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ERIC Number: ED530005
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2009-Nov
Pages: 52
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 61
ISSN: ISSN-2045-6557
How Much Can We Learn from International Comparisons of Intergenerational Mobility? CEE DP 111
Blanden, Jo
Centre for the Economics of Education (NJ1)
Intergenerational mobility is concerned with the relationship between the socio-economic status of parents and the socio-economic outcomes of their children as adults. This can be measured in a variety of ways, by income and earnings, social class or status, or education. If an individual's income/social class/education is strongly related to his or her parental background, this means that a child from a poor family is unlikely to escape his or her start in life and consequently inequality will perpetuate. This has implications for economic efficiency if the talents of those from poorer families are under-developed or not fully utilized, as those from poorer backgrounds will not live up to their productive potential. Most people would agree that equality of opportunity is an important goal; nonetheless it is difficult to imagine a world with no link between outcomes across generations. Genetic transmissions alone are likely to lead to a positive association between the educational achievements, career prospects and earning power of parents and children, while learning within the family will lead to children from better-off families being better equipped to succeed. Hence the policy implications of the study of intergenerational mobility are unclear. If intergenerational income inequality is solely a consequence of the automatic transmissions of ability and other attributes within the family, its reduction would require strong intervention by the state, and might lead to inefficiency. The first task in this paper is to summarise the literature on the relative strength of intergenerational mobility across different countries. The author finds that the different measures used tend to be fairly well correlated, with South America and southern Europe having low mobility and the Nordic nations being rather more mobile. Measures of the association of social class across generations (social class fluidity) are the exception to this, with if anything, a negative relationship between the country rankings on these measures and others. In the second part of the paper the author begins with a short review of the theoretical literature that seeks to model the determinants of intergenerational mobility within society. This includes income inequality, educational investment, and returns to education. Finally the author takes her preferred measures of mobility and correlate them with these variables paying particular attention to contrasting results from her measures of income, educational and occupational mobility. The author finds evidence that income, status and educational mobility are all related to inequality, education spending and the returns to education. (Contains 8 tables, 10 figures and 8 footnotes.)
Centre for the Economics of Education. London School of Economics and Political Science, Houghton Street, London, WC2A 2AE, UK. Tel: +44-20-7955-7673; Fax: +44-20-7955-7595; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: London School of Economics & Political Science, Centre for the Economics of Education