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Inequality of Life Chances and the Measurement of Social Immobility

  • Jacques Silber
  • Olivier Giovannoni
  • Amedeo Spadaro

This paper begins by proposing two cardinal measures of inequality in life chances as well as an ordinal representation of such inequality based on the use of so-called social immobility curves. Using as its database a matrix in which the lines correspond to the social category of parents (e.g., their occupation or educational level) and the columns to the income distribution of their children, it then highlights the importance of the marginal distributions when comparing social immobility within two populations, and shows how it is possible to neutralize differences in these margins. The idea is to adapt a method used in the field of occupational segregation measurement that allows one to make a distinction between differences in gross and net social immobility, assuming that the marginal distributions of the two populations are identical. Borrowing ideas from recent literature on the equality of opportunity, the paper then defines the concept of an inequality in circumstances curve and relates it to that of a social immobility curve. Two empirical datasets are used to determine the usefulness of the concepts presented. The first dataset comes from a survey conducted in France in 1998 and allows one to measure the degree of social immobility and of inequality in circumstances on the basis of the occupation of fathers or mothers and the income class to which sons or daughters belong. The second dataset, drawn from a social survey conducted in Israel in 2003, is the basis for a study of social immobility and inequality in circumstances, emphasizing the transition from the educational level of the fathers to the income class of the children. Both illustrations confirm the usefulness of the analytical tools described in this paper.

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Paper provided by Levy Economics Institute in its series Economics Working Paper Archive with number wp_513.

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Date of creation: Sep 2007
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Handle: RePEc:lev:wrkpap:wp_513
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.levyinstitute.org

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  1. Piketty, Thomas, 1999. "Attitudes toward income inequality in France: Do people really disagree?," CEPREMAP Working Papers (Couverture Orange) 9918, CEPREMAP.
  2. F. Chantreuil & A. Trannoy, 1999. "Inequality decomposition values : the trade-off between marginality and consistency," THEMA Working Papers 99-24, THEMA (THéorie Economique, Modélisation et Applications), Université de Cergy-Pontoise.
  3. Arnaud Lefranc & Nicolas Pistolesi & Alain Trannoy, 2006. "Equality of Opportunity: Definitions and Testable Conditions with an Application to Income in France," IDEP Working Papers 0609, Institut d'economie publique (IDEP), Marseille, France, revised 27 Sep 2006.
  4. Karmel, T & Maclachlan, M, 1988. "Occupational Sex Segregation--Increasing or Decreasing?," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 64(186), pages 187-95, September.
  5. Fluckiger, Yves & Silber, Jacques, 1994. "The Gini Index and the Measurement of Multidimensional Inequality," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 56(2), pages 225-28, May.
  6. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521827607 is not listed on IDEAS
  7. Mercedes Sastre & Alain Trannoy, 2002. "Shapley inequality decomposition by factor components: Some methodological issues," Journal of Economics, Springer, vol. 9(1), pages 51-89, December.
  8. Vito Peragine, 2004. "Ranking Income Distributions According to Equality of Opportunity," Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer, vol. 2(1), pages 11-30, April.
  9. Silber, Jacques G., 1989. "On the measurement of employment segregation," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 237-243, September.
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