July 2020

IZA DP No. 13456: Trends in Absolute Income Mobility in North America and Europe

Robert Manduca, Maximilian Hell, Adrian Adermon, Jo Blanden, Espen Bratberg, Anne C. Gielen, Hans van Kippersluis, Keun Bok Lee, Stephen Machin, Martin D. Munk, Martin Nybom, Yuri Ostrovsky, Sumaiya Rahman, Outi Sirniö

We compute rates of absolute upward income mobility for the 1960-1987 birth cohorts in eight countries in North America and Europe. Rates and trends in absolute mobility varied dramatically across countries during this period: the US and Canada saw upward mobility rates near 50% for recent cohorts, while countries like Norway and Finland saw sustained rates above 70%. Decomposition analysis suggests that differences in the marginal income distributions, especially the amount of cross-cohort income inequality, were the primary driver of differing mobility rates across countries. We also demonstrate that absolute mobility rates can be accurately estimated without linked parent-child data.