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Long-term evolution of inequality of opportunity

Author

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  • Maurizio Bussolo

    (World Bank, USA)

  • Daniele Checchi

    (University of Milan)

  • Vito Peragine

    (University of Bari)

Abstract

The main goal of this paper is to document and analyze the long-term evolution of inequality of opportunity and thus extend the recent empirical literature, which is mainly concerned with its measurement at a specific point in time. Using repeated cross-section surveys for five European countries (France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, and Switzerland), the evolution of inequality of opportunity is measured for a period of about two decades for the whole populations, as well as for different birth cohorts. Relative inequality of opportunity represents an important portion of total income inequality, with values ranging from 30 to 50 percent according to the standard deviation of logs (and reaching a lower share in case of mean log deviation) and, for all the countries, it shows a stable or declining time trend. When the birth cohorts are followed across time, inequality of opportunity decreases with age: the effect of circumstances seems to weaken over the life cycle. This is a quite different age profile from that of inequality of outcomes (income or consumption), which generally increases with age. A decomposition of the relative inequality of opportunity allows highlighting some key drivers of its time evolution. In all the countries, there has been a clear enhancement of equality of educational opportunity (as captured by a downward trending intergenerational education persistence) and a reduction of the returns to education. However, for some countries, notably Italy, these trends have failed to translate into decreasing inequality of opportunity in the income distribution because of the increasing role of parental networking (an additional channel through which parental background affects the incomes of offspring).

Suggested Citation

  • Maurizio Bussolo & Daniele Checchi & Vito Peragine, 2019. "Long-term evolution of inequality of opportunity," Working Papers 485, ECINEQ, Society for the Study of Economic Inequality.
  • Handle: RePEc:inq:inqwps:ecineq2019-485
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Thibaut Plassot & Isidro Soloaga & Pedro J. Torres, 2022. "A Random Forest approach of the Evolution of Inequality of Opportunity in Mexico," Working Papers 614, ECINEQ, Society for the Study of Economic Inequality.
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    3. Gassmann, Franziska & Martorano, Bruno, 2019. "The future of work and its implications for social protection and the welfare state," MERIT Working Papers 2019-039, United Nations University - Maastricht Economic and Social Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT).
    4. Pedro Salas-Rojo & Juan Gabriel Rodríguez, 2021. "The distribution of wealth in Spain and the USA: the role of socioeconomic factors," SERIEs: Journal of the Spanish Economic Association, Springer;Spanish Economic Association, vol. 12(3), pages 389-421, September.
    5. Kishan P K V, 2018. "Is the Past Still Holding Us Back? A Study on Intergenerational Education Mobility in India (revised as on 26.09.18)," IIMA Working Papers WP 2018-01-03, Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad, Research and Publication Department.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Inequality of Opportunity; Decomposition methods; Education mobility; Returns to Education; Family Networking; Cohort Analysis.;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity
    • I24 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Inequality
    • J62 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Job, Occupational and Intergenerational Mobility; Promotion

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