Intergenerational Educational Mobility and Life Course Economic Trajectories in a Social Democratic Welfare State

Martin Hällsten, Meir Yaish

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We test a prediction of cumulative advantage theory about enduring life cycle effects of educational mobility on earnings. We identify four mobility groups by cross-classifying parental education (degree/no degree) by their offspring (degree/no degree) and study the long-term economic consequences of intergenerational educational mobility. Data for this study come from Swedish population registers covering birth cohorts between 1953 and 1955. We analyse earnings trajectories of Swedish men and women, in each educational mobility category, over most of their working-age life course. We find that the earnings trajectories cluster in two groups that reflect each's educational destination, not their educational origin. These results suggest that mobility trajectories in the Swedish labour market do not follow any strong advantage pattern but instead are explained by the attainment of human capital. By contrast, complementary analyses of mid-life wealth, not necessarily derived in the labour market, suggest more support for cumulative advantage since those with high-educated parents have much higher levels of wealth. We argue that these contrasting results, between earnings and wealth, highlight the Swedish welfare regime's effectiveness, particularly in regulating and suppressing inequality in the labour market.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)507-526
Number of pages20
JournalEuropean Sociological Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s). Published by Oxford University Press.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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