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Estimating Intergenerational Mobility in Developing Countries: New Methods and Evidence from India

June 13, 2019

Washington, DC and Online


  • Parents around the world hope for a better life for their children. Yet the opportunities available to the next generation vary greatly across countries, between groups within countries, and over time. In developing countries, tracking the evolution of intergenerational mobility has been a particular challenge due to data constraints: matched parent-child income records are often not available and levels of educational achievement are only coarsely measured.

    In this Policy Research Talk, World Bank economist Sam Asher will present a new method for measuring intergenerational mobility that can be applied in countries where data are limited. Drawing on recently published results on India, he will illustrate how this new method can produce policy-relevant measures across groups and space, as well as over time. For India’s population as a whole, intergenerational mobility has remained constant since liberalization, but cross-group changes have been substantial. Rising mobility among historically marginalized Scheduled Castes has been almost exactly offset by declining intergenerational mobility among Muslims, a comparably sized group that has few constitutional protections.

    Asher will also share the first high resolution geographic measures of intergenerational mobility across India and even within cities. On average, children are most successful at exiting the bottom of the distribution in places that are southern, urban, or have higher average education levels. The talk will conclude with a discussion of future research on the causal determinants of the observed variation in mobility, from affirmative action programs to inequalities in public good provision.

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    Sam Asher


    Sam Asher is an Economist in the Environment and Energy team of the World Bank's Development Research Group. He is also an associate of the Center for International Development (Harvard University) and an affiliate at the Centre for Policy Research (New Delhi). After receiving a PhD in Economics from Harvard University in 2013, he was a postdoctoral research fellow in the Economics Department at Nuffield College, University of Oxford.


    Aaditya Mattoo

    Research Manager, Trade and International Integration

    Aaditya Mattoo is Research Manager, Trade and Integration, at the World Bank. He specializes in trade policy analysis and international trade agreements. Prior to joining the Bank in 1999, Mr. Mattoo was Economic Counsellor at the World Trade Organization. Between 1988 and 1991, he taught economics at the University of Sussex and Churchill College, Cambridge University. He holds a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Cambridge, and an M.Phil in Economics from the University of Oxford. He has published widely in academic and other journals on trade, trade in services, development and the WTO and his work has been cited extensively, including in the Economist, Financial Times, New York Times, and Time Magazine.


    Carolina Sánchez-Páramo

    Senior Director, Poverty and Equity Global Practice

    Carolina Sánchez-Páramo, a Spanish national, is currently the Senior Director of the Poverty and Equity Global Practice (GP) at the World Bank. Prior to this assignment, she was the Poverty and Equity GP Practice Manager in the Europe and Central Asia region. Carolina has worked on operations, policy advice and analytical activities in Eastern Europe, Latin America and South Asia, and was part of the core team working on the WDR2012, “Gender Equality and Development”.

  • 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 »


  • TIME: 12:30 - 2:00PM ET
  • LOCATION: MC 13-121