Gunnar Brandén defends his thesis 17 December


Gunnar Brandén defends his thesis  “Understanding Intergenerational Mobility. Inequality, student aid, and nature-nurture interactions” on 17 December at 13:15 in hörsal 2, Ekonomikum, Kyrkogårdsgatan 10.

Gunnar Brandén

The external reviewer is Erik Lindqvist, SOFI, Stockholm University

The members of the grading committee are Mårten Palme, Department of Economics, Stockholm University, Carina Mood, SOFI, Stockholm University and Hans Grönqvist, Department of Economics, Uppsala University.

Income inequality leads to less socioeconomic mobility in Sweden

Gunnar Brandén’s thesis contributes important insights of the mechanisms that determine the level of intergenerational mobility in a society, and thereby how it can be affected by policy.

Do children who grow up in regions with high levels of income inequality experience less socio-economic mobility as adults? Is it possible to improve educational attainment and prospects on the labor market for unemployed adults by offering to replace the loans in their student aid with grants? Do children with strong genetic endowments benefit more from a good childhood environment than other children?

Gunnar Brandén’s thesis departs from the concept of intergenerational mobility – mobility between generations – and consists of three self-contained essays that each illuminate the persistence of socioeconomic status across generations. The first essay studies the relationship between inequality and intergenerational mobility across regions in Sweden, known as The Great Gatsby Curve, and finds that children who grew up in the 70’s and 80’s in regions with high levels of income inequality experienced less socioeconomic mobility as adults. The study also finds that this relationship is entirely mediated by children’s educational attainment and development of cognitive and non-cognitive skills, which implies that adverse effects of inequality on socioeconomic mobility can be mitigated by policies that target those mediators, such as nationwide access to schooling of equal standard.

The second essay studies the effect of the Recruitment Grant – a student aid reform that targeted unemployed adults with incomplete upper secondary education. The results indicate that the grant had positive effects on both educational attainment and subsequent labor market outcomes for the target population, and that these effects were more pronounced for women and the subgroups of the population with low parental education or non-Swedish ethnicity.

The third and final essay, which is co-authored with Mikael Lindahl and Björn Öckert, studies the importance of nature-nurture interactions for the development of cognitive and non-cognitive abilities as well as labor market outcomes, using registry data on adopted children and their adoptive and biological parents. Estimated interaction effects are either zero or negative but small in magnitude. This implies that a favorable upbringing will not exacerbate (or decrease) genetically inherited differences among children.