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DIAL workshop on intergenerational mobility and human capital accumulation


October 29, 2020
October 30, 2020


Norwegian School of Economics NHH

The third DIAL thematic workshop on ‘Intergenerational Mobility and Human Capital Accumulation’ was hosted by the Norwegian School of Economics NHH and held online on the 29th and 30th of October 2020. Around 30 researchers mostly from economics and sociology from eight DIAL projects participated in the workshop that focused, as the title suggests, on various aspects and forms of intergenerational social and income mobility. The 14 presentations of the workshop included many research results with high scientific and policy relevance inspiring lively methodological and theoretical discussion among the participants.


After some welcoming words and practical guidelines from professor Kjell G. Salvanes from the NHH, the first session of the workshop started with Thomas Cornelissen (project ‘Populism, Inequality and Institutions’, PII) who has studied with Thang Dang the impacts of educational expansion in Vietnam. Based on the results of their study, they argue that the expansion of education increases human capital investments in the children of the directly affected generation with increased educational expenditures, school enrolment, and health investments. Educational expansion also reduces child labour. Stephanie von Hinke and Emil Sørensen (‘Gene-Environment Interplay in the Generation of Health and Education Inequalities’, GEIGHEI) analysed the wellbeing consequences of several austerity measures introduced in the UK in 2013. Their study shows that the financial stress caused by government cuts in council tax benefits, housing subsidies, and disability living allowance had no significant effect on a range of important mental health outcomes, such as depression, happiness, sleep, and wellbeing indices. In his presentation, Paul Hufe (‘The Impact of Childhood Circumstances on Individual Outcomes over the Life-Course’, IMCHILD) illustrated how decreases in the parental wage gap led to an increase in household’s total financial resources, in financial resources controlled by mothers, and in the use of informal care providers in Germany. However, Hufe’s study did not find any aggregate effects on the socio-emotional development of children. Hence, his findings suggest that strides towards gender equality in the labour market do not come at the cost of detrimental effects on child development.

Rita Dias Pereira (GEIGHEI) kicked off Thursday’s second session by presenting her research results, which showed persistent and increasing inequality of opportunity despite the increase in schooling in the US. Even though education had increased, it did so less for the most underprivileged children. By examining the intergenerational mobility of children born in England in the 1980’s, Laura van der Erve and colleagues (‘Human Capital and Inequality during Adolescence and Working Life’, HuCIAW) demonstrated that, with regard to income, even the most successful children from poor backgrounds do not perform as well as the average child from a rich family. On average, gaps in educational attainment explain around 80% of the differences in adult earnings between those from the poorest and richest families. The last presentation of the day was given by Eyal Bar-Haim (‘Life Course Dynamics of Educational Tracking’, LIFETRACK), who has, together with Guy Shany, studied social reproduction in educational systems of 28 countries. They have found higher levels of teachers’ cultural capital to be associated with a stronger effect of cultural capital on school performance, and they argue that countries should invest more in training teachers from lower cultural capital backgrounds than attracting higher background teachers.


The second day of the workshop started with a presentation by Dilnoza Muslimova (GEIGHEI). Her joint work with colleagues supports previous findings that firstborns have a higher level of education than laterborns. This is due to environmental influences, for example, greater parental time investment in firstborn child. Their novel finding is that birth order and genetic endowments interact: being firstborn and having relatively high genetic endowments for education exhibit a positive interaction, thus increasing educational attainment even further. Falk Voit and colleagues (‘Life Course Dynamics after Preterm Birth – Protective Factors for Social and Educational Transitions, Health and Prosperity’, PremLife) have analysed the association between preterm birth and intergenerational mobility in education in the UK, Germany, and Finland. The results they presented provide evidence about the relevance of parental education and individual disadvantages at birth for individual school performance and educational outcomes. In the third presentation of the session, Hélène Le Forner (IMCHILD) presented joint work with Francesco Andreoli and other colleagues on the effects of circumstances on long-term income opportunities, and argued that previous estimates of inequality of opportunity in Sweden have been rather underestimated.

In the second session, the first presentation discussed a study on the long-term consequences of exposure rates of Scarlet Fever on heart disease, cognition, and educational obtainment by Samuel Baker and colleagues (GEIGHEI). Their results show that an increased exposure to Scarlet Fever does not significantly reduce educational attainment and provided only limited support to it having negative effects on fluid intelligence. Hélène Le Forner (IMCHILD) presented her study on the formation of children’s cognitive and non-cognitive skills, which illustrates that time spent on educational activities with the father has a smaller effect on child’s non-cognitive skills than time spent with both parents together or with the mother only. Ella Johnson-Watts (‘Growing up Unequal? The Origins, Dynamics and Lifecycle Consequences of Childhood Inequalities’, GUODLCCI) discussed some of the mechanisms through which prenatal shocks affect postnatal outcomes. Her study together with Gabriella Conti shows that currently accepted levels of ambient air pollution have negative impacts on early health and educational outcomes, and that these connections are mediated by effects on foetal development. Thus, policy makers concerned about the roots of inequality should urgently consider lowering the legal pollution concentration limits.

The third session of Friday and the last session of the whole workshop included two presentations. Firstly, Alexander Ludwig (‘Trends in Inequality: Sources and Policy’, TRISP) presented his joint work with colleagues on the long-term impact of school closures during the COVID-19 crisis on children. Younger children are hurt more by the school closures than older children, and parental reactions reduce the negative impact of the school closures to a certain extent depending on their assets. According to their results, the negative impact of the crisis on children’s welfare is especially severe for those with parents with low educational attainment and low assets. The second presentation was on a study by Sarah Cattan and colleagues (HuCIAW; GUODLCCI) analysing the role of social networks in attaining elite educational degrees in Norway and the intergenerational links in educational attainment. Their results illustrate how the positive impact of certain social networks is much larger among those students whose socio-economic status is high than among those students whose socio-economic status is low. Lastly, professor Salvanes concluded the workshop by thanking all the participants for their exciting presentations and for engaging actively in the discussions.