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Social Mobility: What is it and why does it matter?

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  • Sebastian Galiani

    (Washington University in St. Louis)

Abstract

The definition of social mobility is a matter of debate. In the following discussion, conceptual issues in the literature on mobility are commented. This paper defines social mobility as a situation in which the relative economic status of an agent is not dependent on starting conditions such as parental income or family background. Analyzing the determinants of mobility involves exploring the channels through which offspring’s income is correlated to its parents’, such as inherited bequest, education, skills, among many others. This survey explores, in an analytical framework, the relation between social mobility and inequality, among other important dimensions of income distribution that are jointly determined. The focus is on the relevance of social mobility as it affects variables determining welfare and economic efficiency, and therefore on policies to promote it.
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Suggested Citation

  • Sebastian Galiani, 2010. "Social Mobility: What is it and why does it matter?," CEDLAS, Working Papers 0101, CEDLAS, Universidad Nacional de La Plata.
  • Handle: RePEc:dls:wpaper:0101
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Roland Benabou & Efe A. Ok, 2000. "Mobility as Progressivity: Ranking Income Processes According to Equality of Opportunity," Working Papers 150, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Discussion Papers in Economics.
    2. Cunha, Flavio & Heckman, James J. & Lochner, Lance, 2006. "Interpreting the Evidence on Life Cycle Skill Formation," Handbook of the Economics of Education, Elsevier.
    3. John Hassler & José Rodríguez Mora & Joseph Zeira, 2007. "Inequality and mobility," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 12(3), pages 235-259, September.
    4. Roland Bénabou & Jean Tirole, 2006. "Belief in a Just World and Redistributive Politics," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 121(2), pages 699-746.
    5. Ravallion, Martin & Lokshin, Michael, 2000. "Who wants to redistribute?: The tunnel effect in 1990s Russia," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 76(1), pages 87-104, April.
    6. Thomas Piketty, 1995. "Social Mobility and Redistributive Politics," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 110(3), pages 551-584.
    7. Harms, Philipp & Zink, Stefan, 2003. "Eating the Rich vs. Feeding the Poor: Borrowing Constraints and the Reluctance to Redistribute," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 116(3-4), pages 351-366, September.
    8. Owen, Ann L. & Weil, David N., 1998. "Intergenerational earnings mobility, inequality and growth," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(1), pages 71-104, February.
    9. C. Graham & S. Pettinato, 2002. "Frustrated Achievers: Winners, Losers and Subjective Well-Being in New Market Economies," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 38(4), pages 100-140.
    10. Robert Sugden, 2004. "Living with unfairness: The limits of equal opportunity in a market economy," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 22(1), pages 211-236, February.
    11. Jose V. Rodriguez Mora & John Hassler, 2000. "Intelligence, Social Mobility, and Growth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(4), pages 888-908, September.
    12. Lakshmi K. Raut, 1996. "Signalling equilibrium, Intergenerational mobility and long-run growth," GE, Growth, Math methods 9603002, EconWPA.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D6 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics
    • D3 - Microeconomics - - Distribution
    • J6 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers

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