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The Political Economy of Intergenerational Income Mobility

  • Ichino, Andrea


    (European University Institute)

  • Karabarbounis, Loukas


    (Harvard University)

  • Moretti, Enrico


    (University of California, Berkeley)

The intergenerational elasticity of income is considered one of the best measures of the degree to which a society gives equal opportunity to its members. While much research has been devoted to measuring this reduced-form parameter, less is known about its underlying structural determinants. Using a model with exogenous talent endowments, endogenous parental investment in children and endogenous redistributive institutions, we identify the structural parameters that govern the intergenerational elasticity of income. The model clarifies how the interaction between private and collective decisions determines the equilibrium level of social mobility. Two societies with similar economic and biological fundamentals may have vastly different degrees of intergenerational mobility depending on their political institutions. We offer empirical evidence in line with the predictions of the model. We conclude that international comparisons of intergenerational elasticity of income are not particularly informative about fairness without taking into account differences in politico-economic institutions.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 4767.

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Length: 46 pages
Date of creation: Feb 2010
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in: Economic Inquiry, 2011, 49 (1), 47 - 69
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp4767
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