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Intergenerational Mobility in Europe and North America 2005
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SOURCE: Center for Economic Performance
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    This table and the comments that follow it were produced by the Center for Economic Performance, London, United Kingdom.


    Internationally Comparable Estimates of Intergenerational Mobility
    Countries are ranked by highest intergenerational mobility, which is indicated by a lower International Partial Correlation (IPC). Norway is the most mobile, and the United States the least mobile.
    See notes below the table for further explanation.
    Rank Country Sons Born Sons Earnings
    Measure
    Measure of
    Parental Status
    IPC

    1


    2


    2


    2


    3


    4


    5


    6



    Norway


    Sweden


    Denmark


    Canada


    Finland


    Germany


    United Kingdom


    United States



    1958


    1962


    1958-1960


    1967-1970


    1958-1960


    1960-1973


    1970


    1954-1970



    1992 and 1999
    (average)

    1996 and 1999
    (average)

    1998 and 2000
    (average)

    1998


    1995 and 2000
    (average)

    2000


    2000 (age 30)


    Age 30



    Father's earnings
    1974

    Father's earnings
    1975

    Fatherís earnings
    1980

    Parental income
    when son aged 16

    Fatherís earnings
    1975

    Parental income
    1984 and 1988
    (average)
    Parental income
    1980 and 1986
    (average)
    Parental income
    when son age 10
    and 16 (avg.)


    .139b


    .143b


    .143b


    .143a


    .147b


    .171a


    .271a


    .289a




    Source: Center for Economic Performance, London, United Kingdom

    The level of intergenerational mobility in society is seen by many as a measure of the extent of equality of economic opportunity or life chances. It captures the extent to which a personís circumstances during childhood are reflected in their success in later life, or on the flip-side, the extent to which individuals can make it by virtue of their own talents, motivation and luck.

    Among economists, intergenerational mobility is most commonly measured by an intergenerational elasticity (‚) measuring the strength of the statistical association between parent and child outcomes.

    A higher elasticity indicates a stronger impact of parental outcomes on childrenís economic success, meaning higher intergenerational inequality and less intergenerational mobility. If ‚ equals1 this corresponds to complete intergenerational immobility. If ‚ equals 0, and there is no relationship between incomes across generations, this corresponds to complete mobility.

    Northern Europe and Canada are particularly mobile, and Britain and the US have the lowest intergenerational mobility across the European and North American countries studied here.

    The USA is seen by some as a place with particularly high social mobility. In part this is a consequence of using measures of class to estimate mobility (these will be affected by changes in the class structure over time). However, the idea of the US as Ďthe land of opportunityí persists; and clearly seems misplaced.

    This study combines the CEP's own analysis for mobility in Britain, the US, West Germany and Canada, with research by Bjorklund et al (2005) who consider Britain, the US, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark. Both studies are strongly focused on using a consistent approach across the studies. Combining them enables a comparison to be made over eight countries.

    NOTE: The table and comments on this page are re-published from "Intergenerational Mobility in Europe and North America, A Report Supported by the Sutton Trust, Jo Blanden, Paul Gregg and Stephen Machin, April 2005", published by the Center for Economic Performance, London, United Kingdom. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of intergenerational mobility data contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about intergenerational mobility should be addressed to the Center for Economic Performance.



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    This page was last modified 18-MAR-09
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