Inequality of Opportunity in Spainnew Insights from New Data

  1. 1 Universidad de La Laguna

    Universidad de La Laguna

    San Cristobal de La Laguna, España


  2. 2 Universidad Complutense de Madrid

    Universidad Complutense de Madrid

    Madrid, España

    ROR 02p0gd045

Hacienda Pública Española / Review of Public Economics

ISSN: 0210-1173

Any de publicació: 2021

Número: 237

Pàgines: 153-185

Tipus: Article

Altres publicacions en: Hacienda Pública Española / Review of Public Economics


Modern theories of social justice consider Inequality of Opportunity (IO), the part of overall inequality explained by individual circumstances (factors beyond the individual control, like socioeconomic background), as the truly concept of unfair inequality. In addition, recent empirical studies have found that IO harms growth. Then, given the big increase in income inequality in Spain during the last decade (now one of the highest levels in the EU), how large is IO in Spain? By using a novel database from the Centro de Investigaciones Sociológicas (CIS) questionnaire on ‘Social inequality and social mobility in Spain’, we observe that the share of IO is 44% of overall inequality (Gini index). By circumstances, we find that about 90% of IO is due to parental education and occupation, the type of school attended, the gender of the household’s head and the size of the household. In addition, it is found that a large share of IO is channeled through the occupation and, especially, the level of education of the individual. These findings are consistent with the low levels of relative mobility in education and occupation observed in the database for Spain (2017)

Informació de finançament

We acknowledge suggestions of Florian Wendelspiess and the collaboration of the Centro de Investigaciones Sociológicas (CIS) to elaborate the Questionare CIS-3178 on ‘Desigualdad Social y Movilidad Social en España’. This paper has received financial support from the Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad of Spain (Marrero through project ECO2016-76818-C3-2-P, and Rodríguez and Salas-Rojo through project ECO2016-76506-C4-1-R). Marrero also acknowledges financial support from Gobierno de Canarias for support through the ProID2017010088 (María del Carmen Betancourt y Molina program) R&D project, co-funded by the Operative Program FEDER 2014-2020. Salas-Rojo also acknowledges financial support from Ministerio de Ciencia, Innovación y Universi-dades through FPU grant 17/735. All views and any remaining errors or omissions are our sole responsibility. ORCID ID: 0000-0003-2337-7436. ORCID ID: 0000-0003-4030-0078. ORCID ID: 0000-0002-0256-8789. ORCID ID: 0000-0002-8763-8909.


