Economic Mobility, Family Background, and the Well-Being of Children in the United States and Canada

54 Pages Posted: 15 Mar 2010

See all articles by Miles Corak

Miles Corak

Statistics Canada; University of Ottawa; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Lori Curtis

Dalhousie University

Shelley Phipps

Dalhousie University - Department of Economics

Abstract

This comparative study of the relationship between family economic background and adult outcomes in the United States and Canada addresses three questions. First, is there something to explain? We suggest that the existing literature finds that there are significant differences in the degree of intergenerational economic mobility between these two countries, relative mobility being lower in the United States. This is the result of lower mobility at the very top and the very bottom of the earnings distribution. Second, does this reflect different underlying values of the citizens in these countries? Findings from comparable public opinion polls suggest that this is not the case. The citizens of both countries have a similar understanding of a successful life, one that is rooted in individual aspirations and freedom. They also have similar views on how these goals should be attained, but with one important exception: Americans differ in that they are more likely to see the State hindering rather than helping the attainment of these goals. Finally, how do the investments these countries make in the future of their children through the family, the labour market, and public policy actually differ? Using a number of representative household surveys we find that the configuration of all three sources of investment and support for children differs significantly, disadvantaged American children living in much more challenging circumstances, and the role of public policy not as strong in determining outcomes.

Keywords: intergenerational mobility, children, Canada, United States

JEL Classification: J62, J13, I3

Suggested Citation

Corak, Miles and Curtis, Lori and Phipps, Shelley, Economic Mobility, Family Background, and the Well-Being of Children in the United States and Canada. IZA Discussion Paper No. 4814, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1570432

Miles Corak (Contact Author)

Statistics Canada ( email )

Family and Labour Studies
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0T6
Canada
613-951-9047 (Phone)
613-951-5403 (Fax)

University of Ottawa

2292 Edwin Crescent
Ottawa, Ontario K2C 1H7
Canada

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Lori Curtis

Dalhousie University ( email )

Halifax, Nova Scotia B3H 4H7
Canada
902-494-7043 (Phone)

Shelley Phipps

Dalhousie University - Department of Economics ( email )

Halifax, Nova Scotia B3H 3J5
Canada

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