Complete title

The impact of past generations on living conditions in contemporary Sweden

Project members

Martin Hällsten, Per Engzell, Martin Kolk

Funding source 


Project details

Duration: 2020-01-01 – 2023-12-31


 Living conditions and life chances tend to run in families. Individuals’ health, attainment of education, and labor market careers largely depend on their parents. Studies of social mobility have focused on how inequality is transmitted from parents to children, but have recently also included the extended family of grandparents, aunt/uncles and similar kin. The findings suggest that inequality transmission is pervasive and created generations back, but due to data limitations, we do not know how far back. Our approach will be to trace inequality back not only to parents, but grandparents, great grandparents and beyond, and this requires large data over many generations, extending into the 19th century. Linking historical censuses from 1880 to 1950 to modern registers starting in the 1960s enables a complete population-level database of individuals’ kinship links and their living conditions between 1880 and 2020. We will create such a database to analyze how inequality is maintained within families over 140 years.  We take a comprehensive and multidimensional view of advantage that also considers status distinctions such as ethnic or religious minority status. We define our main dimensions of advantage to be health and longevity, education, occupational standing, income and wealth, but we also examine demographic outcomes. T

he project has three primary research objectives: (1) analyze to what extent living conditions and life-chances today depend on prior generations of kin; (2) analyze how characteristics of ancestors (occupation, immigrant, ethnic minority) influence on transmission of living conditions and life-chances; and (3) compare the development of multigenerational inequality over time. By tracing the distribution of opportunities across vastly different policy landscapes, we will generate important knowledge about transmission mechanisms, and which historical policy shifts (if any) have been most instrumental in mitigating inequality transmission.