Social Mobility at the Top: Why Are Elites Self-Reproducing?

ECINEQ Working Paper Series, No 2013-312.

Posted: 6 Apr 2014

See all articles by Joël Hellier

Joël Hellier

LEM-CNRS (UMR 9221)

Elise S. Brezis

Bar-Ilan University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: November 1, 2013

Abstract

This paper proposes an explanation for the decrease in social mobility that has occurred in the last two decades in several 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.

Keywords: Elite, Higher Education, Selection, Social mobility, Social stratification

JEL Classification: I21, J62, O15, Z13

Suggested Citation

Hellier, Joël and Brezis, Elise S., Social Mobility at the Top: Why Are Elites Self-Reproducing? (November 1, 2013). ECINEQ Working Paper Series, No 2013-312.. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2420773

Joël Hellier (Contact Author)

LEM-CNRS (UMR 9221) ( email )

104, avenue du peuple Belge
Villeneuve d'Ascq Cedex, 59655
France

Elise S. Brezis

Bar-Ilan University - Department of Economics ( email )

Ramat-Gan, 52900
Israel
972-3-5318946 (Phone)
972-3-5353186 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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