Opportunity, Mobility and the Intergenerational Transmission of Inequality

This programme brings together interdisciplinary perspectives, ideas and findings on horizontal inequalities and intergenerational transmission of well-being. It explores how inequality of opportunity links inequality of outcomes to intergenerational transmission (immobility): when opportunities for today’s children are very unequal, their lives as adults are bound to be very different.

Some argue that inequality is like cholesterol: there are good and bad – or, at least, really bad and less bad – kinds of inequality. This research programme will focus on the really bad kind: that which is bequeathed from generation to generation, to the detriment both of social justice and of an efficient distribution of opportunities.

Professor Francisco H. G. Ferreira

This research programme is led by Professor Francisco H. G. Ferreira and Dr Paolo Brunori  

Not all inequalities are the same. Philosophers, religious leaders, politicians, policymakers and – most importantly – people at large seem to find some forms of inequality more morally repugnant than others. There is a widely held view, for example, that inequalities due to factors beyond a person’s control – such as race, biological sex, place of birth or family background – are normatively unacceptable.  There is some evidence that they may also hinder society from prospering economically. Many feel that society should seek to redress and, if possible, eliminate such inequalities, also known collectively as inequality of opportunity (and closely related to the concepts of horizontal inequalities and intersectionality).  

Because many critical factors that shape people’s wellbeing independently of their own choices are inherited from one’s family, genetically or otherwise, the study of inequality of opportunity is also closely related to that of the intergenerational transmission of outcomes such as income, education and health. That transmission is, of course, the converse of intergenerational mobility. In fact, we argue that inequality of opportunity provides a natural link between inequality of outcomes and intergenerational transmission (immobility): when opportunities for today’s children are very unequal, their lives as adults are bound to be very different. That inequality is then transmitted to the next generation as a new round of unequal life chances. And so the cycle of inequality persistence sustains itself.

Research focus and aims

The research programme will focus on the following three areas:

1. Making sense of the myriad approaches to measuring intergenerational transmission and improving the comparability of these measures

Although there is much conceptual common ground among scholars analyzing horizontal inequalities, opportunity and mobility, empirical findings are highly sensitive to methodological choices. This limits our ability to compare empirical results and to see the “big picture”. We actually know very little about how horizontal inequalities are distributed around the globe. This is due at least in part to the fact that our “findings”  about horizontal inequalities are crucially dependent on the kinds of data we have: Cross-section surveys versus panel surveys; surveys versus registries and other administrative data sources; income data versus data on surnames; etc.  Even among a certain class of surveys, much depends on sample size; the availability of information on circumstance variables; and so on. Moreover, different techniques, ranging from standard inequality decompositions to more sophisticated machine learning algorithms can also yield different “stories” (although sometimes there is a reassuring measure of agreement…).

There are also different practices as to whether intergenerational persistence should be studied looking at the transmission of a single outcome across generations, such as income or education; or incorporate the effect of a wider range of family and personal characteristics from one generation on the next. The research programme will investigate what implication these data- and method- dependencies have for comparisons over time and, especially, across countries. The final aim is to propose methods to improve the comparability of measures obtained, across countries, over time, and across disciplines.

2. How do opportunity and intergenerational transmission relate to people’s understanding of fairness? Political philosophers, sociologists, economists and others have long grappled with the question of what makes a society just, or unjust.  For many, issues of inequality and inequity feature prominently, but there is a wide range of views as to which inequalities are acceptable or unacceptable; and as to how trade-offs that might arise between the pursuit of equity and other desiderata (such as certain rights and freedoms, or prosperity) should be dealt with.  This area or research lies at the confluence of many academic disciplines and could be a fruitful topic for work at the III. 

3.  What are the consequences of widespread unequal opportunity and intergenerational persistence?  When large groups of people – such as women; people of colour; people with disabilities; people of lower castes; and so on – are excluded from opportunity, it stands to reason that human talent is likely to be underdeveloped and underused.  Does this have consequences beyond unfairness – e.g. on the efficiency of resource allocation; on investment and growth; on people’s health; on crime or political conflict? 

