A nice paper from Sripad Motiram and Ashish Singh of IGIDR.
Economists call this issue as Intergenerational Occupational Mobility and is really important to understand the inequality issue. Hopefully over a period of time we can expand this research question to Do most children (both sons and daughters) take up their parents’ (mother and father) and occupations? It is too gender-specific issue as of now.
The broad idea is as an economy develops, people from lower skill/earnings group should be moving to higher skill earning group. This is especially true of children of low earning strata. That in turn leads to development and better lives.
Why study mobility (intergenerational or interpersonal)? Differences in mobility, through various channels, could lead to different consequences, particularly different growth rates. Given that talents can be assumed to be equally distributed across various socioeconomic groups, a highly mobile society may be able to grow faster by making better use of the talents of its members (Weil 2009: 432). The same result could arise through motivation for work – in a society where ex-ante the poor and the rich (and their children) are equally likely to succeed or fail, people belonging to either group may have a higher incentive to work hard (Bourguignon et al. 2007). Also, high mobility (real or perceived) may mute social conflict and pressures for redistributive policies, both of which have implications for economic growth.5 Finally, mobility is closely tied to inequality of opportunity. The literature on inequality of opportunity is vast and straddles across several disciplines including economics, ethics and political philosophy, so this is not the place to go into it.
However, an influential and (in our opinion) reasonable perspective on inequality of opportunity (Roemer 1998, 2006) holds that, broadly speaking, what people are able to achieve in their lives depends upon two sets of factors – those that are within their control (“efforts”) and those that are not (“circumstances,” e.g. gender, race, caste etc.), and people should be held responsible for the former, but not for the latter. In societies with low levels of intergenerational mobility, a person’s family background, (e.g. education of parents, occupation of parents) plays a huge role in his/her life chances. From the above perspective (since one does not choose one’s family) such societies are characterized by a high degree of inequality of opportunity.
The issue is pertinent for India:
Given the phenomenal growth1 that India has been experiencing since mid-1980s and the perception that it is heralding a new world order, much has been written about India in recent times.2 However, relatively little rigorous work has focused on the above questions In this article, we use data from the India Human Development Survey (IHDS) 2005 to address this gap.
What are the findings? On expected lines there is little mobility:
We find considerable intergenerational occupational persistence – across all occupational categories, the father’s category is the most likely one that a son could find himself in (e.g. a likelihood of almost half for agricultural labourers). But, there are differences across occupational categories – the probability that a son would fall in the father’s category is
higher for the low-skilled/low-paying occupations.
There are also differences across sectors. As expected, mobility is higher in urban areas as compared to rural areas.
Comparison of mobility for Scheduled Castes and Tribes (SC/STs) and non-SC/STs gives ambiguous results. However, we document considerable downward mobility for the SC/STs and show that this is higher than the same for non-SC/STs. For SC/STs, we also observe higher persistence (as compared to the same for non-SC/STs) in low-skilled/lowpaying occupations.
Overall, our results show that, as expressed by the popular German proverb,10 the apple does fall close to the tree. Broadly speaking, we believe that our results suggest considerable rigidity in class positions, particularly for the lower classes. Overall, we interpret our findings as suggesting that considerable inequality of opportunity exists in India. Given that the rich and wealthy are likely to be underrepresented in the IHDS (as in other surveys, including NSS) and since the children of the rich seem to be doing quite well (at least going by media reports), we believe that inequality of opportunity is higher than what we have documented.
In the end, they also discuss this from an international perspective:
Comparing to studies from other countries (particularly in the developed world) could be problematic given the existence of significant socioeconomic and institutional differences between India and these countries. However, to put our findings in perspective, we present results from some other countries. Cogneau and Mesple-Somps (2008, Table 5) analyse occupational mobility for selected African countries by dividing individuals into farmers, non-farmers and inactive people (e.g. students).
The shares of farmers whose sons end up as farmers in these countries are higher than the same for India (71% for Uganda as compared to 43.25% for India). When we look at developed countries (for U.S. and U.K., see Long and Ferrie (2005, Table 1) although this presents older data), we observe that the shares of farmers whose sons are farmers is much lower than the same for India (20.9%). A similar result can be observed for unskilled labourers. One could probably argue that the occupational mobility in India lies somewhere between the same for poor underdeveloped countries (of Africa) and the advanced capitalist countries.
Hmm..They even do not agree with previous limited papers which say that intergenerational mobility has risen…Though am sure some papers in future will question the finding of this paper as well..
However, there is one limitation of the data which authors also point to. It is based on one time period and one does not know whether we have moved at all. As there is hardly any data (NSS data not really useful in current form explained in the paper), the authors hope this research leads to more research and data on the topic :
We believe that the analysis of interpersonal and intergenerational mobility is an important exercise. We also believe that the paucity of rigorous work on India on this issue is mainly due to the shortage of high quality data. We hope that our study has provided enough motivation for the collection of high quality panel data that tracks individuals over time or data that tracks generations, so that we can see more studies on mobility in the future.
A different research. Helps understand different aspects of growth and development.