Tag Archives | Intergenerational Mobility

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