In Progress

Learning Inequality During the COVID-19 Pandemic (with Arun Frey, Mark Verhagen) | working paperpreregistration | summary 1summary 2 | press release

Read more Suspension of face-to-face instruction in schools during the COVID-19 pandemic has led to concerns about consequences for student learning. So far, data to study this question have been limited. In this paper, we evaluate the effect of school closures on primary school students in the Netherlands, where schools remained closed for 8 weeks. We examine nationally standardized test scores before and after lockdown, and compare progress during this period to the same period in previous years. Our results reveal a significant loss of learning progress of about 3 percentile points or 0.08 standard deviations. This loss is around 50% larger among students from low-educated homes, confirming worries about the uneven toll of the pandemic on children and families. Our results are on the same order of magnitude as best-case scenarios projected by the European Commission and the World Bank, and suggest losses many times larger in countries less prepared for remote learning.

Intergenerational Mobility in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (with Thor Berger) | working paper

Read more The maturation of industrial society has long been seen as an engine of occupational upgrading and opportunity. Following the rise of the factory, the assembly line, and the office computer, some claim that we are now entering a fourth industrial revolution where autonomous systems are transforming the nature of work. What are the consequences of this transformation for intergenerational income mobility? Examining variation across 722 U.S. labor markets, we find that intergenerational persistence is higher in areas heavily exposed to industrial automation. These effects are rooted in childhood experiences and concentrated among men from disadvantaged homes. Unequal labor relations appear to exacerbate the association, while affordable access to college ameliorates it. The received view of industrial change as an engine of mobility should be revised to consider the institutional context of automation.

Intergenerational Mobility in Sweden Before the Welfare State (with Thor Berger, Björn Eriksson, Jakob Molinder) | draft on request

Read more This paper provides the first nationally representative estimates of intergenerational occupational mobility in Sweden prior to rise of the welfare state. We create linked samples of fathers and sons using 19th- and 20th-century population census data. Sweden was more mobile than other European countries prior to the outbreak of World War I and mobility rates exceeded those observed in Europe and the United States in the post-World War II era. Comparing historical mobility patterns, we show that Sweden's pattern of mobility was more similar to the Americas, demonstrating the absence of a clear divide in mobility between the Old and New World. Leveraging geographic variation within Sweden, we provide suggestive evidence that its high levels of mobility is explained by exceptionally rapid economic growth and high cross-regional mobility at the time.

Is Immigrant Optimism Contagious? Spillovers of Immigrant Friends in School (with Are Skeie Hermansen) | draft on request

Read more Is academic achievement affected by the presence of immigrant peers? Previous work mostly suggests no but, we argue, has been misguided on two accounts. First, it focused on aggregate social settings such as schools, while social interactions unfold in more intimate settings. Secondly, it assumed that immigrant peers would harm performance, ignoring their often high aspirations. We use a combination of administrative and sociometric network data from Sweden, and develop methods that let us estimate causal effects of immigrant peers at the level of (i) schools, (ii) classrooms, and (iii) friendship networks. We find little influence at the aggregate level but a strong and positive impact of immigrant peers in the same classroom and of immigrant friends. Existing studies may have mistaken both the sign and the magnitude of immigrant influence.

One School, Many Worlds: Within-School Sorting in Comprehensive and Tracked Systems (with Isabel Raabe) | draft on request

Read more Why do inequalities in learning persist, even in relatively egalitarian school systems? We examine within-school ability sorting with classroom data on friendship networks in 480 European secondary schools. We contrast comprehensive (England, Sweden) and tracked systems (Germany, Netherlands) and ask how they shape sorting at the level of a) schools, b) classrooms, and c) friendships. Between-school variance in test scores is lower in comprehensive systems. However, this is counterbalanced by greater sorting within schools: between classrooms and, especially, friendship networks. Still, comprehensive schools create more equal environments for two reasons. First, the difference in sorting between schools is larger than that in sorting within schools. Second, the latter is less related to social and ethnic background. These findings help explain both why comprehensive schools equalize outcomes, and how substantial inequality can nevertheless remain.

How Robust are Intergenerational Income Correlations? (with Carina Mood) | draft in progress

Read more Recent work highlights how "researcher degrees of freedom" – undisclosed flexibility in research design – can give rise to varying results. The study of income mobility is no exception, with decisions ranging over income concept, unit of observation, functional form, treatment of outliers, etc. Using Swedish data on the population of children born 1960–1976, we exhaust a model space of several hundred thousands specifications to answer three questions. What is the range of reasonable estimates? Which specification fits data best? How sensitive are estimated trends? Linear correlations fit better than rank correlations, while log-log correlations (and hence, elasticities) fit poorly and behave erratically over time. Even with more robust measures of association, different income definitions follow opposing trends: increasing persistence in family income and women's earnings, flat or decreasing in men's earnings.

Firming Up Mobility: The Role of Firms in Intergenerational Earnings Persistence (with Nathan Wilmers) | draft in progress

Read more Social scientists have long sought to understand how economic advantage is transmitted from parent to child. Most research on intergenerational persistence of earnings has focused on the transmission of individual traits like human capital. Yet earnings are a function not only of individual worker characteristics, but also of which workers successfully match with high-paying firms. We use Swedish administrative data to decompose the intergenerational earnings correlation into fixed effects attributable to firms and individual workers. Our analysis reveals that a large part of the intergenerational resemblance in earnings is explained by parents in high-earning firms passing on a similar labor market advantage to their children. Unlike the traditional earnings correlation, this firm-based earnings gap opens up at an early age and is largely constant throughout children's careers.