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Intergenerational Mobility around the World

May 22, 2018

Washington, DC and Online


  • If you are born into a low-income family, what are the chances that you will reach higher rungs on the socio-economic ladder? The ability to move up the ladder, both in one’s lifetime and relative to one’s parents, is not only a matter of fairness, but also has major implications for the reduction of poverty and inequality.

    In this talk economist Roy van der Weide will present global trends and patterns in economic mobility from the new Global Database on Intergenerational Mobility (GDIM), which underpins the new report Fair Progress? Economic Mobility across Generations around the World, a joint product of the Research Group and the Poverty and Equity Global Practice. The GDIM has unprecedented coverage: This is the first time we have empirical evidence on mobility for almost 150 countries representative of 96 percent of the world’s population. Estimates of two distinct aspects of economic mobility are included: absolute (the share of individuals who succeed in securing a standard of living or educational attainment that exceeds those of their parents), and relative (the extent to which a person’s position in the economic scale is independent from his or her parents’ position).

    The data suggest that mobility and development go hand in hand. Both absolute and relative mobility are lower in low- and middle-income countries than in high-income countries. 46 out of 50 countries with the lowest rate of mobility in education from the bottom to the top are in the developing world. Progress toward more economic mobility is slow. Improvements in mobility in the developing world have stalled since the 1960s. However, lack of mobility is not inevitable—greater mobility is associated with higher public spending, and especially with investments that lead to better inputs for schooling.

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    Roy van der Weide


    Roy van der Weide is an economist on the Poverty and Inequality team of the Development Research Group. He recently assumed the responsibility of leading the poverty and inequality mapping research within the department. His other research is concerned with the empirics of inequality of opportunity and poverty reduction, axiomatic approaches to income measurement, spatial econometrics, and the transmission of price inflation and volatility. His publications cover a wide array of topics, which include the small area estimation of poverty and inequality, index number theory, multi-variate volatility modeling, and behavioral economics.


    Asli Demirgüç-Kunt

    Director of Research

    Asli Demirgüç-Kunt is the Director of Research in the World Bank. After joining the Bank in 1989 as a Young Economist, she has held different positions, including Director of Development Policy, Chief Economist of Financial and Private Sector Development Network, and Senior Research Manager, doing research and advising on financial sector and private sector development issues.


    Jaime Saavedra

    Senior Director, Education

    Jaime Saavedra leads the Education Global Practice at the World Bank Group. He rejoins the Bank from the Government of Peru, where he served as Minister of Education from 2013 through 2016. During his tenure, the performance of Peru’s education system improved substantially as measured by international learning assessments. Throughout his career, Mr. Saavedra, a Peruvian national, has led groundbreaking work in the areas of poverty and inequality, employment and labor markets, the economics of education, and monitoring and evaluation systems.

  • The Policy Research Talks showcase the latest findings of the research department and their implications for World Bank operations. The monthly event facilitates a dialogue between researchers and operational staff so that we can challenge and contribute to the World Bank's intellectual climate and re-examine conventional wisdom in current development theories and practices. Read More »

Event Details

  • Time: 12:30 - 2:00 PM
  • Location: MC 13-121, World Bank Main Complex