Referències bibliogràfiques

  • Alesina, A. and Rodrik, D. (1994), “Distributive politics and economic growth”, Quarterly Journal of Economics, 109: 465-490.
  • Ayala, L. (2016), La desigualdad en España: Fuentes, tendencias y comparaciones internacionales, Madrid: FEDEA.
  • Banerjee, A. and Newman, A. (1993), “Occupational choice and the process of development”, Journal of Political Economy, 101: 274-298.
  • Barro, R. (2000), “Inequality and growth in a panel of countries”, Journal of Economic Growth, 5: 5-32.
  • Bartholomew, D. J. (1982), Stochastic models for social processes (3rd ed.), Wiley, London.
  • Betancort, M., Darias, S., Cabrera, L., Nieves, C., Marrero, G. A., Rodríguez, J. G. and Sanchez, D. (2019), “Inequality of opportunity in an outermost region: the case of Canary Islands”, Island Studies Journal, 14: 23-42.
  • Bradbury, K. and Triest, R. K. (2016), “Inequality of opportunity and aggregate economic performance”, The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences, 2: 178-201.
  • Bourguignon, F., Ferreira, F. H., and Menendez, M. (2007), “Inequality of opportunity in Brazil”, Review of Income and Wealth, 53: 585-618.
  • Brunori, P., Palmisano, F. and Peragine, V. (2019a), “Inequality of opportunity in Sub-saharan Africa”, Applied Economics, 51: 6428-6458.
  • Brunori, P., Peragine, V. and Serlenga, L. (2019b), “Upward and downward bias when measuring inequality of opportunity”, Social Choice and Welfare, 52: 635-661.
  • Buhmann, B., Rainwater, L., Schmaus, G. and Smeeding, T. (1988): “Equivalence scales, well-being, inequality and poverty: sensitivity estimates across ten countries using the Luxembourg Income Study (LIS) database”, Review of Income and Wealth, 34: 115-142.
  • Coulter, F. A., Cowell, F. A. and Jenkins, S. P. (1992), “Difference in needs and assessment of income distributions”, Bulletin of Economic Research, 44: 77-124.
  • Carabaña, J. (1999), Dos estudios sobre movilidad intergeneracional, Madrid, Fundación Argentaria, Visor.
  • Chantreuil, F. and Trannoy, A. (2013), ”Inequality decomposition values: the trade-off between marginality and efficiency”, Journal of Economic Inequality, 11: 83-98.
  • Chávez-Juárez, F. W. and Soloaga, I. (2014), “Iop: Estimating ex ante inequality of opportunity”, The Stata Journal, 4: 830-846.
  • Checchi, D. and Peragine, V. (2010), “Inequality of opportunity in Italy”, Journal of Economic Inequality, 8: 429-450.
  • CIS (Centro de Investigaciones Sociológicas) (2017), “Social inequality and social mobility in Spain” (“Desigualdad Social y Movilidad Social en España”), CIS, 3178. 2_bancodatos/estudios/ver.jsp?estudio=14350.
  • Dasgupta, P. and Ray, D. (1986), “Inequality as a determinant of malnutrition and unemployment: theory”, Economic Journal, 96: 1011-1034.
  • European Union (2018), “Inter-generational mobility in social status, education and occupation”, Special Eurobarometer 471, December 2017, Summary (Chapter IV). publicopinion/index.cfm/survey/getsurveydetail/instruments/special/surveyky/2166.
  • Ferreira, F. (2001), “Education for the masses? The interaction between wealth, educational and political inequalities”, Economics of Transition, 9: 533-552.
  • Ferreira, F. (2007), “Inequality as cholesterol”, in Poverty in Focus: The Challenge of Inequality, Brasilia: International Poverty Centre (IPC), United Nations Development Programme, 20-21.
  • Ferreira, F. H. and Gignoux, J. (2011), “The measurement of inequality of opportunity: Theory and an application to Latin America”, Review of Income and Wealth, 57: 622-657.
  • Fleurbaey, M. (2008), Fairness, responsibility, and welfare, Oxford University Press.
  • Foster, J. E. and Shneyerov, A. A. (2000), “Path independent inequality measures”, Journal of Economic Theory, 91: 199-222.
  • Galor, O. and Zeira, J. (1993), “Income distribution and macroeconomics”, Review of Economic Studies, 60: 35-52.
  • Goldin, C. and Katz, L. F. (2008), The race between education and technology, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • Goldthorpe, J. H. (2013), “Understanding –and misunderstanding– social mobility in Britain: The entry of economists, the confusion of politicians and the limits of educational policy”, Journal of Social Policy, 42: 431-450.
  • Instituto de Estadística y Cartografía de Andalucía IECA (2018), Encuesta de movilidad social en Andalucía.
  • International Labour Organization (2012), International Standard Classification of Occupations, ISCO-08.
  • Kaldor, N. (1956), “Alternative theories of distribution”, Review of Economic Studies, 23: 83-100.
  • Lefranc, A., Pistolesi, N. and Trannoy A. (2009), “Equality of opportunity and luck: Definitions and testable conditions, with an application to income in France”, Journal of Public Economics, 93: 1189-1207.
