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Title: Intergenerational Mobility in Germany: Trends and Political Consequences
Authors: Ellis, Benjamin
Advisors: Mody, Ashoka
Department: Woodrow Wilson School
Class Year: 2019
Abstract: The emergence of right-wing populism in Germany has left many searching for the reasons why. I use mobility as a lens to look into this question. Intergenerational mobility across developed nations has been widely studied, however, there are few studies that attempt to measure its development across time. In this thesis, I examine the trends in intergenerational mobility for Germany over time, using measures of both relative and absolute mobility. I find that both have declined, indicating that children are becoming more “stuck” in their parent’s incomes and are increasingly threatened with making less than their parents in real terms. I also examine the mechanisms that contribute to children’s ability to move up from their parent’s income status. I believe this to be a new avenue for research in the literature on mobility in Germany. I find that education has become an increasingly important factor in determining children’s upward mobility at both the university and vocational levels. For those who can obtain it, higher levels of education offer the hope of moving up. I then establish the link between upward mobility and political outcomes. While previous studies have looked at the effects of income status or feelings of economic security on political preferences, I use individuals’ level of upward mobility. I find that those with lower upward mobility tend to support left-wing parties or do not participate in politics. Individuals that have lower education and more anti-immigrant attitudes tend to support right-wing parties. However, I also find that children born in the most recent years in my data are more likely to vote for extreme parties on both the right and left. These findings offer important insight into the reasons behind the rise of right-wing populism. As upward mobility has been declining, people have either chosen to support left-wing parties or drop out of the political system entirely. Changes in Germany’s immigration policy in 2015 drove those that had previously retreated from the political system to actively engage, propelling the AfD into the Bundestag in 2017. The economic and political stability of Germany is critical for the EU. In the wake of Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, Germany’s experience with right-wing populism is not particularly unique. However, a continued decline in upward mobility will likely only exacerbate political fragmentation. Increasing the access, quality, and opportunity for education could be a two-fold solution that addresses political tensions and contributes to higher growth.
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Woodrow Wilson School, 1929-2019

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