Discussion paper

DP16595 Social Mobility in Sweden Before the Welfare State

We use historical census data to show that Sweden exhibited high levels of intergenerational occupational mobility several decades before the rise of the welfare state. Mobility rates were higher than in other 19th- and 20th-century European countries, closer to those observed in the highly mobile 19th-century United States. We leverage mobility variation across Swedish municipalities to shed light on potential determinants: economic growth and migration are positively correlated with mobility, consistent with the patterns observed across countries.


Berger, T, P Engzell, B Eriksson and J Molinder (2021), ‘DP16595 Social Mobility in Sweden Before the Welfare State‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 16595. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp16595