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Generating Equality and Eliminating Poverty, the Swedish Way

In: The Welfare State in Transition: Reforming the Swedish Model

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  • Anders Bjorklund
  • Richard B. Freeman

Abstract

Sweden has a remarkable record in reducing inequality and virtually eliminating poverty. This paper shows that: 1) Sweden achieved its egalitarian income distribution and eliminated poverty largely because of its system of earnings and income determination, not because of homogeneity of the population nor its educational system. 2) In the job market Sweden is distinguished by a relatively egalitarian distribution of hours of work among those employed, which may be an interrelated part of the Swedish economic system, and until the recent recession, by a high employment rate. 3) Tax and transfer policies contribute substantially to Sweden's overall distribution record. In contrast to many social welfare systems, Sweden's is largely a workfare system, providing benefits for those with some work activity. 4) Part of Sweden's historic success in maintaining jobs for low wage workers while raising their wages resulted from policies that directly or indirectly buttress demand for low skill workers, notably through public sector employment. 5) Sweden's tax and transfer policies have maintained the position of lower income workers and families, including those with children, during its recent economic decline.
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Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:6519
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Coder, John & Rainwater, Lee & Smeeding, Timothy M, 1989. "Inequality among Children and Elderly in Ten Modern Nations: The United States in an International Context," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(2), pages 320-324, May.
    2. Richard B. Freeman, 1994. "Working Under Different Rules," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number free94-1, July.
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    Cited by:

    1. Hibbs, Douglas Jr. & Locking, Hakan, 1996. "Wage compression, wage drift and wage inflation in Sweden," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 3(2), pages 109-141, September.
    2. Giuseppe Bertola & Francine Blau & Lawrence Kahn, 2007. "Labor market institutions and demographic employment patterns," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 20(4), pages 833-867, October.
    3. Bertola, Giuseppe & Blau, Francine D & Kahn, Lawrence, 2001. "Comparative Analysis of Labour Market Outcomes: Lessons for the US from International Long-Run Evidence," CEPR Discussion Papers 3023, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    4. Davis, Steven J. & Henrekson, Magnus, 2005. "Wage-setting institutions as industrial policy," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(3), pages 345-377, June.
    5. Lindbeck, Assar, 1997. "The European Employment Problem," Seminar Papers 616, Stockholm University, Institute for International Economic Studies.
    6. Douglas A. Hibbs, Jr. & Håkan Locking, 1995. "Solidarity Wage Policies and Industrial Productivity in Sweden," Nordic Journal of Political Economy, Nordic Journal of Political Economy, vol. 22, pages 95-108.
    7. Lawrence M. Kahn, 2012. "Labor market policy: A comparative view on the costs and benefits of labor market flexibility," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 31(1), pages 94-110, December.
    8. Lindh, Thomas & Ohlsson, Henry, 1998. "Self-Employment and Wealth Inequality," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 44(1), pages 25-42, March.
    9. 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.
    10. Gerhard Bosch & Steffen Lehndorff, 1998. "Arbeitszeitverkürzung und Beschäftigung: Erfahrungen in Europa und wirtschaftspolitische Empfehlungen," Vierteljahrshefte zur Wirtschaftsforschung / Quarterly Journal of Economic Research, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research, vol. 67(4), pages 300-325.
    11. Barth, Erling & Moene, Karl O. & Willumsen, Fredrik, 2015. "Reprint of "The Scandinavian model—An interpretation"," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 127(C), pages 17-29.
    12. 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.
    13. Robert E. Lipsey & Birgitta Swedenborg, 2007. "Explaining Product Price Differences Across Countries," NBER Working Papers 13239, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. Richard Freeman, 1995. "Doing It Right? The US Labour Market Response to the 1980s/1990s," CEP Discussion Papers dp0231, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    15. Roine, Jesper & Waldenstrom, Daniel, 2008. "The evolution of top incomes in an egalitarian society: Sweden, 1903-2004," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(1-2), pages 366-387, February.
    16. Barth, Erling & Moene, Karl O. & Willumsen, Fredrik, 2014. "The Scandinavian model—An interpretation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 117(C), pages 60-72.
    17. Karl Aiginger, 2003. "The Relative Importance of Labour Market Reforms to Economic Growth," WIFO Working Papers 208, WIFO.
    18. Kolm, Ann-Sofie & Tonin, Mirco, 2015. "Benefits conditional on work and the Nordic model," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 127(C), pages 115-126.
    19. Blau, Francine D & Kahn, Lawrence M, 1996. "International Differences in Male Wage Inequality: Institutions versus Market Forces," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(4), pages 791-836, August.
    20. Freeman, Richard B., 1998. "War of the models: Which labour market institutions for the 21st century?1," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 5(1), pages 1-24, March.
    21. Agneta Stark & Nancy Folbre & Lois Shaw & Timothy Smeeding & Susanna Sandstrom & Lois Shaw & Sunhwa Lee & Kyunghee Chung, 2005. "Poverty And Income Maintenance In Old Age: A Cross-National View Of Low Income Older Women / Growing Old In The Us: Gender And Income Adequacy / Gender And Aging In South Korea," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 11(2), pages 163-197.
    22. Claudio Lucifora, 1999. "Wage Inequalities and Low Pay: The Role of Labour Market Institutions," Working Papers 1999.13, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.

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