Urban Facts

Under the heading Urban Facts, we present graphs and statistics from our research studies.

The American Dream – Swedish reality around the last turn of the century

The map shows the rate of social mobility in Sweden's municipalities in 1910. The map is based
on data for more than 200,000 father-son pairs and shows intergenerational professional
mobility of sons born in the late 19th century who reached adulthood in the early 20th century.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Sweden was one of Europe's fastest growing economies. During the period, Sweden also had a high level of social mobility compared to other European countries - the pattern is almost reminiscent of what was found in the very mobile United States in the 19th century. Economic growth and internal migration were important driving forces behind the difference between European countries, as well as between different areas in Sweden.

The new study shows that Sweden had high levels of social mobility even before the outbreak of the First World War, and several decades before the emergence of the modern welfare state. In addition, it shows that the differences in social mobility between the Old and New Worlds might not have been as great as many might think. But it also challenges the hypothesis of why the welfare state gained such a weak position in the United States; that a strong welfare state was not needed in the "land of opportunity". The fact that Sweden, despite its high social mobility, nevertheless saw the emergence of the modern welfare state, contributes to questioning whether this hypothesis is true.

Working paper

Title: Intergenerational Mobility in Sweden Before the Welfare State
Researchers: Thor Berger, Per Engzell, Björn Eriksson och Jakob Molinder

Read the working paper (PDF)

The working paper is also available at The Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) (Behind pay wall)

Politicians have more high-income neighbours

The graph shows that elected municipal politicians have a higher proportion of high-income earners among their neighbours in relation to the general population. High-income earners are those who have income in the upper income quartile. The result for all politicians' neighbours is marked in grey, for centre-right bloc politicians' neighbours in blue and for left bloc politicians' neighbours in red. Among the 50 closest neighbours, the average politician thus has 8.5% more high-income earners than the average non-politician has. The study includes politicians who were elected during the elections in 2002, 2006 and 2010.

A new study shows that elected municipal politicians live in areas where the neighbours have higher incomes than what is the case for the general population. The narrower the area around each individual is defined, the stronger this pattern becomes. Similar patterns exist for the neighbours’ level of education and their country of birth. Politicians from the traditional centre-right bloc have more high-income individuals, highly educated individuals, and individuals born within the OECD (including Sweden) among their closest neighbours than what politicians in the left bloc have.

The study also examines whether political decisions are influenced by where politicians live. During the election periods examined, fewer building permits were approved for multi-family houses and fewer proposals for school closures were made in neighbourhoods, where more politicians from parties in the governing majority lived. The conclusion is that politicians who have the possibility to affect the political decisions avoid making bad decisions for their own residential area according to the "not in my backyard” principle.

About the study

Title: Politicians’ neighbourhoods: Where do they live and does it matter?
Researchers: Olle Folke, Linna Martén, Johanna Rickne and Matz Dahlberg

To the study

Last modified: 2021-12-07