The research programme will aims to produce the following outputs: 

  • Opportunity and Mobility Seminar Series: This seminar series aims to become an internationally recognized event for researches active in different disciplines whose research interests deal with horizontal inequalities and mobility in income, education and health. It will be a hybrid (in-person and online) seminar series, but we are committed to hosting the LSE community and presenters in person to the extent possible.
  • Global social mobility database: one main objective of the research programme is to construct and maintain an international database about social mobility, unequal opportunity and intergenerational persistence. The database will include measures of intergenerational persistence widely adopted in social sciences, such as the intergenerational elasticity of income, intergenerational correlation of education, and inequality of opportunity in income. The database will be developed in collaboration with a network of colleagues working at the World Bank, Paris School of Economics, University of Notre Dame and University of Bari. It will be designed in modular fashion, so that it can be easily extended and expanded.
  • Doctoral research groupthe Doctoral Research Group on Inequality and Social Mobility is an international forum of early stage researchers across different departments at the LSE. It encourages interdisciplinary collaboration on research for inequality and social mobility. The group approaches these research interests: a) comprehensively: by understanding social mobility as both movements across social and economic positions, and sets of beliefs and narratives that shape the discourse around inequality; b) from a pluralist perspective: by integrating insights from various theoretical perspectives, methodological approaches, ranging across different disciplines; and c) comparatively: by exploring insights from various settings around the world. 
  • A summer schoolthe programme hopes to organize a summer workshop (or short summer school) as an opportunity for PhD students and early career researchers to physically meet, attend master classes, and present their ongoing research projects on topics related to the programme. 


LSE-based members:

Anthony Miro Born

Anthony Miro Born 

PhD Candidate, Department of Sociology


Benjamin Brundu-Gonzalez

PhD Candidate, Department of Sociology

Paolo Brunori

Dr Paolo Brunori

Assistant Professorial Research Fellow, LSE III

Asif Butt

Asif Butt

PhD Candidate, Department of Sociology

Julia Buzan

Julia Buzan

PhD Candidate, Department of Psychological and Behavioural Science

Dr Joan Costa-i-Font

Dr Joan Costa-Font

Associate Professor in Heath Economics, Department of Health Policy

Malik Fercovic Cerda

Malik Fercovic Cerda

PhD Candidate, Department of Sociology


Professor Frank Cowell | STICERD |People

Professor Frank Cowell

Professor of Economics and Programme Director, Department of Economics

Evans-Lacko_ profile

Dr Sara Evans-Lacko

Associate Professorial Research Fellow, Care Policy and Evaluation Centre (CPEC)


Professor Francisco H. G. Ferreira

Amartya Sen Professor of Inequality Studies and Director, LSE III

Professor Sam Friedman

Professor Sam Friedman

Professor of Sociology, Department of Sociology 

Fiona Gogescu

Fiona Gogescu

PhD Candidate, Department of Social Policy

Professor Stephen Jenkins

Professor Stephen Jenkins

Professor of Economic and Social Policy, Department of Social Policy

Professor Jouni Kuha

Professor Jouni Kuha

Professor, Department of Statistics

Professor Stephen Machin

Professor Stephen Machin 

Professor of Economics, Department of Economics 

Professor Lucinda Platt

Professor Lucinda Platt

Professor of Social Policy and Sociology, Department of Social Policy

Pedro Salas-Rojo

Dr Pedro Salas-Rojo

Research Officer

Dr Jennifer Sheehy-Skeffington

Dr Jennifer Sheehy-Skeffington

Assistant Professor of Social Psychology, Department of Psychological and Behavioural Science

Dr Kate Summers

Dr Kate Summers

LSE Fellow in Qualitative Methodology, Department of Methodology

Dr Chana Teeger

Dr Chana Teeger 

Assistant Professor, Department of Methodology

Alex Voorhoeve

Professor Alex Voorhoeve

Professor, Department of Philosophy Logic and Scientific Method

External members:

