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DONDENA Seminar - Per Engzell

Per Engzell
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Firms and the Intergenerational Transmission of Labor Market Advantage

“Firms and the Intergenerational Transmission of Labor Market Advantage

SPEAKER: Per Engzell (University College London)


Pay inequality stems both from firm pay-setting and from workers’ individual characteristics. Yet, intergenerational mobility research focuses on transmission of individual traits, and has failed to test how firms shape the inheritance of inequality. We study this question using three decades of Swedish population register data, and decompose the intergenerational earnings correlation into firm pay premiums and worker effects. One quarter of the intergenerational earnings correlation at midlife is explained by sorting between firms with unequal pay. Employer or industry inheritance account for a small share of this firm-based earnings transmission. Instead, high-education and high-occupation workers disproportionately land at high-paying firms. Parental referral networks and the inheritance of industry and labor market context play a supplementary role. As workers with high-education or high-status jobs are increasingly also employed at high paying firms, firm sorting could become increasingly important to intergenerational earnings transmission.


Per Engzell is Associate Professor of Sociology at University College London and Stockholm University, Associate Member of Nuffield College, University of Oxford, and Associate Editor of the European Sociological Review and Research in Social Stratification and Mobility. His work revolves around the intergenerational transmission of economic status, and has appeared in the American Sociological Review, Sociological Methods & Research, Sociological Science, Journal of Economic History, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In 2021, he received the Cozzarelli Prize from the US National Academy of Sciences for outstanding scientific quality and originality.


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