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Social Mobility Trends in Canada: Going up the Great Gatsby Curve


  • Marie Connolly

    (Department of Economics, University of Quebec in Montreal)

  • Catherine Haeck

    () (Department of Economics, University of Quebec in Montreal)

  • David Lapierre

    (Department of Economics, University of Quebec in Montreal)


While cross-sectional increases in inequality are a cause for concern, the study of the intergenerational transmission of socioeconomic status is perhaps more relevant. How is social status reproduced from one generation to the next? Recent work has highlighted the relationship, if not causal then correlational, between inequality and measures of social mobility in a cross-country setting. This relationship is dubbed the Great Gatsby Curve (Corak 2013): places with higher inequality during one's childhood are correlated with lower intergenerational income mobility between the child and his or her parents. In this paper, newly developed administrative Canadian tax data are exploited to compute measures of intergenerational income mobility at the national and provincial levels. This work provides detailed descriptive evidence on the trends in social mobility. Results show that mobility has steadily declined over time, and that there has been an increase in the inequality of the parental income distribution, as measured by the Gini coefficient. Hence Canada, and all its provinces, have been "€œgoing up"€ the Great Gatsby Curve. The cross sectional, cross country relationship thus also holds within a same country over time, leading credence to the more causal than correlational nature of the relationship, though causality is not formally tested here. The decrease in mobility, particularly for children born in the bottom quintile of the income distribution, should be of concern to federal and provincial policymakers alike and highlights the need for additional research in order to provide equal opportunities to all children.

Suggested Citation

  • Marie Connolly & Catherine Haeck & David Lapierre, 2019. "Social Mobility Trends in Canada: Going up the Great Gatsby Curve," Working Papers 19-03, Research Group on Human Capital, University of Quebec in Montreal's School of Management, revised May 2019.
  • Handle: RePEc:grc:wpaper:19-03

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    Cited by:

    1. Catherine Haeck & Pierre Lefebvre, 2020. "Pandemic School Closures May Increase Inequality in Test Scores," Working Papers 20-03, Research Group on Human Capital, University of Quebec in Montreal's School of Management, revised Jun 2020.
    2. Catherine Haeck & Pierre Lefebvre, 2020. "The Evolution of Cognitive Skills Inequalities by Socioeconomic Status across Canada," Working Papers 20-04, Research Group on Human Capital, University of Quebec in Montreal's School of Management.
    3. Catherine Haeck & Marie Connolly, 2019. "Point de vue sur l'accessibilité aux données des administrations publiques," Working Papers 19-04, Research Group on Human Capital, University of Quebec in Montreal's School of Management.
    4. Marie Connolly & Catherine Haeck & Jean-William P. Laliberté, 2020. "Parental Education and the Rising Transmission of Income between Generations," NBER Chapters, in: Measuring and Understanding the Distribution and Intra/Inter-Generational Mobility of Income and Wealth, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Pier-André Bouchard St-Amant & Jean-Denis Garon & Nicolas Marceau, 2020. "Uncovering Gatsby Curves," CESifo Working Paper Series 8049, CESifo.

    More about this item


    social mobility; intergenerational transmissions; income inequality; Great Gatsby curve; Canada;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • J62 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Job, Occupational and Intergenerational Mobility; Promotion
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement

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