Miles Corak

Professor Miles Corak

Professor of Economics, Graduate Center of the City University of New York

Marc Fleurbaey

Professor Marc Fleurbaey 

PSE Chaired Professor, Paris School of Economics

Paul Hufe

Dr Paul Hufe 

Assistant Professor, University of Bristol

Lindsey Macmillan

Professor Lindsey Macmillan 

Professor of Economics, University College London (UCL) 


Dr Daniel Mahler 

Economist, The World Bank

Domenico Moramarco

Domenico Moramarco

PhD Candidate, European Center for Advanced Research in Economics and Statistics (ECARES) - ULB

Guido Neidhofer

Dr Guido Neidhöfer 

Researcher, ZEW Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research 

Flaviana Palmisano

Dr Flaviana Palmisano 

Associate Professor of Public Economics, University of Rome, Sapienza

Andreas Peichl

Professor Andreas Peichl

Professor of Macroeconomics and Public Finance, University of Munich

Vito Peragine

Professor Vito Peragine

Professor, University of Bari

patrizio piraino

Dr Patrizio Piraino

Associate Professor, University of Notre Dame

Fabian Reutzel

Fabian Reutzel

PhD Candidate, Paris School of Economics

Giovanna Scarchilli

Dr Giovanna Scarchilli

Post-Doctoral Researcher, University of Modena and Reggio Emilia

Jan Stuhler

Dr Jan Sthuler 

Associate Professor, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid

Christian Thielscher

Professor Christian Thielscher 

Head, Competence Center for Medical Economics, FOM University of Applied Science 


Dr Moris Triventi

Associate Professor in Quantitative Sociology, University of Trento

Annaelena Valentini

Annaelena Valentini

PhD Candidate, University of Siena

Dirk van der gaer

Professor Dirk van de Gaer

Professor of Microeconomics and Public Economics, Ghent University


Baranowska-Rataj, Anna, Barclay, Kieron, Costa-Font, Joan, Myrskylä, Mikko and Özcan, Berkay (2022) Preterm Births and Educational Disadvantage: Heterogeneous Effects, Population Studies

Bauer, Annette, Araya, Ricardo, Avendano-Pabon, Mauricio, Diaz, Yadira, Garman, Emily, Hessel, Phillipp, Lund, Crick, Malvasi, Paulo, Matijasevich, Alicia, McDaid, David, Park, A-La, Silvestre Paula, Christiane, Zimmerman, Annie, and Evans-Lacko, Sara (2021) Examining the dynamics between young people’s mental health, poverty and life chances in six low- and middle-income countries: protocol for the CHANCES-6 study, Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology

Bauer, Annette, Garman, Emily. McDaid, David, Avendano-Pabon, Mauricio, Araya, Ricardo, Diaz, Yadira, Hessel, Phillip, Lund, Crick, Malvasi, Paulo, Matijasevich, Alicia, Park, A-La, Silvestre Paula, Cristiane, Ziebold, Carolina, Zimmerman, Annie and  Evans-Lacko, Sara (2021) Integrating Youth Mental Health into Cash Transfer Programmes in response to the COVID-19 Crisis in Low- and Middle-income Countries, Lancet Psychiatry

Bell, Brian, Blundell, Jack and Machin, Stephen (2022) Where is the land of hope and glory? The geography of intergenerational mobility in England and Wales, The Scandinavian Journal of Economics,

Bell, Brian, Costa, Rio and Machin, Stephen (2022) Why does education reduce crime?Journal of Political Economy, 130(3): 732-765.

Bloise, Francesco, Brunori, Paolo and Piraino, Patrizio (2021) Estimating intergenerational income mobility on sub-optimal data: a machine learning approach, The Journal of Economic Inequality, 19(4): 643-665.

Born, Anthony Miro (2022) The long shadow of territorial stigma: Upward social mobility and the symbolic baggage of the old neighborhood, Urban Studies(

Brunori, Paolo, and Neidhöfer, Guido (2021) The evolution of inequality of opportunity in Germany: A machine learning approach, Review of Income and Wealth, 67(4): 900-927.

