Back to search

VAM-Velferd, arbeid og migrasjon

A fair chance? How geography shapes life opportunities

Alternative title: En rimelig sjanse? Hvordan geografi former livsmuligheter

Awarded: NOK 12.2 mill.

Project Number:


Application Type:

Project Period:

2020 - 2025

Funding received from:


Partner countries:

The opportunity to move up the socioeconomic ladder, both during one’s lifetime and in relation to one’s parents, has been recognized as a key matter for combating poverty and reducing inequality. This is the premise for the project, to which we add an increasingly relevant dimension by asking: How does the spatial context in which people live during different stages of their lives, shape their life prospects and socioeconomic outcomes? Over time, the determinants of an individual’s socioeconomic position have evolved from a focus on individual choice, to the family as the main avenue for social reproduction through the transmission of parental endowments and parental investments in their offspring. More recently, socioeconomic mobility has evolved, as a process that plays out in multiple spheres. The geographical context has been expanded to include larger geographical areas than neighborhoods. The project is justified by a further need for knowledge on what both neighborhood and larger geographical contexts means for opportunities to move up the socioeconomic ladder. Our core questions are: • Is geographical mobility a prerequisite for socioeconomic mobility? • What are the socioeconomic mobility prospects for individuals who graduate from institutions of higher education in smaller, medium-sized, and larger places, respectively? • What are the potential links between family wealth acquired in regions of different size and centrality, and individual life chances? • How does where you grew up as a child matter for labor-market attainment? • How do different dimensions of childhood residential and neighborhood context affect adult outcomes? In «The migration pathway to economic mobility: Does gender matter?», published in Population Space Place, 2021, we investigate the association between regional migration and economic mobility in Norway, focusing on gender. We show that upward spatial migration across three geographical levels defined by geographical centrality, has different impacts on economic mobility, defined as earnings rank, for men and women. The benefit compared with peers who stay at lower levels, or peers who move in the opposite direction, is larger for women. This difference is due to migration before finished education and is linked to employment opportunities in origin locations. Women seem to be pushed away from regions with low full-time employment, whereas men face a more even landscape of opportunities. The most rewarding destination location is Oslo, particularly for women. Regions at the next highest level appear to have labor markets that benefit men more than women. In «Neighborhood Selection by Natives and Immigrants: Homophily or Limited Spatial Search», published in Housing Studies, 2022, we estimate neighborhood selection for Oslo region families with children making inter-neighborhood moves. We find support for the conventional view that preferences for living among those of the same income and majority/minority background, shape the residential mobility processes and foster segregation. Demographic features like the share of children are influential in neighborhood choice. The most important predictor is location. All types of families studied evince a similar aversion to selecting distant neighborhoods. All else equal, high-income families regardless of immigrant status, tend to avoid moving into Oslo inner city. Non-Western immigrants, regardless of income, are strongly reluctant to move out of the Oslo outer east. As neighborhoods with different characteristics are unevenly distributed this differentiation in adaptations means that children with Norwegian-born and non-Western parents, respectively, will not share similar developmental contexts even if their parents have similar incomes. The symbolic value of Oslo East and West continues to influence the place identity, the housing market behavior, and the life chances. In "Decomposing educational disparities between immigrants and natives in Oslo: how gender, parents, and place matter", published in Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 2022, we examine which characteristics of parents and neighborhood during childhood have influence on completing secondary school and enrolling university. We compare non-Western men with native Norwegian men, and non-Western women with native Norwegian women. One of our findings is that the differences in childhood neighborhood have effect on the non-Western-native gaps among men in probabilities of completing secondary school and enrolling university. The effects are smaller than those reflecting differences in family background. Equalizing family background characteristics for immigrant descendants and natives—especially income—would reverse the gaps in educational attainment for both men and women. Equalizing childhood neighborhood characteristics for male descendant and natives-especially the share of high-status neighbors- would reduce the gap in university enrollment by over half.

Our project addresses key societal challenges of crucial importance for maintaining the high degree of social mobility and low levels of economic inequality that characterize Norway. We investigate how the spatial context in which people live during different stages of their lives shape their life prospects and socioeconomic outcomes. Geography may influence people at different levels like the neighborhood, the municipality, the housing and labor markets and the economic region that represent different opportunity structures. Moreover, spatial context interacts with individual and family characteristics in complex ways to affect life trajectories. In this project we take a dynamic approach and follow people over their life trajectories with a special focus on their geographical location at different stages in life, both during childhood and in their adult life. Mobility is a key mediating variable throughout the project. Our outcomes of interest include income and educational attainment and welfare dependency. We utilize large-scale register data, taking due account of the selection and simultaneity problems inherent in the phenomena studied.

Publications from Cristin

No publications found

Funding scheme:

VAM-Velferd, arbeid og migrasjon