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A new methodological approach for studying intergenerational mobility with an application to Swiss data


  • Ben Jann
  • Simon Seiler


Despite the widespread interest in the topic and a vast international literature, very little is known about the development of intergenerational mobility in Switzerland. Based on a new harmonized database for Switzerland (comprising various surveys such as different waves of the ISSP, EVS, and the ESS), we provide a systematic account of changes in the link between social origin and destination over time (covering birth cohorts from around 1935 to 1980). We analyze effects of parental education and class on own educational achievement and social class for both men and women, using a refined variant of the methodological approach proposed by Jann and Combet (2012). The approach is based on the concept of proportional reduction of error (PRE) and features a number of advantages over more traditional approaches. For example, it provides smooth estimates of changes in social mobility that have a clear interpretation and it can easily incorporate control variables and multiple dimensions of parental characteristics. To evaluate the validity of our approach, we employ the oft-used log-multiplicative layer effect (a.k.a Unidiff) model (Xie 1992, Erikson and Goldthorpe 1992) as a benchmark. Results indicate that our approach performs well and produces qualitatively similar findings as Xie's model. For both men and women, effects of social origin initially decreased, but then, towards the end of the observation period, increased again. This u-shaped pattern, which can be observed with respect to both education and class, appears to be more pronounced for women than for men.

Suggested Citation

  • Ben Jann & Simon Seiler, 2014. "A new methodological approach for studying intergenerational mobility with an application to Swiss data," University of Bern Social Sciences Working Papers 5, University of Bern, Department of Social Sciences.
  • Handle: RePEc:bss:wpaper:5

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Ben Jann, 2013. "Plotting regression coefficients and other estimates in Stata," University of Bern Social Sciences Working Papers 1, University of Bern, Department of Social Sciences, revised 18 Sep 2017.
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    Cited by:

    1. Xu Sun & Xiaolu Lei & Baisen Liu, 2021. "Mobility Divergence in China? Complete Comparisons of Social Class Mobility and Income Mobility," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 153(2), pages 687-709, January.
    2. Giacomin Favre & Joël Floris & Ulrich Woitek, 2018. "Intergenerational mobility in the 19th century: micro-level evidence from the city of Zurich," ECON - Working Papers 274, Department of Economics - University of Zurich.

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    More about this item


    social mobility; intergenerational mobility; PRE; Switzerland;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • J62 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Job, Occupational and Intergenerational Mobility; Promotion
    • C49 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods: Special Topics - - - Other

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