Title: Understanding Patterns and Trends in Income Mobility through Multiverse Analysis
Abstact: Rising inequalities in rich countries have led to concerns that the economic ladder is getting harder to climb. Yet, research on trends in intergenerational income mobility finds conflicting results. To better understand this variation, we adopt a multiverse approach that estimates trends over 82,944 different definitions of income mobility, varying how and for whom income is measured. Our analysis draws on comprehensive register data for Swedish cohorts born 1958–1977 and their parents. We find that income mobility has declined but for reasons neglected by previous research: improved gender equality in the labor market strengthens intergenerational persistence in women's earnings and the household incomes of both men and women. Dominant theories that focus on childhood investments have blinded researchers to this development. Our analysis shows how multiverse analysis can be used with an abductive logic of inference to improve theory building in social science.