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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.

Suggested Citation

  • 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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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. Ingvild Almås & Alexander W. Cappelen & Bertil Tungodden, 2016. "Cutthroat Capitalism versus Cuddly Socialism: Are Americans more Meritocratic and Efficiency-Seeking than Scandinavians?," CESifo Working Paper Series 6278, CESifo Group Munich.
    4. 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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