Brunori, Paolo, Trannoy, Alan and Guidi, Caterina Francesca (2021) Ranking populations in terms of inequality of health opportunity: A flexible latent type approach, Health Economics, 30(2): 358-383.

Burkhauser, Richard, Hérault, Nicolas, Jenkins, Stephen, and Wilkins, Roger (2021) What Accounts for the Rising Share of Women in the Top 1 percent?, Review of Income and Wealth

Burgess, Simon, and Platt, Lucinda (2021) Inter-ethnic relations of teenagers in England’s schools: the role of school and neighborhood ethnic composition, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 47(9): 2011-2038.

Cabrera, Leopoldo, Marrero, Gustavo, Rodríguez, Juan Gabriel, and Salas-Rojo, Pedro (2021) Inequality of Opportunity in Spain: New Insights from New Data, Review of Public Economics, 237(1): 153-185.

Costa-Font, Joan, and Cowell, Frank (2022) The Measurement of Health Inequalities: Does Status Matter?, Journal of Economic Inequality, 20: 299–325.

Costa-Font, Joan, Cowell, Frank and Sáenz de Miera, Belén  (2021) Measuring pure health inequality and mobility during a health insurance expansion: Evidence from Mexico,  Health Economics, 2021, 30(8): 1833-1848.

Cowell, Frank, and Flachaire, Emmanuel (2022) Inequality measurement: Methods and data, In Handbook of Labor, Human Resources and Population Economics, Springer International Publishing: 1-46.

Decerf, Benoit, Ferreira, Francisco, Mahler, Daniel, and Sterck, Olivier (2021): Lives and Livelihoods: Estimates of the Global Mortality and Poverty Effects of the Covid-19 Pandemic, World Development 146 105561.

Edmiston, Daniel, Robertshaw, David, Young, David, Ingold, Jo, Gibbons, Andrea, Summers, Kate, Scullion, Lisa, Baumberg, Ben, Geiger and de Vries, Robert (2022) Mediating the claim? How ‘local ecosystems of support’ shape the operation and experience of UK social security”, Social Policy and Administration

Fercovic-Cerda, Malik (2022) Disentangling Meritocracy Among the Long-Range Upwardly Mobile: The Chilean Case, Sociological Research Online, 27(1): 118–135.

Fercovic-Cerda, Malik (2021) Between success and dislocation: the experience of long-range upward mobility in contemporary Chile, Doctoral Dissertation, London School of Economics and Political Science

Ferreira, Francisco H.G. (2022) Not all inequalities are alike, Nature 606 (7915): 646-649.

Ferreira, Francisco H.G. (2021) Inequality in the time of COVID-19, Finance and Development, 58 (2): 20-23.

Garman, Emily, Eyal, Katherine, Avendano-Pavon, Mauricio,  Evans-Lacko, Sara and Lund, Crick (2022): Cash transfers and the mental health of young people: Evidence from South Africa's child support grant, Social Sciences and Medicine

Haux, Tina, and Platt, Lucinda (2021) Fathers’ involvement with their children before and after separation, European Journal of Population, 37(1): 151-177.

Hecht, Katharina, and Summers, Kate (2021): The Long and Short of It: The temporal significance of wealth and income, Social Policy and Administration

Hoffmann, Mauricio Scopel, McDaid, David, Abrahao Salum, Giovanni, Silva-Ribeiro, Wagner, Ziebold, Carolina, King, Derek, Gadelha, Ary, Constantino Miguel, Eurípedes, de Jesus Mari, Jair, Augusto Rohde, Luis, Mario Pan, Pedro, Affonseca Bressan, Rodrigo, Mojtabai, Ramin, and Evans-Lacko, Sara (2021) The impact of child psychiatric conditions on future educational outcomes among a community cohort in Brazil. Epidemiology and Psychiatric Services, Epidemiology and Psychiatric Services

Kuha, Jouni, Bukodi, Erzsébet and Goldthorpe, John (2021) Mediation analysis for associations of categorical variables: The role of education in social class mobility in Britain, Annals of Applied Statistics, 15: 2061-2082.

