Professor Jo Blanden

Professor in Economics
Spring 2024: Email for an appointment

Academic and research departments

School of Economics.



Research interests

Research collaborations



Joanne Blanden, Andrew Eyles, Stephen Machin (2023)Intergenerational home ownership, In: Journal of Economic Inequality21pp. 251-275 Springer

This paper studies intergenerational links in home ownership, an increasingly important wealth marker and a measure of economic status in itself. Repeated cross sectional UK data show that home ownership rates have fallen rapidly over time, and markedly amongst younger people in more recent birth cohorts. Evidence from British birth cohorts data supplemented by the Wealth and Assets Survey show a significant rise through time in the intergenerational persistence of home ownership, as home ownership rates shrank disproportionately among those whose parents did not own their own home. Given the close connection between home ownership and wealth, these results on strengthening intergenerational persistence in home ownership are therefore suggestive of a fall in intergenerational housing wealth mobility over time.

JOANNE BLANDEN, Emilia Del Bono, Birgitta Rabe, Kirstine Hansen (2021)Quantity and quality of childcare and children’s educational outcomes, In: Journal of Population Economics Springer

Policy makers wanting to support child development can choose to adjust the quantity or quality of publicly funded universal pre-school. To assess the impact of such changes we estimate the effects of an increase in free pre-school education in England of about 3.5 months at age 3 on children's school achievement at age 5. We exploit date-of-birth discontinuities that create variation in the length and starting age of free pre-school using administrative school records linked to nursery characteristics. Estimated effects are small overall, but the impact of the additional term is substantially larger in settings with the highest inspection quality rating but not in settings with highly qualified staff. Estimated effects fade out by age 7.

Jo Blanden, Matthias Doepke, Jan Stuhler (2023)Educational inequality, In: Handbook of the Economics of Educationpp. 405-497 Elsevier

This chapter provides new evidence on educational inequality and reviews the literature on the causes and consequences of unequal education. We document large achievement gaps between children from different socioeconomic backgrounds, show how patterns of educational inequality vary across countries, time, and generations, and establish a link between educational inequality and social mobility. We interpret this evidence from the perspective of economic models of skill acquisition and investment in human capital. The models account for different channels underlying unequal education and highlight how endogenous responses in parents' and children's educational investments generate a close link between economic inequality and educational inequality. Given concerns over the extended school closures during the Covid-19 pandemic, we also summarize early evidence on the impact of the pandemic on children's education and on possible long-run repercussions for educational inequality. Word count: 28500

Jane Dacre, Carol Woodhams, Carol Atkinson, Ioannis Laliotis, Mark Williams, Jo Blanden, Sheila Wild, Duncan Brown (2020)Independent review into gender pay gaps in medicine in England Department of Health and Social Care
J Blanden, S Machin (2008)Up and down the generational income ladder in Britain: Past changes and future prospects, In: National Institute Economic Review205(1)pp. 101-116 Sage Publications
Robert Manduca, Maximillian Hell, Adrian Adermon, Jo Blanden, Espen Bratberg, Anne C. Gielen, Hans van Kippersluis, Keunbok Lee, Stephen Machin, Martin D. Munk, Martin Nybom, Yuri Ostrovsky, Sumaiya Rahman, Outi Sirniö (2022)Measuring absolute income mobility, In: American Economic Journal: Applied Economics American Economic Association

We use linked parent-child administrative data for five countries in North America and Europe, and detailed survey data for two more, to investigate methodological challenges in the estimation of absolute income mobility. We show that the commonly used " copula and marginals " approximation methods perform well across countries in our sample, and the greatest challenges to their accuracy stem not from assumptions about relative mobility rates over time but from the use of non-representative marginal income distributions. We also provide a multi-country analysis of sensitivity to specification decisions related to age of income measurement, income concept, family structure, and price index.

J Blanden, S Machin (2010)Education and Inequality Elsevier

The 70 contributors are each well-regarded economists whose research has advanced the topic on which they write, and this book fulfills an undersupplied niche for a text in the economics of education.

