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Mobility Regimes and Parental Wealth: The United States, Germany, and Sweden in Comparison

Publication Abstract

Download PDF versionPfeffer, Fabian T., and Martin Hällsten. 2012. "Mobility Regimes and Parental Wealth: The United States, Germany, and Sweden in Comparison." PSC Research Report No. 12-766. July 2012.

We study the role of parental wealth for children's educational and occupational outcomes across three types of welfare states and outline a theoretical model that assumes parental wealth to impact offspring's attainment through two mechanisms, wealth's purchasing function and its insurance function. We argue that welfare states can limit the purchasing function of wealth, for instance by providing free education and generous social benefits, yet none of the welfare states examined here provides a functional equivalent to the insurance against adverse outcomes afforded by parental wealth. Our empirical evidence of substantial associations between parental wealth and children's educational success and social mobility in three nations that are marked by large institutional differences is in line with this interpretation and helps us re-examine and extend existing typologies of mobility regimes.

Countries of focus: Germany, Sweden, United States.

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