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The Social Background of Elite Executives: The Swedish Case

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  • Henrekson, Magnus

    () (Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN))

  • Lyssarides, Odd

    (Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN))

Abstract

Sweden is often described as a country where intergenerational social mobility is high, but research also shows that social mobility decreases the closer one gets to the extreme top of the income distribution. We study the occupational mobility for an extreme elite group in society: the CEOs of Sweden’s 30 largest public firms since 1945. To our knowledge, there exists no similar study for any other country. The study is based on a hand-collected data set consisting of 229 former and current CEOs who grew up in Sweden and born between the late1800s and 1970. We have information about paternal occupations for 185 (81 percent) of them, and 60 percent grew up in Social Group I, which implies an overrepresentation for Social Group I by a factor of 9.7. Consequently, Social Groups II and III are underrepresented. However, almost four out of ten CEOs born in the 1940s came from Social Group III and toward the end of the period, the share coming from Social Group II roughly doubled to about 35 percent. Wallenberg-controlled firms were slightly more likely to have CEOs with a Social Group III background. More than half of the CEOs have a father holding a managerial position. Seven of the CEOs have noble surnames, which implies an overrepresentation equal to that of Social Group I; however, among CEOs born after 1939 only two come from a noble family, which suggests a drop in the advantage conferred by a noble background. Finally, less than five percent of the CEOs were members of a family that was a controlling owner or had a father who was also a large-firm CEO.

Suggested Citation

  • Henrekson, Magnus & Lyssarides, Odd, 2016. "The Social Background of Elite Executives: The Swedish Case," Working Paper Series 1138, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:iuiwop:1138
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Björklund, Anders & Roine, Jesper & Waldenström, Daniel, 2012. "Intergenerational top income mobility in Sweden: Capitalist dynasties in the land of equal opportunity?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(5), pages 474-484.
    2. John Hassler & José Rodríguez Mora & Joseph Zeira, 2007. "Inequality and mobility," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 12(3), pages 235-259, September.
    3. Anders Bohlmark & Matthew J. Lindquist, 2006. "Life-Cycle Variations in the Association between Current and Lifetime Income: Replication and Extension for Sweden," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(4), pages 879-900, October.
    4. Henrekson, Magnus & Stenkula, Mikael, 2009. "Why Are There So Few Female Top Executives in Egalitarian Welfare States?," Working Paper Series 786, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
    5. Jason Long & Joseph Ferrie, 2013. "Intergenerational Occupational Mobility in Great Britain and the United States since 1850," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(4), pages 1109-1137, June.
    6. Miles Corak, 2013. "Income Inequality, Equality of Opportunity, and Intergenerational Mobility," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 27(3), pages 79-102, Summer.
    7. Orsetta Causa & Åsa Johansson, 2010. "Intergenerational Social Mobility in OECD Countries," OECD Journal: Economic Studies, OECD Publishing, vol. 2010(1), pages 1-44.
    8. Orsetta Causa & Åsa Johansson, 2009. "Intergenerational Social Mobility," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 707, OECD Publishing.
    9. Jason Long & Joseph Ferrie, 2013. "Intergenerational Occupational Mobility in Great Britain and the United States since 1850: Reply," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(5), pages 2041-2049, August.
    10. Gregory Clark, 2015. "The Son Also Rises: Surnames and the History of Social Mobility," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, number 10181-2.
    11. Björklund, Anders & Jäntti, Markus & Lindquist, Matthew J., 2009. "Family background and income during the rise of the welfare state: Brother correlations in income for Swedish men born 1932-1968," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(5-6), pages 671-680, June.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Social mobility; Chief executive officers; Occupational mobility; Sweden;

    JEL classification:

    • J00 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General - - - General
    • J62 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Job, Occupational and Intergenerational Mobility; Promotion
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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