It is ESOP's ambition to challenge standard economic theory - and economic thinking more generally - with the experiences of the Nordic countries. To what extent is the standard economic theory able to explain the Nordic economic development? We strive to understand the different linkages between economic development, distribution, and social cleavages. What are the costs and what are the benefits of having more equity? We study the sustainability of generous welfare states and the viability of equity based market economies - both in a global economy. What determines their development and what determines their political support?
In addition to study the Nordic countries, ESOP's researchers study equality, social organization and economic development in general. These themes are essential in understanding potential social reforms in countries like Brazil, India, and China. These themes are also essential in understanding poverty and stagnation in countries like Russia, Nigeria and Egypt. In the last years, economic inequality has also been a main issue in the discussion of everything from the financial crisis, the debt crisis in Europe to the election in the US and Britain's decision to leave the EU. Inequality and social conflict has gotten more attention. There is no surprise that our research on inequality and experiences with alternative social models, as the Nordic, has gotten more interest. ESOP's long-term research agenda is even more relevant today than when the center started in 2007. ESOP may even have contributed somewhat to the awareness and interest in these issues.
The actual research at ESOP is wide in scope. Some themes and approaches stand out in an international comparison. Two hallmarks are important. The first is that much of the research activities use register data. Such data, from combined registers, make it possible to track the effects of changes to welfare arrangements for the individual decision to leave, or stay in, the labor force. These studies handle core issues in economic theory but are also directly relevant for policy. Understanding the determinants of labor force participation is key in providing redistribution and efficient production.
The analysis of register data has provided key insights into how the educational system contributes to social mobility. The expansion of Norwegian childcare in the 70's has made it possible to quantify the positive role of early education played in the children's later educational careers and working careers.
Childcare contributes positively to the children's adulthood. It increases the probability of completing high school and the probability of starting in higher education and participating in the work force. The effect is particularly strong for girls and for children of mothers with little education. This shows that public childcare contributes to social mobility and that it reduces gender inequality. The experiences based on childcare from the Nordic countries are unique and the Norwegian results are read with great interest in countries that considers expanding public efforts in the young children's education and socialization.
The other hallmark is the research on the interplay between political and economic development. The economic development of a country determines the distribution of political power, while the political power in turn determines the conditions for economic development. Such interactions can be productive, as in Scandinavia, or destructive as in countries with conflicts over resources. One important example of mutual equalizing are the interplays between welfare arrangements and the labor market - and between capitalist dynamics and social insurance.
ESOP's research shows for example that small wage differentials go together with large welfare budgets. Compared to the US, Scandinavia has welfare arrangements that are twice as generous, but has only half the wage dispersion. The countries with the smallest wage dispersion do put the most effort in redistribution via the welfare arrangements insurance aspects. Economics and politics move in the same direction. Equality generates even more equality, while inequality generates inequality.
Compared to the US, Norway has had higher economic growth over the last 80 years - even when subtracting oil. The growth stems from dynamic competition, developing new products, new modes of operation and new modes of cooperation at all levels - from the firm to the society. This dynamic competition is determined by institutions and the mutual dependencies between politics, organizations and markets. All of these themes are central in ESOP's research and stand in sharp contrast to textbook perceptions of competition. ESOP shows how equality, generous welfare and cooperation at all levels can be a competitive edge for a small open economy in the global market place.
Senter for studier av likhet, sosial organisering og økonomisk utvikling
ESOP skal studere sammenhengene mellom likhet, sosial organisering og økonomisk utvikling, både i rike og i fattige land. Målsetningene er:
- Å utfordre økonomisk teori på grunnlag av erfaringer fra Norden: Må vi endre de grunnleggende forutsetningene om adferd og institusjoner, eller kan erfaringene fra Norden forklares med tradisjonell økonomisk teori bare detaljene blir riktige?
- Å forstå sammenhengen mellom økonomisk utvikling , fordeling og sosiale ulikheter: Hva er fordelene og ulempene ved økt likhet?
- Å utforske bærekraften til sjenerøse velferdsstater og egalitære markedsøkonomier: Hvilke faktorer bestemmer deres utvikling og deres økonomiske og politiske gjennomførbarhet?
- Å forstå sammenhengen mellom politikk, institusjoner og langsiktig utvikling: Hvilke kombinasjoner av politikk og institusjoner gir en egalitær utvikling som er stabil?
- Å bringe disse forskningstemaene til den internasjonale forskningsfronten: Hva er den generelle lærdommen for økonomifaget?
Den nordiske modellen utgjør et interessant sosialt laboratorium. De fleste etablerte teorier innen moderne økonomi er utviklet for å kunne studere markedsbaserte, USA-inspirerte institusjoner og blir som re gel testet i en amerikansk kontekst. Erfaringene fra Norden setter disse teoriene på en annen prøve som mange av dem ikke består uten videre.