  • Li Donni, P., Rodríguez, J. G., and Rosa Dias, P. (2015), “Empirical definition of social types in the analysis of inequality of opportunity: a latent classes approach”, Social Choice and Welfare, 44: 673-701.
  • Mankiw, N. G. (2013), “Defending the one percent”, Journal of Economic Perspectives, 27: 21-34.
  • Marqués, I. (2015), La movilidad social en España, Los libros de La Catarata, Madrid.
  • Marrero, G. A. and Rodríguez, J. G. (2011), “Inequality of opportunity in the U.S.: Trends and decomposition”, Research on Economic Inequality, 19: 217-46.
  • Marrero, G. A. and Rodríguez, J. G. (2012), “Inequality of opportunity in Europe”, Review of Income and Wealth, 58: 597-621.
  • Marrero, G. A. and Rodríguez, J. G. (2013), “Inequality of opportunity and growth”, Journal of Development Economics, 104: 107-122.
  • Marrero, G. A. and Rodríguez, J. G. (2016), “Inequality... of opportunity and economic performance” in Economic Mobility (eds., A. Brown, D. Buchholz, D. Davis and A. González), Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis and Board of Governors of the Federal, 385-419.
  • Marrero, G. A., Rodríguez, J. G. and Van Der Weide, R. (2016), “Unequal Opportunity, Unequal Growth”, The World Bank Working Papers Series, WP no. 7853.
  • Marrero, G. A., Betancort, M., Cabrera, L. J., Darias, S., Pérez, C. N., Rodríguez, J. G. and Sánchez, D. (2017), Desigualdad de oportunidades y movilidad intergeneracional en Canarias, Santa Cruz de Tenerife: Fundación Cajacanarias.
  • Marrero, G. A. and Rodríguez, J. G. (2019), “Inequality and growth: The cholesterol hypothesis”, ECINEQ WP, 501.
  • Mirrlees, J. (1971), “An exploration in the theory of optimum income taxation”, Review of Economic Studies, 38: 175-208.
  • OECD (2018), Equity in Education: Breaking Down Barriers to Social Mobility. PISA, OECD Publishing, Paris. Available at:
  • Palomino, J. C., Marrero, G. A. and Rodríguez, J. G. (2019), “Channels of inequality of opportunity: the role of education and occupation in Europe”, Social Indicators Research, 143: 1045-1074.
  • Perrote, I., Rodríguez, J. G. and Salas, R. (2003), “La inequidad horizontal y la redistribución vertical en el impuesto sobre la renta de las personas físicas: un análisis de robustez”, Hacienda Pública Española/Review of Public Economics, 166(3): 49-60.
  • Prais, S. J. (1955), “Measuring social mobility”, Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A, Part I, 118: 56-66.
  • Ramos, X. and Van de Gaer, D. (2016), “Approaches to inequality of opportunity: Principles, measures and evidence”, Journal of Economic Surveys, 30: 855-883.
  • Requena, M. and Stanek, M. (2015), “Las clases sociales en España: cambio, composición y consecuencias”, en Blanco, A., Chueca, A. and Bombardieri, G. (dir. y ed.), Informe España 2015, 487- 518. Madrid, Fundación Encuentro/Centro de Estudios del Cambio Social.
  • Requena, M. (2016): La educación como ascensor social, Dossier Observatorio Social de la Caixa, 19-28.
  • Rodríguez, J. G. (2004): “Descomposición Factorial de la Desigualdad de la Renta”, Revista de Economía Aplicada, 12: 25-46.
  • Rodríguez, J. G. (2008): “Partial equality-of-opportunity orderings”, Social Choice and Welfare, 31: 435-456.
  • Rodríguez, J. G. (2017), “Equality of opportunity and inclusive growth”, in Progressive Lab for Sustainable Development (Eds. B. Caracciolo, Ch. Cheuvart, C. Dragomirescu-Gaina and V. Ntousas), 301-325.
  • Roemer, J. E. (1993), “A pragmatic approach to responsibility for the egalitarian planner”, Philosophy Public Affairs, 20: 146-166.
  • Roemer, J. E. (1998), Equality of opportunity, Harvard University Press.
  • Sastre, M. and Trannoy, A. (2002), “Shapley inequality decomposition by factor components: Some methodological issues”, Journal of Economics, 77: 51-89.
  • Savegnago, M. (2016), “Igmobil: A command for intergenerational mobility analysis in Stata”, The Stata Journal, 16: 386-402.
  • Shorrocks, A. F. (1978), “The measurement of mobility”, Econometrica, 46: 1013-1024.
  • Shorrocks, A. F. (2013), “Decomposition procedures for distributional analysis: A unified framework based on the Shapley value”, The Journal of Economic Inequality, 11: 99-126.
  • Solt, F. (2019), “Measuring income inequality across countries and over time: The Standardized World Income Inequality Database”, SWIID Version 8.1, May 2019.
  • Sommers, P. S. and Conlisk, J. (1979), “Eigenvalue immobility measures for Markov chains”, Journal of Mathematical Sociology, 6: 253-276.
  • Stiglitz, J. E. (2012), The Price of Inequality: How Today’s Divided Society Endangers Our Future, W.W. Norton and Company.
  • UNESCO, Institute for Statistics, (2012), International Standard Classification of Education, ISCED2011.
  • Van de Gaer, D. (1993), “Equality of opportunity and investment in human capital”, PhD thesis, Leu- ven: Katholieke Universiteit Leuven.