J Blanden, E Del Bono, S McNally, B Rabe (2016)Universal pre-school education: the case of public funding with private provision, In: ECON J126pp. 682-723 BLACKWELL PUBL LTD

This paper studies the effect of free pre-school education on child outcomes in primary school. We exploit the staggered implementation of free part-time pre-school for three-yearolds across Local Education Authorities in England in the early 2000s. The policy led to small improvements in attainment at age five, with no apparent benefits by age 11. We argue that this is because the expansion of free places largely crowded out privately paid care, with small changes in total participation, and was achieved through an increase in private provision, where quality is lower on average than in the public sector.

J Blanden, S Machin (2003)Cross-generation correlations of union status for young people in Britain, In: BRITISH JOURNAL OF INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS41(3)pp. 391-415 WILEY-BLACKWELL
J Blanden, S Machin, J Van Reenen (2006)Have unions turned the corner? New evidence on recent trends in union recognition in UK firms, In: BRITISH JOURNAL OF INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS44(2)pp. 169-190 WILEY-BLACKWELL
J Blanden, K Hansen, S Machin (2010)The Economic Cost of Growing Up Poor: Estimating the GDP Loss Associated with Child Poverty, In: Fiscal Studies31(3)pp. 289-311 Wiley-Blackwell
Joanne Blanden, R Haveman, T Smeeding, K Wilson (2014)Intergenerational mobility in the united states and great britain: A comparative study of parent-child pathways, In: Review of Income and Wealth60(3)pp. 425-449 Wiley

We build on cross-national research to examine the relationships underlying estimates of relative intergenerational mobility in the United States and Great Britain using harmonized longitudinal data and focusing on men. We examine several pathways by which parental status is related to offspring status, including education, labor market attachment, occupation, marital status, and health, and perform several sensitivity analyses to test the robustness of our results. We decompose differences between the two nations into that part attributable to the strength of the relationship between parental income and the child's characteristics and the labor market return to those child characteristics. We find that the relationships underlying these intergenerational linkages differ in systematic ways between the two nations. In the United States, primarily because of the higher returns to education and skills, the pathway through offspring education is relatively more important than it is in Great Britain; by contrast, in Great Britain the occupation pathway forms the primary channel of intergenerational persistence. © 2013 International Association for Research in Income and Wealth.

J Blanden, P Gregg, L Macmillan (2007)Accounting for intergenerational income persistence: Noncognitive skills, ability and education, In: The Economic Journal117(519)pp. C43-C60 Blackwell Publishing

We analyse in detail the factors that lead to intergenerational persistence among sons, where this is measured as the association between childhood family income and later adult earnings. We seek to account for the level of income persistence in the 1970 BCS cohort and also to explore the decline in mobility in the UK between the 1958 NCDS cohort and the 1970 cohort. The mediating factors considered are cognitive skills, noncognitive traits, educational attainment and labour market attachment. Changes in the relationships between these variables, parental income and earnings are able to explain over 80% of the rise in intergenerational persistence across the cohorts.

J Blanden, P Gregg (2004)Family income and educational attainment: A review of approaches and evidence for Britain, In: OXFORD REVIEW OF ECONOMIC POLICY20(2)pp. 245-263 OXFORD UNIV PRESS
J Blanden (2011)Cross-Country Rankings In Intergenerational Mobility: A Comparison of Approaches From Economics and Sociology, In: Journal of Economic Surveys27(1)pp. 38-73 Blackwell Publishing

This paper summarizes research on the relative level of intergenerational mobility - whether classified by income, education or social class. The literatures on education and income mobility reveal a similar ranking with South America, other developing nations, southern European countries and France tending to have rather limited mobility although the Nordic countries exhibit strong mobility. Estimates of mobility based on social class point to rather different patterns, and we demonstrate that these differences are most likely generated by intergenerational earnings persistence within social classes. The second part of the paper looks for explanations for the differences in earnings and education persistence and finds that mobility is negatively correlated with inequality and the return to education but positively correlated with a nation's education spending.

