EqualChances.org is the world’s first online repository of internationally comparable information on inequality of opportunity and socio-economic mobility. Our aim is to improve access to and the comparability of measures inequality of opportunity and social mobility across countries. This beta version of the website contains:
• measures of inequality of opportunity for 47 countries
• measures of income mobility across generations for 27 countries
• measures of theintergenerational transmission of status for 41 countries
• measures of educational mobility across generations for 148 countries
This choice of indicators arises from three related but distinct literatures: (i) the public or welfare economics literature on equality of opportunity; (ii) the labour economics literature on the intergenerational transmission of income; and (iii) the sociological literature on social mobility and stratification. This online portal includes a range of data visualization tools and can help highlight patterns of association with various institutional and policy variables.
Equality of opportunity is a normative philosophical concept that has come to be regarded as “the currency of egalitarian justice” (Cohen, 1989). Though multiple definitions exist, the essence of the concept is that equality of opportunity obtains when everyone exerting the same degree of effort (or responsibility) attains the same level of advantage (or well-being), regardless of any predetermined circumstances beyond their control (Roemer, 1998).
Outcome inequalities are therefore consistent with equal opportunities only to the extent that they derive from differences in things individuals can control and be held responsible for. Inequality of opportunity is thus that part of observed outcome inequality that can be attributed to differences in circumstances individuals do not control. These include factors such as gender, race, nationality, family background, birthplace, and so on.
Inequality of opportunity can be measured in many different ways. We use one of the simplest, known as the between-types approach. This method consists of three steps: first, one partitions the population (or a representative sample of it) into groups with identical circumstances. One such group might be all white men born in the coastal region, to parents of low education and fathers working in agriculture. Each of these “circumstance-homogeneous” groups is called a type. Second, one attributes to each person in a type a number that represents the value of its opportunity set. This is called “smoothing the distribution”. In keeping with the literature and with simplicity, we use the mean income of the type. Third, one computes a suitable inequality measure over the smoothed distribution. We use the Gini coefficient.
A Gini coefficient so computed captures only inequality due to differences in pre-determined circumstances, which violate a key part of the concept of equality of opportunity. We report it both as is – the “Inequality of Opportunity (absolute)” – and as a ratio to of the Gini coefficient of the (unsmoothed) income distribution – the “Inequality of Opportunity (relative)”.
Economic mobility can also mean different things to different people. A number of different measures and indices have been proposed in the literature, and some of these capture concepts that are quite distinct from one another. Beyond differences in concept and index, there are also differences in the variable – mobility of what? – and in the period of interest, including whether one is looking at a single person over their lifetime, or between parents and children.
In this site we look only at intergenerational mobility, though we do use two alternative variables to do so: education and income. When measuring income mobility across generations, we report an inverse measure, that is a measure of persistence, rather than mobility. This is the intergenerational elasticity, which is obtained as the regression coefficient in a simple regression of log child’s income on log parental income.
When looking at educational mobility, we report two different measures. The first is an “absolute” index which captures the share of people in a given cohort to have attained more education than their parents. The second is a relative index, and it is given by a regression coefficient exactly analogous to that used for incomes.
The intergenerational transmission of status can be measured by the intergenerational correlation between father’s and child’s Socio-Economic Status (SES). SES refers to the position of individuals, families, households, or other aggregates in the social structure of societies (Blau & Duncan 1967). People who share a similar SES have also similar access to a set of economic, social and cultural resources that provide heterogeneous opportunities, which affect their living conditions. The intergenerational transmission of status (ITS) refers to how strong is the relation between the social status of the parents and children (Breen & Jonsson 2005). The higher is the ITS, the lower is the degree of ‘openness’ and ‘fluidity’ of society (Breen 2004), which means that social origin strongly affects SES attained in adulthood.
Recent work in sociology, psychology, epidemiology is increasingly adopting the approach of conceiving SES as a multidimensional (unobservable) construct, and use jointly various observed indicators as visible expression of this construct, such as educational level, occupational level, income and/or wealth. On the same line, we built a unique index of SES using Polychoric Principal Component Analysis as a combination of the information conveyed by individuals’ educational attainment and occupational level achieved. SES index has been estimated for individuals and their fathers. We interpret the Spearman correlation between the index of father’s SES and child’s SES as a measure of relative ITS. The higher the correlation between child’s SES and father’s SES, the lower social mobility in that country-year.
We acknowledge financial support from the Italian Ministry of Education and Research (MIUR), SIR Grant Project N.RBSI14KDMF awarded to Patrizio Piraino (09/2015 – 03/2018).