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Equality of Opportunity, Heterogeneity and Poverty


  • Nilsson, William

    () (Department of Economics, Umeå University)


Paper [I] studies equality of opportunity in Sweden. The distinction between circumstances that constrain an individual’s opportunities and the individual choices also affecting a particular outcome is the main idea of theories of equality of opportunity. In this study, equality of opportunity is analyzed for Swedish data using a large set of variables indicating different circumstances likely to affect an individual’s opportunities. A semiparametric model is estimated to allow for a possible nonlinear relation between parental income and the income of the adult child. The reason is a hypothesis that a constrained investment behavior would make the relationship nonlinear. The results indicate significant inequality of opportunities. However, they do not indicate a nonlinear relationship between parental income and the income of the adult child. Thus, the hypothesis that low income families will have a constrained investment behavior in human capital formation is brought into question as the explanation of intergenerational income correlation in Sweden. Paper [II] focuses on the persistence of poverty in Sweden. The purpose is to distinguish between two different reasons why poverty could persist on an individual level. By using a sample of identical twins, this study takes advantage of the similarity within pairs of twins to separate family specific heterogeneity from true state dependence, where the experience of poverty leads to a higher risk of future poverty. The results, based on a four variate probit model, show the importance of true state dependence in poverty. When using the information on whether an individual received social assistance as a measure of poverty, family specific heterogeneity explains between 24 and 31 percent of the poverty persistence in the sample. Paper [III] analyzes the consequences of unemployment for a Swedish sample of couples. The purpose is to estimate the possible income replacement that a spouse can provide. Unemployment can also affect the probability that the couples split up. Since not all couples remain in the analysis, a potential selection problem can occur. To deal with this problem, and also to take care of unobserved heterogeneity, a sample selection model for panel data is estimated. The results indicate that it is necessary to take into account the selection problem. A period in unemployment is found to be correlated with a higher female income only in the case of men who earned a fairly high income before becoming unemployed. Women who earned a fairly low income and were subject to a long period of unemployment are found to be compensated by a higher male income.

Suggested Citation

  • Nilsson, William, 2005. "Equality of Opportunity, Heterogeneity and Poverty," Umeå Economic Studies 652, Umeå University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:umnees:0652

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Lorenzo Cappellari & Stephen P. Jenkins, 2004. "Modelling low income transitions," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 19(5), pages 593-610.
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    3. Solon, Gary, 1999. "Intergenerational mobility in the labor market," Handbook of Labor Economics,in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 29, pages 1761-1800 Elsevier.
    4. Gary S. Becker & Nigel Tomes, 1994. "Human Capital and the Rise and Fall of Families," NBER Chapters,in: Human Capital: A Theoretical and Empirical Analysis with Special Reference to Education (3rd Edition), pages 257-298 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Melvin Stephens, 2002. "Worker Displacement and the Added Worker Effect," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 20(3), pages 504-537, July.
    6. Stewart, Mark B & Swaffield, Joanna K, 1999. "Low Pay Dynamics and Transition Probabilities," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 66(261), pages 23-42, February.
    7. Markus Jäntti & Eva Österbacka & Oddbjörn Raaum & Tor Eriksson & Anders Björklund, 2002. "Brother correlations in earnings in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden compared to the United States," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 15(4), pages 757-772.
    8. Martin Biewen, 2004. "Measuring State Dependence in Individual Poverty Status: Are there Feedback Effects to Employment Decisions and Household Composition?," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 429, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
    9. Maloney, Tim, 1991. "Unobserved Variables and the Elusive Added Worker Effect," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 58(230), pages 173-187, May.
    10. John E. Roemer, 2002. "Equality of opportunity: A progress report," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 19(2), pages 455-471.
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    Cited by:

    1. Raattamaa, Tomas, 2016. "Essays on Delegated Search and Temporary Work Agencies," Umeå Economic Studies 935, Umeå University, Department of Economics.
    2. repec:spr:sochwe:v:49:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s00355-017-1076-2 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item


    Keywords: equality of opportunity; semiparametric; poverty; heterogeneity; state dependence; twins; unemployment; divorce; spousal response; selection and panel data;

    JEL classification:

    • C14 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods and Methodology: General - - - Semiparametric and Nonparametric Methods: General
    • C33 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Multiple or Simultaneous Equation Models; Multiple Variables - - - Models with Panel Data; Spatio-temporal Models
    • C35 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Multiple or Simultaneous Equation Models; Multiple Variables - - - Discrete Regression and Qualitative Choice Models; Discrete Regressors; Proportions
    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • I32 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Measurement and Analysis of Poverty
    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure
    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply
    • J62 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Job, Occupational and Intergenerational Mobility; Promotion

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