina Delgado & Carla Marques, 2018. "How do sustainability reports from the Nordic and the Mediterranean European countries compare," Review of Managerial Science, Springer, vol. 12(4), pages 917-936, October.
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    13. Elisa S. Brezis & Joel Hellier, 2016. "Social Mobility and Higher-Education Policy," Working Papers 095, "Carlo F. Dondena" Centre for Research on Social Dynamics (DONDENA), Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi.

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