Moor, Liz, and Friedman, Sam (2021) Justifying inherited wealth: Between ‘the bank of mum and dad’and the meritocratic ideal, Economy and Society, 50(4): 618-642.

Orton, Michael, Summers, Kate and Moris, Rosa (2021) Guiding principles for social security policy: outcomes from a bottom-up approach, Social Policy and Administration

Palencia-Esteban, Amaia, and Salas-Rojo, Pedro (2022) Intergenerational Mobility and Life Satisfaction in Spain, Research on Economic Inequality (forthcoming).

Platt, Lucinda (2021): COVID-19 and ethnic inequalities in England, LSE Public Policy Review,

Robertshaw, David, Kate Summers, Lisa Scullion, Daniel Edmiston, Ben Baumberg Geiger, Andrea Gibbons, Jo Ingold, Robert De Vries and David Young (2022): “Welfare at a (Social) Distance: Accessing social security and employment support during the Covid-19 and its aftermath”, Covid-19 Collaborations: Researching Poverty and Low-Income Family Life During the Pandemics (

Ryding, Tove Maria, and Voorhoeve, Alex (2022): Is the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's 2021 Tax Deal Fair?, LSE Public Policy Review (forthcoming).

Salas-Rojo, Pedro, and Rodríguez, Juan Gabriel (2022): Inheritances and Wealth Inequality: a Machine Learning Approach, The Journal of Economic Inequality, 20(1), 27-51.

Salas-Rojo, Pedro, and Rodríguez, Juan Gabriel (2021) The Distribution of Wealth in Spain and the USA: the Role of Socioeconomic Factors, SERIEs, 12(3), 389-421.

Sheehy-Skeffington, Jennifer (2021): Taking context seriously, Psychologist, 34(7): 50-53.

Summers, Kate, Fabien Accominotti, Tania Burchardt, Katharina Hecht, Elizabeth Mann and Jonathan Mijs (2022): Deliberating Inequality: A Blueprint for Studying the Social Formation of Beliefs about Economic Inequality, Social Justice Research

Toft, Maren, and Friedman, Sam (2021): Family wealth and the class ceiling: The propulsive power of the bank of mum and dad, Sociology, 55(1): 90-109.

Voorhoeve, Alex (2022): Policy Evaluation under Severe Uncertainty: A Cautious, Egalitarian Approach, in C. Heilmann and J. Reiss (eds.) The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Economics. Routledge: 467-479.

Voorhoeve, Alex (2021): Equality for Prospective People: A Novel Statement and Defence, Utilitas, 33: 304-320.

Waldfogel, Hannah, Sheehy-Skeffington, Jennifer, Hauser, Oliver, Ho, Arnold and Kteily, Nour (2021) Ideology selectively shapes attention to inequality, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Ziebold, Carolina, Sara Evans-Lacko, Mário César Rezende Andrade, Maurício Hoffmann, Laís Fonseca,

Matheus Barbosa, Pedro Mario Pan, Eurípides Constantino Miguel, Rodrigo Affonseca Bressan, Luis Augusto Rohde, Giovanni Abrahao Salum, Julia Schafer, Jair de Jesus Mari and Ary Gadelha (2021): Childhood poverty and mental health disorders in early adulthood: Evidence from a Brazilian cohort study, European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

Ziebold, Carolina, Cristiane Silvestre Paula, Iná Santos, Fernando Barros, Tiago Munhoz, Crick Lund, David McDaid, Ricardo Araya, Annette Bauer, Emily Garman, A-La Park, Annie Zimmerman, Philipp Hessel, Mauricio Avendano-Pavón, Sara Evans-Lacko and Alicia Matijasevich (2021) Conditional cash transfers and adolescent mental health in Brazil:  Evidence from the 2004 Pelotas Birth Cohort,  Journal of Global Health

Zimmerman, Annie, Crick Lund, Ricardo Araya, Philipp Hessel, Jualiana Sanchez, Emily Garman, Sara Evans-Lacko, Yadira Diaz and Mauricio Avendano-Pavon (2022): The relationship between multidimensional poverty, income poverty and youth depressive symptoms: cross-sectional evidence from Mexico, South Africa and Colombia, BMJ Global Health


Events and recordings



Programme launch event: An Idea of Equality for Troubled Times 

Hosted by the International Inequalities Institute

Tuesday 3 February 2022. Online public event.  