J Blanden, S Machin (2004)Educational inequality and the expansion of UK higher education, In: SCOTTISH JOURNAL OF POLITICAL ECONOMY51(2)pp. 230-249 WILEY-BLACKWELL
J Blanden, L Macmillan (2016)Educational inequality, educational expansion and intergenerational mobility, In: Journal of Social Policy45(4) Cambridge University Press

The distribution of education by social background and the mobility prospects of society are intimately connected. To begin to predict future trends in mobility in the UK we bring together evidence on educational inequality by family background for cohorts from 1958 to 2000 for a range of educational outcomes. There is evidence that educational inequalities have narrowed among recent cohorts as the overall level of educational achievement has increased. This could be promising for mobility provided the labour market returns to these qualifications are maintained. However, stubborn inequalities by background at higher attainment levels imply that narrowing inequalities and expanding equality of opportunity throughout the educational distribution is a difficult task.

J Blanden, F Buscha, P Sturgis, P Urwin (2012)Measuring the earnings returns to lifelong learning in the UK, In: Economics of Education Review31(4)pp. 501-514 Elsevier Science

La presente etude repose sur l'appariement de donnees fiscales concernant les filles, leurs parents, leur partenaire et les parents de leur partenaire pour examiner les interactions entre la mobilite intergenerationnelle du revenu et l'appariement conjugal des jeunes couples au Canada. Nous montrons comment l'appariement assortatif contribue a la persistance intergenerationnelle du revenu du menage. La force de l'association entre le revenu du beau-fils et celui des parents de la femme signifie que le lien intergenerationnel est plus puissant pour les revenus du menage que pour le revenu personnel des filles uniquement. Il en est de meme si l'on examine la situation du point de vue oppose, de sorte que les gains des filles et de leur partenaire sont relies au revenu des parents de ce dernier. Ces resultats indiquent que l'appariement assortatif intensifie la persistance intergenerationnelle du revenu au niveau individuel. Dans la deuxieme partie du document, nous considerons l'appariement assortatif selon le revenu parental. Nous constatons que le revenu des parents de la fille a une elasticite de pres de 0,2 par rapport au revenu des parents de son partenaire. Cette association est a peu pres du meme ordre de grandeur que le lien intergenerationnel entre les revenus des parents et des enfants. Nous etudions les variations de la correlation entre les revenus parentaux en fonction de plusieurs variables mesurees; les correlations sont plus faibles pour les couples qui cohabitent, ainsi que pour ceux qui forment tot une union, ceux qui vivent dans les regions rurales et, ce qui est fort interessant, ceux qui divorcent ulterieurement. Nous interpretons ce dernier resultat comme etant la preuve qu'en moyenne, les couples pour lesquels les revenus des parents sont comparables jouissent d'une union plus stable.

J Blanden, S Machin (2010)Education and Inequality, In: DJ Brewer, PJ McEwan (eds.), Economics of Education Elsevier

The 70 contributors are each well-regarded economists whose research has advanced the topic on which they write, and this book fulfills an undersupplied niche for a text in the economics of education.

In this paper we investigate whether young people whose fathers are union members are themselves more likely to join a union. The work builds upon a large social science literature on intergenerational mobility that, to ourknowledge, has not been applied to industrial relations questions. The paper asks questions and provides evidence from British longitudinal data on several issues to do with the cross-generation transmission of union status:i) We first calculate odds ratios, as often used in the literature on social mobility, to look at empirical connections between the union status of young people and their fathers. We calculate relative risk ratios that measure the relative chances that a child of a unionized father is unionized as compared to the relative chances of the child of a non-union father being unionized. This relative risk ratio is of the order of 2, showing that young people with unionized fathers are twice as likely to be unionized as those with non-union fathers. ii) The relative risk ratio is higher, at over 3, for young people with fathers who report themselves as being active in a union. To the extent that active in a union fathers are more likely to 'spread the word' about unions to their offspring, this higher relative risk ratio supports the idea that the socialization within the family during the formative years passes on positive knowledge about unions to children of unionized parents making them more likely to join a union. iii) The intergenerational correlation of union status has not reduced over time. Despite a widening of the union membership gap between older and younger workers, relative risk ratios calculated from early 1980s data are no larger than those from the 1990s. iv) The cross-generation correlation is not driven by common within-family characteristics (like occupation, industry and political persuasion) that are strongly related to union status in the data.

