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Searching for Optimal Inequality/Incentives

In: Reforming the Welfare State: Recovery and Beyond in Sweden

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  • Anders Björklund
  • Richard B. Freeman

Abstract

This paper examines the evolution of economic inequality in Sweden before, during and after the major macro-economic recession in the early 1990s. Earnings and income inequality increased after the downturn, but government safety net programs buttressed disposable income for those with low income, and despite the rise in inequality, Sweden remained one of the most egalitarian economies in the world. The rise in inequality raised the return to observable skills, but the returns are still too low to explain that Sweden moved to the top of the league tables in knowledge intensive activities. Our analysis of attitudes to inequality shows that more Swedes expressed more concern over the inequity in inequality after the rise in inequality in the 1990s than in the past. Further, more Swedes expressed greater dissatisfaction with wages and working conditions. On the other hand, the rise in unemployment did not reduce overall subjective well being, probably because individuals adapted to higher levels of unemployment.
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Suggested Citation

  • Anders Björklund & Richard B. Freeman, 2010. "Searching for Optimal Inequality/Incentives," NBER Chapters,in: Reforming the Welfare State: Recovery and Beyond in Sweden, pages 25-56 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:5358
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Aaberge, Rolf, et al, 2002. "Income Inequality and Income Mobility in the Scandinavian Countries Compared to the United States," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 48(4), pages 443-469, December.
    2. Gary Solon, 2002. "Cross-Country Differences in Intergenerational Earnings Mobility," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 16(3), pages 59-66, Summer.
    3. Richard B. Freeman & Robert Topel & Birgitta Swedenborg, 1997. "The Welfare State in Transition: Reforming the Swedish Model," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number free97-1, July.
    4. Markus Jäntti & Eva Österbacka & Oddbjörn Raaum & Tor Eriksson & Anders Björklund, 2002. "Brother correlations in earnings in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden compared to the United States," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 15(4), pages 757-772.
    5. Nahum, Ruth-Aïda, 2005. "Income Inequality and Growth: A Panel Study of Swedish Counties 1960-2000," Working Paper Series 2005:8, Uppsala University, Department of Economics.
    6. Martins, Pedro S. & Pereira, Pedro T., 2004. "Does education reduce wage inequality? Quantile regression evidence from 16 countries," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 11(3), pages 355-371, June.
    7. Anders Bjorklund & Richard B. Freeman, 1997. "Generating Equality and Eliminating Poverty, the Swedish Way," NBER Chapters,in: The Welfare State in Transition: Reforming the Swedish Model, pages 33-78 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Magnus Gustavsson, 2007. "The 1990s rise in Swedish earnings inequality -- persistent or transitory?," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 39(1), pages 25-30.
    9. Dan Devroye & Richard B. Freeman, 2001. "Does Inequality in Skills Explain Inequality in Earnings Across Advanced Countries?," NBER Working Papers 8140, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Matthew J. Lindquist, 2005. "Capital-Skill Complementarity and Inequality in Sweden," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 107(4), pages 711-735, December.
    11. Bjorklund, Anders & Jantti, Markus, 1997. "Intergenerational Income Mobility in Sweden Compared to the United States," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(5), pages 1009-1018, December.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Dan‐Olof Rooth & Anders Stenberg, 2012. "The Shape of the Income Distribution and Economic Growth – Evidence from Swedish Labor Market Regions," Scottish Journal of Political Economy, Scottish Economic Society, vol. 59(2), pages 196-223, May.
    2. Björklund, Anders & Roine, Jesper & Waldenström, Daniel, 2008. "Intergenerational Top Income Mobility in Sweden: A Combination of Equal Opportunity and Capitalistic Dynasties," IZA Discussion Papers 3801, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. Afonso, Óscar, 2016. "Effects of labour-market institutions on employment, wages, R&D intensity and growth in 27 OECD countries: From theory to practice," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 48-62.
    4. Ruprah, Inder J. & Luengas, Pavel, 2011. "Monetary policy and happiness: Preferences over inflation and unemployment in Latin America," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 40(1), pages 59-66, February.
    5. Nguyen Trung & Kimoon Cheong & Pham Nghi & Won Kim, 2013. "Relationship Between Socio-Economic Values and Wellbeing: An Overview Research in Asia," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 111(2), pages 453-472, April.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J0 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General
    • J01 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General - - - Labor Economics: General
    • J08 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General - - - Labor Economics Policies
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J3 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs

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