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Wealth and Opportunity in Sweden, the United States, and Germany

a PSC Small Fund Research Project

Investigator:   Fabian T. Pfeffer

Inequality in the distribution of economic assets is intense. In many industrialized nations, the wealthiest twenty percent hold more than eighty percent of all economic wealth. Naturally, there is cause for concern that this stark inequality in wealth in one generation translates into unequal opportunities for the next generation. Research on the relationship between families' socioeconomic conditions and the life chances of their children has begun to demonstrate that economic wealth is indeed an important aspect of the intergenerational transmission of advantage in the United States. In this project, we answer the question whether the influence of parental wealth on educational and occupational careers is a hallmark of industrialized nations in general or whether other developed nations may have successfully limited inequalities in opportunities as they arise from the economic wealth of one's parents. Germany and Sweden provide the most attractive comparative cases as they stand in for different types of education systems and welfare states. This grant supports a research visit at the Swedish Institute for Social Research in Stockholm for an initial collaborative analysis of the Swedish data.

Funding Period: 02/01/2011 to 06/30/2012

Countries of Focus: Germany, Sweden, USA

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