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Can the next generation escape inequality?

Inequality is much worse when it is accompanied by low social mobility.

Social mobility refers to the extent to which a parent’s relative income and position in society is transferred to their children. It is an important concept for you to understand, because it explains how inequality can become entrenched from one generation to the next. Social mobility becomes an indicator of equality of opportunity.

Are different countries associated with higher or lower levels of social mobility?

Yes. Scandinavian countries, along with Australia and Canada tend to have the highest degree of social mobility. This means there is a greater opportunity to escape poverty into which a person is born into.

Countries associated with the lowest levels of social mobility include the U.S., the U.K, Switzerland and Italy. Are you surprised?

Why is social mobility so important for economic growth?

High levels of social mobility enables a country to make the most productive use of the talents of people from disadvantaged backgrounds. This works in favour of these individuals and the greater economy. Government policies have a large role in encouraging equality of opportunity. In fact, they are critical to achieving high rates of economic growth.

Your task

You may first like to read more about social mobility in the articles found in the ‘see also’ section below.

Then, in the comments section, share your thoughts about the level of social mobility in your geographical area. Do you think children have good opportunities to rise up from the circumstances they were born into, or is it more difficult to escape the economic path their parents travelled?

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This article is from the free online course:

Exploring Economics: Will the Next Generation Be Worse Off?

Griffith University