1 - Generational income mobility in North America and Europe: an introduction  pp. 1-37

Generational income mobility in North America and Europe: an introduction

By Miles Corak

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During the 1990s, a number of countries in both North America and Europe set explicit targets for the reduction of child poverty, including the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Canada. In the United Kingdom, the pledge, announced in 1999, was to eliminate child poverty in a generation; in Canada, the ambition, made clear a decade earlier, was to seek to do the same by the year 2000. And even in countries less explicit about their goals, reducing child poverty has been an important public policy concern. This, for example, is as true in the United States, where child poverty rates have historically been among the highest relative to other rich countries, as it is in Sweden, where they have been among the lowest. Clearly, this issue has a strong resonance in public policy discourse, and reflects a growing concern over the welfare of all children regardless of their place in the income distribution. But why should societies care more about children than any other group? One possible reason is that children have certain rights as citizens, but are dependent upon others for the defense of their rights. This may certainly be the case, but another reason – one often explicitly made by advocates – is instrumental: children should be thought of as investments in the future. This argument suggests that in the long run the productivity of the economy and the well-being of all citizens would be higher if the well-being of children were improved, and in particular if child poverty were reduced.

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