DAnmark is one of the richest countries in the world. Yet we have a hard time breaking the social legacy. That is the conclusion of a new study by economist and Nobel Prize winner James Heckman from Chicago and head of research at the Rockwool Foundation’s Research Unit Rasmus Landersø.
Despite free health care for newborns, ten years of schooling and free and equal access to education, we see that Danish children to a very large extent follow in their parents’ footsteps.
We achieve some economic equality by redistributing our income through tax and transfer income. But when it comes to areas where we can not just redistribute, e.g. education, lifestyle, life expectancy or risk of crime, the narrative becomes different.
Already from birth there are social divides. It is especially women with little or no education who smoke while they are pregnant and they give birth to small children more often. Their children are also less physically active, eat less fruit and vegetables and are far more likely to smoke daily. The family background is a strong indicator of dying early. A difference across mothers’ education does not necessarily mean that a higher education for mothers e.g. improves children’s test results.
When there are differences across mothers’ education, it is primarily due to differences in conditions such as skills, attitudes, personality traits, environment and / or resources in families. The family relationship follows the children into adulthood.
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