MIP network member Kjell Salvanes recently met with HCEO to discuss his research on inequality and the development of the Scandinavian welfare state.

"My main interest is trying to understand better why some people do well in life and some people don’t do so well," he says. Another component of this research focuses on intergenerational mobility, which measures changes in socioeconomic status within the same family across generations.

One project Salvanes is working on with his colleagues follows three different age cohorts of children across a range of socioeconomic backgrounds. The project combines register data with experimental and survey data and tracks parental investment as well as the cognitive and noncognitive skills of the children. 

"What we are particularly interested in is the socioeconomic difference," Salvanes says. "We know that, for instance from Professor Heckman’s work, differences start early on, before school starts. And that there is a strong socioeconomic gradient. What we want to understand is why is that? What are they doing differently? Parenting style is the concept people are using, that parents are doing things differently. What we want to also understand is why they are doing this differently?"

A second project focuses on the development of the Scandivanian welfare state, which started with policy changes dating back to the 1930s. Salvanes has data from cohorts born in the 1920s, as well as data from their children and grandchildren. This allows the researchers to track long term outcomes alongside historical policy changes in order to try and understand the mechanisms of mobility. "The idea is to bring together these two perspectives," he says. "So those are the two big projects we are undertaking."

Salvanes is Professor in Economics at Norges Handelshøyskole (the Norwegian School of Economics) and Deputy Director of the Centre of Excellence FAIR (Centre for Experimental Research on Fairness, Inequality and Rationality.) He is also co-organizer of the 2019 Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Global Working Group and FAIR Summer School on Socioeconomic Inequality