Addressing Intergenerational Mobility: A Discussion with Dr. Miles Corak

Addressing inequality is arguably one of the most challenging issues in public policy. How we choose to acknowledge past, present and future inequalities; how we measure and identify this issue; whether we address concerns on the basis of inequality of outcome or opportunity; and what policies we ultimately should implement to tackle inequality remain important political, philosophical and statistical questions for decision-makers around the world.

In the vast array of research on inequality lies the concept of intergenerational mobility. The Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) defines intergenerational mobility as “the extent to which key characteristics and life experience of individuals differ from those of their parents” .  More generally referred to as “social mobility”, this is the inequality from generation to generation or how much inequality is passed on from parents to children.

Researchers of public policy examine how to measure and tackle intergenerational mobility and subsequently, address the larger questions of inequality. To help us unpack this multi-faceted topic today on Beyond the Headlines is one of the top economists leading the discussion, Dr. Miles Corak.

“What we’ve learned over the last 10 or 15 years is the idea that there is more intergenerational mobility in the United States is something that is not supported by the data.” – Miles Corak, Professor of Economics, Graduate Centre of the City University of New York

Miles Corak is a full professor of economics at The Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and senior scholar at the James M. and Cathleen D. Stone Center on Socio-Economic Inequality. He has previously taught at the University of Ottawa, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs and has been a visiting researcher and professor at Universities including Princeton, University of London, and Harvard University.  In addition, Professor Corak has been affiliated with a number of think tanks and research institutes as an advisor or research fellow including the Institute for the Study of Labour in Germany, the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality, The Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration at the University College London in the UK, and the C.D. Howe Institute and the Broadbent Institute in Canada to name a few.

We should pay attention not just to inequality but the nature of inequality. It’s not inequality in general that seems to matter for intergenerational mobility but rather its inequality in the bottom half of the income distribution.” –  Miles Corak, Professor of Economics, Graduate Centre of the City University of New York

Professor Corak’s research has focused on the topics of economic and social mobility, the effects of labour markets, unemployment, child poverty and social policy. This includes examining how social mobility affects Canada and other countries. Tied to this research is an examination of the meaning and measurement of equality of opportunity. Having written extensively on this topic, he has previously been published in Canadian Public Policy, Journal of Economic Perspective, Labour Economics and Child Development.  He has also been cited in outlets including the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Economist and the Globe and Mail.

“While post-secondary education isn’t a guarantee for a successful outcome in life, it certainly is an important gateway.” – Miles Corak, Professor of Economics, Graduate Centre of the City University of New York

To learn more about Professor Corak’s work and research, visit his website

[Interview begins at 2.03]


Ian T. D. Thomson, Executive Producer, Technical Producer and Host

Music Credits
Not Dead by Fine Times
Street Hassle by Lou Reed
Honeybee by Unknown Mortal Orchestra


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