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Social mobility at the top

Working Paper 2013-312


This paper proposes an explanation for the decrease in social mobility that has occurred in the last two decades in a number of advanced economies, as well as for the divergence in mobility dynamics across countries. Within an intergenerational framework, we show that a two-tier higher education system with standard and elite universities generates social stratification, high social immobility and self-reproduction of the elite. Moreover, we show that the higher the relative funding for elite universities, the higher the elite self-reproduction, and the lower social mobility. We also analyse the impacts of changes in the weight of the elite and of the middle class upon social mobility. Our findings provide theoretical bases for the inverted-U profile of social mobility experienced in several countries since World War II and to the “Great Gatsby Curve” relating social mobility to inequality.

Authors: Elise S. Brezis, .

Keywords: Elite, higher education, selection, social mobility, social stratification.
JEL: I21, J62, O15, Z13.