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Equality of opportunity and the distribution of long-run income in Sweden

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  • Anders Björklund
  • Markus Jäntti
  • John Roemer

Abstract

Equality of opportunity is an ethical goal with almost universal appeal. The interpretation taken here is that a society has achieved equality of opportunity if it is the case that what individuals accomplish, with respect to some desirable objective, is determined wholly by their choices and personal effort, rather than by circumstances beyond their control. We use data for Swedish men born between 1955 and 1967 for whom we measure the distribution of long-run income, as well as several important background circumstances, such as parental education and income, family structure and own IQ before adulthood. We address the question: in Sweden, given its present constellation of social policies and institutions, to what extent is existing income inequality due to circumstances, as opposed to 'effort'? Our results suggest that several circumstances, importantly both parental income and own IQ, are important for long-run income inequality, but that variations in individual effort account for the most part of that inequality.
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Suggested Citation

  • Anders Björklund & Markus Jäntti & John Roemer, 2012. "Equality of opportunity and the distribution of long-run income in Sweden," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 39(2), pages 675-696, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:sochwe:v:39:y:2012:i:2:p:675-696
    DOI: 10.1007/s00355-011-0609-3
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    1. Saavedra-Chanduví, Jaime & Molinas, José R. & De Barros, Ricardo Paes & Ferreira, Francisco H. G., 2011. "Measuring Inequality of Opportunities in Latin America and the Caribbean," IDB Publications (Books), Inter-American Development Bank, number 361, October.
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    3. Daniele Checchi & Vito Peragine, 2010. "Inequality of opportunity in Italy," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 8(4), pages 429-450, December.
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    7. François Bourguignon & Francisco H. G. Ferreira & Marta Menéndez, 2007. "Inequality Of Opportunity In Brazil," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 53(4), pages 585-618, December.
    8. Fleurbaey, Marc, 2012. "Fairness, Responsibility, and Welfare," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199653591.
    9. Lefranc, Arnaud & Pistolesi, Nicolas & Trannoy, Alain, 2009. "Equality of opportunity and luck: Definitions and testable conditions, with an application to income in France," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(11-12), pages 1189-1207, December.
    10. Donal O'Neill & Olive Sweetman & Dirk van de gaer, 1999. "Equality of Opportunity and Kernel Density Estimation: An Application to Intergenerational Mobility," Economics Department Working Paper Series n950999, Department of Economics, National University of Ireland - Maynooth.
    11. Keane, Michael P. & Roemer, John E., 2009. "Assessing policies to equalize opportunity using an equilibrium model of educational and occupational choices," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(7-8), pages 879-898, August.
    12. Björklund Anders & Jäntti Markus & Solon Gary, 2007. "Nature and Nurture in the Intergenerational Transmission of Socioeconomic Status: Evidence from Swedish Children and Their Biological and Rearing Parents," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 7(2), pages 1-23, November.
    13. Björklund, Anders & Roine, Jesper & Waldenström, Daniel, 2008. "Intergenerational top income mobility in Sweden – A combination of equal opportunity and capitalistic dynasties," SSE/EFI Working Paper Series in Economics and Finance 705, Stockholm School of Economics.
    14. Björklund, Anders & Jäntti, Markus & Lindquist, Matthew J., 2009. "Family background and income during the rise of the welfare state: Brother correlations in income for Swedish men born 1932-1968," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(5-6), pages 671-680, June.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    D31; D63; J62; C14;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • J62 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Job, Occupational and Intergenerational Mobility; Promotion
    • C14 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods and Methodology: General - - - Semiparametric and Nonparametric Methods: General

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