This paper summarises research on the relative level of intergenerational mobility - whether classified by income, social class, social status or education - considering observations from 65 countries. With the exception of social class, the different approaches reveal similar patterns. South America, other developing nations, southern European countries and France tending to have rather limited mobility while the Nordic countries exhibit strong mobility. Evidence for the US and Germany differs across the measures, with Germany immobile on education and class and fairly mobile on income and the reverse true for the US. These differences are likely explained by greater within-group income inequality and persistence in the US. The second part of the paper finds that mobility is negatively correlated with inequality and the returns to education and positively correlated with a nation's education spending.

This paper investigates whether young people whose fathers are union members are themselves more likely to join a union. We find that young people with unionized fathers are twice as likely to be unionized as those with non-union fathers and that this rises to three times higher for those whose fathers are active in the union. This supports the idea that socialization within the family plays a role in encouraging union membership. It is not the case that the cross-generation correlations we observe are driven by common within-family characteristics (like occupation, industry and political persuasion) that are strongly related to union membership. X-PublishedAs-Type: article X-PublishedAs-Journal: British journal of industrial relations X-PublishedAs-Year: 2003 X-PublishedAs-Volume: 41 X-PublishedAs-Pages: 391-415

J Blanden, P Gregg, S Machin (2017)Changes in Educational Inequality

This paper looks at changes over time in the extent of educational inequality - defined as educational attainment by people from higher relative to lower income backgrounds. It draws upon household and longitudinal data sources in both the UK and US to look at this highly policy relevant question. The data shows a sharp rise in educational inequality over time in the UK, but with the stage of the education sequence mattering. In particular the rapid expansion of higher education seen in the recent past in the UK disproportionately benefited children from relatively affluent backgrounds. The international comparisons show different patterns of change in the association between education and family income over time in the UK relative to the US. We link these findings on changes in educational inequality to the literature on intergenerational mobility, arguing that international differences in educational systems matter for the extent of economic and social mobility across generations.

This paper makes use of matched tax-return data for daughters, their parents, their partners and their partners' parents to investigate the interactions between intergenerational mobility and marital matching for young couples in Canada. We show how assortative mating contributes to intergenerational household income persistence. The strength of the association between sons-in-law's income and women's parental income means that the intergenerational link between household incomes is stronger than that found for daughters' own incomes alone. This is also the case when viewed from the other side, so that daughters' and their partners' earnings are related to partners' parental income. These results indicate that assortative matching magnifies individual-level intergenerational persistence.In the second part of the paper we consider assortative mating by parental income. We find that daughter's parental income has an elasticity of almost 0.2 with respect to her partner's parental income. This association is of approximately the same magnitude as the intergenerational link between parents' and children's incomes. We investigate variations in the correlation between the parental incomes across several measured dimensions; cohabiting couples have lower correlations, as do those who form partnerships early, those who live in rural areas and most interestingly, those who later divorce. We interpret this last result as evidence that, on average, couples with parental incomes that are more similar enjoy a more stable match.

J Blanden, F Buscha, P Sturgis, P Urwin (2017)Measuring the Returns to Lifelong Learning

This paper investigates the returns to lifelong learning, which is interpreted as the attainment of qualifications following entry into the labour market. For a number of reasons our analysis of the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS) represents an important addition to the existing evidence base. We allow for financial and non-financial returns to lifelong learning by using as dependent variables both (i) hourly earnings and (ii) CAMSIS score. A fixed effects specification counters the potential biases that arise from unobserved individual heterogeneity and the inclusion of lags allows estimation of how the returns to lifelong learning evolve over a ten year period after the qualification is obtained. We find evidence of earnings and occupation status returns using a broad categorisation of lifelong learning for both men and women, but more variability in returns when disaggregated NVQ-equivalent categories of qualification are considered. Our findings are broadly in line with existing evidence within the UK, which is mostly based on the analysis of cohort studies. 0f particular interest is the finding that returns to women materialise much sooner after the attainment of a qualification, than is the case for their male counterparts.

J Blanden, L Macmillan (2011)Recent Developments in Intergenerational Mobility, In: P Gregg, J Wadsworth (eds.), The Labour Market in Winter: The State of Working Britain(13) Oxford University Press

This book provides an overview of the key issues concerning the performance of the labour market and policy in the UK, with focus on the 2008 financial crisis, the ensuing recession, and its aftermath.

