How much scope for a mobility paradox? The relationship between social and income mobility in Sweden
Published: Mar 2015

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 and we demonstrate mathematically the nature of their relationship. 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 per cent 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. Our empirical results 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 under which income and social mobility will change together or co-vary positively, and the circumstances in which they will diverge.

Keywords: Income


  • Jan O. Jonsson
  • ,
  • Richard Breen, Yale University and Carina Mood, Stockholm University
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