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Income Inequality, Intergenerational Mobility, and the Great Gatsby Curve: Is Education the Key?

Jerrim, J; Macmillan, L; (2015) Income Inequality, Intergenerational Mobility, and the Great Gatsby Curve: Is Education the Key? Social Forces , 94 (2) pp. 505-533. 10.1093/sf/sov075. Green open access

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Abstract

It is widely believed that countries with greater levels of income inequality also have lower levels of intergenerational mobility. This relationship, known as the Great Gatsby Curve (GGC), has been prominently cited by high-ranking public policymakers, bestselling authors, and Nobel Prize–winning academics. Yet, relatively little crossnational work has empirically examined the mechanisms thought to underpin the GGC—particularly with regard to the role of educational attainment. This paper uses the cross-nationally comparable Programme for International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) data set to shed new light on this issue. We find that income inequality is associated with several key components of the intergenerational transmission process—including access to higher education, the financial returns on education, and the residual effect of parental education upon labor-market earnings. Thus, consistent with theoretical models, we find that educational attainment is an important driver of the relationship between intergenerational mobility and income inequality. We hence conclude that unequal access to financial resources plays a central role in the intergenerational transmission of advantage.

Type: Article
Title: Income Inequality, Intergenerational Mobility, and the Great Gatsby Curve: Is Education the Key?
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1093/sf/sov075
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/sf/sov075
Language: English
Additional information: © The Author 2015. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Learning and Leadership
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Learning and Leadership > Centre for Education Policy and Equalising Opportunities
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Social Research Institute
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1472908
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