A centralised and egalitarian school system reduces the cost of education for poor families, and so it should reduce income inequality and make intergenerational mobility easier. In this paper we provide evidence that Italy, compared to the USA, displays less income inequality, as expected given the type of school system, but also less intergenerational upward mobility between occupations and between education levels. We explore some of the reasons which can explain this puzzling result and conclude that in a world in which family background is important for labor market success, a centralised and egalitarian tertiary education does not necessarily help poor children and may take away from them a fundamental tool to prove their talent and to compete with rich children.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We would like to thank the anonymous referees, Daron Acemoglu, Anthony Atkinson, Roland Benabou, Giuseppe Bertola, Alex Cukierman, François Bourguignon, Ronald Dore, Richard Freeman, Larry Katz, Thomas Piketty and seminar participants at IGIER, CORE, NBER, EUI, IIES, Bank of Italy, Universities of Modena, Siena, Napoli, Parma, Catholic in Milan and Tilburg, for their insightful comments on previous versions of this paper; Bob Reville, Antonio DeLillo and the Bank of Italy for providing us with the data; Giovanni Oppenheim and Raffaele Tangorra for excellent research assistantship; Confindustria and CNR (grants N. 94.02007.CT10 and 95.01821.CT10) for funding. Andrea Ichino gratefully acknowledges the hospitality of CES, Munich, and IIES, Stockholm where he resided while working on this paper. All errors are our own.
- Education financing
- Intergenerational mobility