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

  • Sebastian Galiani

    (Washington University in St. Louis)

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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Paper provided by CEDLAS, Universidad Nacional de La Plata in its series CEDLAS, Working Papers with number 0101.

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Length: 59 pages
Date of creation: Jun 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:dls:wpaper:0101
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Web page: http://cedlas.econo.unlp.edu.ar/

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  1. Benabou, Roland & Tirole, Jean, 2004. "Belief in a Just World and Redistributive Politics," Papers 08-15-2005a, Princeton University, Research Program in Political Economy.
  2. John Hassler & José Vicente Rodríguez Mora & Joseph Zeira, 2003. "Inequality and Mobility," Working Papers 23, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  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. Cunha, Flavio & Heckman, James J. & Lochner, Lance, 2006. "Interpreting the Evidence on Life Cycle Skill Formation," Handbook of the Economics of Education, Elsevier.
  7. 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.
  8. Benabou, R. & Ok, E.A., 2000. "Mobility as Progressivity: Ranking Income Processes According to Equality of Opportunity," Papers 211, Princeton, Woodrow Wilson School - Public and International Affairs.
  9. Lakshmi K. Raut, 1996. "Signalling equilibrium, Intergenerational mobility and long-run growth," GE, Growth, Math methods 9603002, EconWPA.
  10. Robert Sugden, 2004. "Living with unfairness: The limits of equal opportunity in a market economy," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer, vol. 22(1), pages 211-236, 02.
  11. Thomas Piketty, 1994. "Social Mobility and Redistributive Politics," Working papers 94-15, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  12. 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 351-66, September.
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