Intergenerational Social Mobility across OECD Countries



  • 1002o_es_Social_Mobilitypdf

Prior to the release of «Going for Growth 2010», the OECD has already published a chapter of the forthcoming report. The chapter on “Intergenerational Social Mobility across OECD Countries” provides an assessment of current cross-country patterns in intergenerational social mobility and examines the role that public policies play in affecting mobility. It reveals that intergenerational earning, wage and educational mobility vary widely across OECD countries. The study found that social mobility between generations tends to be lower in more unequal societies. Mobility in earnings, wages and education across generations is relatively low in France, southern European countries, the United Kingdom and the United States. By contrast, such mobility tends to be higher in Australia, Canada and the Nordic countries. That is to say that it is easier to climb the social ladder and earn more than one’s parents in the Nordic countries, Australia and Canada than in France, Italy, Britain and the United States.

To a large extent weak social mobility signals a lack of equal opportunities. Across all countries family and socio-economic background is a major influence on a person’s level of education and earnings, but the impact of parental education, or lack of it, on a child’s future prospects is particularly marked in southern European countries and the UK.

The study also finds that well educated parents tend to have well educated children for whom it is easier to obtain well paid jobs. In countries with weak social mobility people whose fathers have a university degree earn on average at least 20% more than children of men whose education ended at upper- secondary level, and well over a third more than children of men who had not reached upper-secondary education. The study also discusses options for public policy in the areas of education, tax and social policy in order to improve social mobility. In this respect the study concluded that redistributive tax and benefit policies aimed at providing income support or access to education for disadvantaged families may reduce the handicaps of a poorer or less well educated background.