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The roots of inequality: intergenerational social mobility and territory

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The roots of inequality: intergenerational social mobility and territory

Fernando Bruna, Paolo Rungo and María Alló, Universidade da Coruña;
Project selected in the Call to support research projects on social inequality (LL2020_5)

The opportunities of people depend on at least three types of social factors: the conditions of their family of origin, the state of the labour market in their active life and the features of the territory where they grew up. Although the “education boom” of the latter half of the 20th century has created new opportunities, intergenerational mobility in Spain still implies a high heritability of education. Spain is among the countries in its vicinity in which the income of parents has a greater influence on the income of their offspring. Moreover, the spread of education occurred faster than the transformation of the production structure, thereby leading to increasingly more university graduates employed in low- skilled jobs. This trend has been accentuated by the 2008-2014 and covid-19 crises, as they reinforced the importance of family background. On a more novel note, this study provides evidence on how the context of childhood determines later earning prospects. Growing up in rural municipalities or municipalities with higher incomes and better income distribution favours subsequent opportunities for young people.
Key points
  • 1
       The education boom that began in Spain in the 1960s has meant that university education has become predominant among young people. Half of the people born in the 1980s have a university education.
  • 2
       Family background continues to influence educational opportunities for young people. Children of university-educated parents have an almost 80% probability of obtaining a university degree, while this probability is less than 35% if both parents only have a primary education.
  • 3
       Some 28% of 25-44 year olds with a university degree are from families with lower levels of education, a similar figure to that of France, England, the Netherlands or Denmark.
  • 4
       The Great Recession and pandemic appeared against an employment backdrop for the younger generation in which almost half of the low-skilled white-collar jobs were already taken by people with a university degree.
  • 5
       The ratio between the income of offspring and parents is higher in Spain than that of other neighbouring countries, although lower than in several countries with the greatest intergenerational immobility, such as the United Kingdom, Italy and the United States.
  • 6
       The place where we spend our childhood determines our subsequent opportunities. For example, growing up in rural municipalities favours economic outcomes for young people.
  • 7
       Growing up in urban municipalities with higher average income, better income distribution, younger population or lower education levels favours subsequent opportunities for young people.
  • 8
       Family background conditions acquire more importance in the most vulnerable sectors of society during crises such as that of 2008-2014 and the pandemic of 2020-2021.
The educational level of each person still depends very much on his or her family of origin
The educational level of each person still depends very much on his or her family of origin

Probability of a person born in Spain completing each education level by father’s or mother’s highest level of education.

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