In Progress

Understanding Patterns and Trends in Income Mobility through Multiverse Analysis (with Carina Mood) | working paper

Read more Rising inequalities in rich countries have led to concerns that the economic ladder is getting harder to climb. Yet, research on trends in intergenerational income mobility finds conflicting results. To better understand this variation, we adopt a multiverse approach that estimates trends over 82,944 different definitions of income mobility, varying how and for whom income is measured. Our analysis draws on comprehensive register data for Swedish cohorts born 1958–1977 and their parents. We find that income mobility has declined but for reasons neglected by previous research: improved gender equality in the labor market raises intergenerational persistence in women's earnings and the household incomes of both men and women. Dominant theories that focus on childhood investments have blinded researchers to this development. Methodologically, we show how multiverse analysis can be used with abduction—inference to the best explanation—to improve theory building in social science.

Within-School Achievement Sorting in Comprehensive and Tracked Systems (with Isabel Raabe) | working paper

Read more Why do inequalities in schooling persist, even in relatively egalitarian school systems? This paper examines within-school sorting as an explanation. We use classroom data on friendship networks in 480 European secondary schools, and contrast comprehensive (England, Sweden) and tracked systems (Germany, Netherlands). Our question is to what extent comprehensive systems reduce achievement sorting at the level of (a) schools, (b) classrooms, and (c) friendships. Between-school variance in achievement is lower in comprehensive systems. However, this is counterbalanced by greater sorting within schools, between classrooms and, especially, in friendship networks. Still, comprehensive schools create more equal environments for two reasons. First, the difference in between-school sorting is larger than the difference in within-school sorting. Second, within-school sorting is less strongly related to social background characteristics. These findings help explain both why comprehensive schools produce more equal outcomes, and how substantial inequality can nevertheless persist.

Firms and the Intergenerational Transmission of Labor Market Advantage (with Nathan Wilmers) | working paper

Read more Pay inequality stems both from firm pay-setting and from workers' individual characteristics. Yet, intergenerational mobility research focuses on transmission of individual traits, and has failed to test how firms shape the inheritance of inequality. We study this question using three decades of Swedish population register data, and decompose the intergenerational earnings correlation into firm pay premiums and worker effects. One quarter of the intergenerational earnings correlation at midlife is explained by sorting between firms with unequal pay. Employer or industry inheritance account for a small share of this firm-based earnings transmission. Instead, high-education and high-occupation workers disproportionately land at high-paying firms. Parental referral networks and the inheritance of industry and labor market context play a supplementary role. As workers with high-education or high-status jobs are increasingly also employed at high paying firms, firm sorting could become increasingly important to intergenerational earnings transmission.

The Geography of Intergenerational Mobility in Europe (with Olivia Granström) | working paper

Read more How do opportunities for intergenerational mobility depend on the place where you live? We address this question using European Social Survey data, studying the association in occupational rank and social class between parents and children, and how it varies by region. Both ways of measuring occupational mobility produce similar results but there is a clear distinction between upward mobility, largely driven by structural change, and relative mobility which is thought to closer reflect (in)equality of opportunity. Capital regions are hubs of absolute upward, but not always relative, mobility. Absolute upward mobility is correlated with a range of human capital, labor market, demographic, and socio-spatial characteristics. By contrast, the only robust predictor of relative mobility is income differences between social classes. More inequality entails less mobility, and this relationship holds within countries.

A Caution on the Discordant Parenting Design (with Martin Hällsten) | working paper

Read more Recent studies use family fixed effects to estimate the influence of parental characteristics on children, a practice we call the “discordant parenting design”. This approach is valid only if treatment effects are equal within and between families. This assumption is mostly not informed by relevant theory and, we argue, unlikely to hold in practice. In addition, within-family confounding, reverse causality, and selection into identification complicate the interpretation of these studies further. We discuss three applied examples—the effects of parenting, family income, and neighborhood context—and provide some general guidance. To avoid misinterpretation, researchers should have a strong grasp of the variance that enters into estimation, and not just the potential confounders that a given strategy is designed to deal with.

Lasting Effects of Temporary School Closures (with Erik Liss) | draft on request

Read more During the recent pandemic, unanticipated school closures have led to short-run deficits in student learning around the world. Less is known about the long-run consequences of such learning deficits. We shed light on this question using a 1989 teacher strike that forced schools in 44 Swedish municipalities to close over a period of 4–5 weeks. We implement a difference-in-differences design, comparing treated and untreated municipalities using various matching and weighting estimators. In the short run, students experienced a reduction in Grade Point Averages (GPA) of about 2 percentile points (0.05 SD). This effect is driven by boys from disadvantaged homes, and persists up to 5 years after the strike. In the long run, exposed students experienced a 1.8% reduction in earnings, and this effect is larger in disadvantaged groups. Our results suggest that school closures can have lasting effects on human capital and intergenerational mobility, unless action is take to mitigate their harm.

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.