Watch the video. Listen to the podcast.

Speakers: Professor Joseph Fishkin, Professor of Law, UCLA School of Law; Professor Marc Fleurbaey, Professor of Economics, Paris School of Economics; Dr Jennifer Sheehy-Skeffington, Assistant Professor of Social Psychology, LSE  

Chair: Dr Paolo Brunori, Assistant Professorial Research Fellow, LSE III 


Upper secondary tracks and student competencies: A selection or a causal effect? 

Part of the Opportunity and Mobility Seminar Series

Wednesday 10 November 2021. Online public event.  

Speaker: Dr Moris Triventi, Associate Professor in Quantitative Sociology University of Trento  

Discussant: Dr Sara Geven, Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Amsterdam 

Chair: Dr Paolo Brunori, Assistant Professorial Research Fellow, LSE III 


Comparing Distributions of Ordinal Data: Theory and Empirics 

Part of the Opportunity and Mobility Seminar Series

Wednesday 17 November 2021. Online public event.   

Speaker: Professor Stephen Jenkins, Convenor, Global Inequalities Observatory Research programme, LSE III and Professor of Economic and Social Policy Department of Social Policy, LSE 

Discussant: Professor Vanesa Jordá, Associate Professor of Economics, University of Cantabria 

Chair: Fiona Gogescu, Doctoral student, Department of Social Policy, LSE 

mijs-headshot-updated-600x600 (1)Siyu-Li

The Social Life of Inequality: why unequal countries stay that way 

Part of the Opportunity and Mobility Seminar Series

Wednesday 9 March 2022. Online public event.  

Watch the video. Listen to the podcast.

Speaker: Dr Jonathan Mijs, Lecturer in Sociology, Boston University and Visiting Fellow, LSE III 

Discussant: Siyu Li, PhD student, Lille Center for Sociological and Economic Studies and Research 

Chair: Asif Butt, PhD student, Department of Sociology, LSE 

Emilia-DelBono-200x200 (1)matthias-parey

Expectations about the Productivity of Effort and Academic Outcomes: evidence from a randomized information intervention 

Part of the Opportunity and Mobility Seminar Series.Co-hosted by the ZEW – Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research.

Wednesday 6 April 2022. Online public event. 

Speaker: Professor Emilia Del Bono, Professor of Economics, University of Essex, and Director of the Centre for Micro Social Change 

Discussant: Professor Matthias Parey, Professor of Economics, University of Surrey and ZEW Research Associate 

Chair: Dr Guido Neidhöfer, Senior Researcher, ZEW – Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research 


Spatial & temporal disparities in air pollution exposure at Italian schools

 Part of the Opportunity and Mobility Seminar SeriesCo-hosted by the Department of Sociology, University of Trento. 

Tuesday 10 May 2022. Online and in-person public event.  

Speaker: Risto Conte Keivabu, Researcher, Department of Political and Social Sciences, European University Institute 

Discussant: Giovanna Scarchilli, Post-doctoral Research Fellow, INEQUALITREES Project, University of Trento 

Chair: Emanuele Fedeli, Post-doctoral Research Fellow, INEQUALITREES Project, University of Trento 


First Generation Elite: the role of school social networks  

Part of the Opportunity and Mobility Seminar Series. Co-hosted by the Department of Economics and Law of Sapienza University of Rome

Wednesday 25 May 2022. Online public event.  

Co-hosted by the Department of Economics and Law of Sapienza University of Rome 

Speaker: Professor Emma Tominey, Professor of Economics, University of York  

Discussant: Dr Anthony Lepinteur, Research Associate, Department of Behavioural and Cognitive Sciences, University of Luxembourg 

Chair: Professor Flaviana Palmisano, Associate Professor of Public Economics, Sapienza University of Rome