Tag Archives | Income Inequality

How Much Scope for a Mobility Paradox? The Relationship between Social and Income Mobility in Sweden

Richard Breen, Carina Mood, Jan O. Jonsson

Sociological Science, February 4, 2016
DOI 10.15195/v3.a3


It is often pointed out that conclusions about intergenerational (parent–child) mobility can differ depending on whether we base them on studies of class or income. We analyze empirically the degree of overlap in income and social mobility; we demonstrate mathematically the nature of their relationship; and we show, using simulations, how intergenerational income correlations relate to relative social mobility rates. Analyzing Swedish longitudinal register data on the incomes and occupations of over 300,000 parent–child pairs, we find that social mobility accounts for up to 49 percent of the observed intergenerational income correlations. This figure is somewhat greater for a fine-graded micro-class classification than a five-class schema and somewhat greater for women than men. There is a positive relationship between intergenerational social fluidity and income correlations, but it is relatively weak. Our empirical results, and our simulations verify that the overlap between income mobility and social mobility leaves ample room for the two indicators to move in different directions over time or show diverse patterns across countries. We explain the circumstances in which income and social mobility will change together or co-vary positively and the circumstances in which they will diverge.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Richard Breen: Nuffield College, Oxford University; Department of Sociology, Oxford University.  Email: richard.breen@nuttfield.ox.ac.uk

Carina Mood: Swedish Institute for Social Research, Stockholm University; Institute for Futures Studies.  Email: carina.mood@iffs.se

Jan O. Jonsson: Nuffield College, Oxford university; Swedish Institute for Social Research, Stockholm University.  Email: janne.jonsson@nuffield.ox.ac.uk

Acknowledgements: Thanks to participants at the RC28 meeting at the University of Virginia, August 2012, and particularly Mike Hout and Matt Lawrence, for comments on an earlier draft. Mood and Jonsson acknowledge financial support from the Swedish Council for Health, Working Life, and Welfare (FAS 2009-1320; FORTE 2012-1741) and from the Swedish Foundation for Humanities and Social Sciences (RJ P12-0636:1).


  • Citation: Breen, Richard, Carina Mood and Jan O. Jonsson. 2015. “How Much Scope for a Mobility Paradox? The Relationship between Social and Income Mobility in Sweden.” Sociological Science 3: 39-60.
  • Received: March 20, 2015.
  • Accepted: April 16, 2015.
  • Editors: Jesper Sørensen, Kim Weeden
  • DOI: 10.15195/v3.a3

Income Inequality and Education

Richard Breen, Inkwan Chung

Sociological Science, August 26, 2015
DOI 10.15195/v2.a22


Many commentators have seen the growing gap in earnings and income between those with a college education and those without as a major cause of increasing inequality in the United States and elsewhere. In this article we investigate the extent to which increasing the educational attainment of the US population might ameliorate inequality. We use data from NLSY79 and carry out a three-level decomposition of total inequality into within-person, between-person and between-education parts. We find that the between-education contribution to inequality is small, even when we consider only adjusted inequality that omits the within-person component. We carry out a number of simulations to gauge the likely impact on inequality of changes in the distribution of education and of a narrowing of the differences in average incomes between those with different levels of education. We find that any feasible educational policy is likely to have only a minor impact on income inequality.
Richard Breen:  Nuffield College and Department of Sociology, University of Oxford.   Email: richard.breen@nuffield.ox.ac.uk

Inkwan Chung: Department of Sociology, Yale University.  Email: inkwan.chung@yale.edu

  • Citation: Breen, Richard, and Inkwan Chung. 2015. “Income Inequality and Education.” Sociological Science 2: 454-477.
  • Received: April 3, 2015.
  • Accepted: April 19, 2015.
  • Editors: Jesper Sørensen, Stephen Morgan
  • DOI: 10.15195/v2.a22