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Equality of Opportunity

The chances of an intergenerational cycle of poverty vary from less than 20% to more than 40%.

An important dimension of equality of opportunity is the chances that children raised in poverty will grow up to become all that they can be, and even to move from “rags to riches.” An aspiration of upward mobility means that poverty is not a life sentence, and has motivated many public policy issues.

This page summarizes my research project examining the nature and diversity of equality of opportunity in Canada, a project supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and conducted with the data support of Statistics Canada.

Upward mobility is only one dimension of equality of opportunity, and is related to others, certainly to its opposite—the chances that a child raised by low income parents will grow up to also be a low income adult raising the next generation of poor children—and to “intergenerational cycles of privilege,” the chances that children of top income families are disproportionately likely to be standing at the top of the income ladder as adults. Rags to riches mobility is only possible if there is downward mobility from the top, if there is neither a glass ceiling preventing poor children from busting out of low income, nor a glass floor supporting top earners.

The first report in this research project is called

Divided Landscapes of Economic Opportunity: The Canadian Geography of Intergenerational Income Mobility

It can be downloaded as University of Chicago, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Paper Number 2017-043.

The abstract reads:

Intergenerational income mobility varies significantly across Canada, with the landscape clustering into four broad regions. These are not geographically contiguous, and provincial boundaries are not the dividing lines. The important exception is Manitoba, which has noticeably less intergenerational mobility among eight indicators derived from a large administrative data set for a cohort of men and women born between 1963 and 1970. These indicators are derived for each of the 266 Census Divisions in the 1986 Canadian Census. They show that higher mobility communities are located in Southwestern Ontario, Alberta, and Saskatchewan, and tend to be correlated with lower poverty, less income inequality, and a higher share of immigrants.

This research was featured in a June 23rd, 2017 Globe and Mail story by Doug Saunders and Tom Cardoso. They produced a number of interactive maps and graphics, you can get more detail about the study, including the underlying data through the following links.

These are the slides for a short technical presentation of the material: Presentation-Corak-Divided-Landscapes-Economic-Opportunity-Canadian-Economics-Association-June-2017. And these are the slides for a longer presentation that is less technical: Presentation-Corak-Divided-Landscapes-Economic-Opportunity-DM-Committee-Inclusive-Growth-May-2017. Download an appendix replicating the tables, figures, and maps to examine the robustness of the findings: Corak-Divided-Landscapes-Appendix-Replication-1986-Cohort.

The data used in the paper, along with a host of other information, is available as an Excel spreadsheet: Corak-divided-landscapes-geography-economic-opportunity-canada-data-appendix.

You are free to use this data, and all the information on this page, for non commercial purposes subject to fully citing the original source as:

Miles Corak (2017). “Divided Landscapes of Economic Opportunity: The Canadian Geography of Intergenerational Income Mobility.” University of Chicago, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Paper Number 2017-043.

Commercial use is prohibited without prior written consent of the copyright holder.

[ Some readers have downloaded the working paper, and reported not being able to open it in Acrobat. If this a problem you are experiencing, try downloading this pdf: Corak-Divided-Landscapes-Geography-Economic-Opportunity-Canada. ]

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