Ability and Mobility. the Relative Influence of Skills and Social Origin on Life Course Destinies

Gosta Esping-Andersen, Pompeu Fabra U.

Exploiting the recent PIACC data, we examine both upward and downward social mobility within 21 advanced nations. Our aim is to identify the relative influence of social origins versus individual cognitive and non-cognitive skills. We pay particular attention to the possibility of skills compensation— social skills may compensate for weak cognitive abilities, or vice-versa. This is, as far as we know, the first time mobility research has examined such kinds of skills-compensatory behavior. In line with previous research we, too, uncover a significantly more egalitarian mobility pattern in the Nordic countries. This however obtains also for Canada and the Netherlands. As a novel contribution to the literature, our analyses suggest that skills compensation is particularly prominent in Scandinavia, protecting high-SES sons from the risk of downward social mobility.

Presented in Session 97: Childhood Experiences, Parental Investment and Intergenerational Mobility