J Blanden, I Katz, G Redmond (2012)Persistent Inequality? A Comparison of the Impact of Family background on Children's Outcomes in the UK and Australia, In: J Ermisch, M Jäntti, TM Smeeding (eds.), From Parents to Children: the Intergenerational Transmission of Advantage Russell Sage Foundation Publications

The book compares whether and how parents' resources transmit advantage to their children at different stages of development and sheds light on the structural differences among countries that may influence intergenerational mobility.

J Blanden (2009)Intergenerational Income mobility in a Comparative Perspective, In: P Dolton, R Asplund, E Barth (eds.), Education and inequality across Europe Edward Elgar Pub

This volume represents a new chapter in understanding income inequality.

This paper reports results from a recent survey we conducted on the union status of over 650 firms in the private sector of the UK. Compared to earlier periods, the survey shows that since 1997 there has been a slight fall in derecognition, but a relatively large increase in union recognition. Almost 11% of firms report experiencing some new recognition, whilst 7% reported some derecognition. In the late 1980s new recognitions among similar firms were much lower (3% between 1985 to 1990 according to Gregg and Yates, 1991). In our survey, new recognitions were more prevalent in larger firms and in regions and industries where union membership was already high. New recognitions were less likely to have occurred in companies with higher wages, higher productivity and higher capital intensity. The 'blip up' in new recognitions is consistent with the idea that the incoming Labour government had a positive effect on the ability of unions to gain recognition, either through the 1999 legislation or more indirectly through changing the political climate.

Jo Blanden traces the evolution of CEP research on social mobility and its interaction with policy debate.

J Blanden, R Haveman, T Smeeding, K Wilson (2011)Understanding the Mechanisms behind Intergenerational Persistence: A Comparison Between the United States and Great Britain, In: TM Smeeding, M Jèantii, R Erikson (eds.), Persistence, Privilege, and Parenting: The Comparative Study of Intergenerational Mobility Russell Sage Foundation Publications

The book sheds light on how the social and economic mobility of children differs within and across counties and the impact private family resources, public policies, and social institutions may have on mobility.

Sociologists and economists reach quite different conclusions about how intergenerational mobility in the UK compares for those growing up in the 1970s and 1980s. Persistence in social class is found to be unchanged while family income is found to be more closely related to sons’ earnings for those born in 1970 compared to those born in the 1958. We investigate the reasons for the contrast and find that they are not due to methodological differences or data quality. Rather, they are explained by the increased importance of differences in income within social class for sons’ earnings in the second cohort. When economists measure intergenerational mobility their ideal is to see how permanent income is transmitted across generations. Our investigations show that the importance of within-social class differences in income mean that a single measure of income is a better predictor of permanent income status than fathers’ social class. We would not, therefore, expect the results for changes in intergenerational mobility based on income and social class to necessarily coincide.

J Blanden (2010)Social Mobility: Concepts and Measurement, In: V Uberoi, A Coutts, D Halpern (eds.), Options for Britain II: Cross-Cutting Policy Issues - Changes and Challenges Wiley-Blackwell

Collectively, these volumes provide an authoritative understanding of how public policy in Britain has changed over the last decade while offering bold ideas to meet the next decade's challenges.

J Blanden, A Goodman, P Gregg, S Machin (2017)Changes in Intergenerational Mobility in Britain

This paper compares and contrasts estimates of the extent of intergenerational income mobility over time in Britain. Estimates based on two British birth cohorts show that mobility appears to have fallen in a cross-cohort comparison of people who grew up in the 1960s and 1970s (the 1958 birth cohort) as compared to a cohort who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s (the 1970 birth cohort). The sensitivity of labour market earnings to parental income rises, thereby showing less intergenerational mobility for the more recent cohort. This supports theoretical notions that the widening wage and income distribution that occurred from the late 1970s onwards slowed down the extent of mobility up or down the distribution across generations.

The recent literature on intergenerational mobility in the UK has been focused on measuring the level and change in the relationship between parental income and children’s earnings as adults among recent cohorts. This paper is the first to analyse in detail the factors that generate these links. The paper seeks to account for the level of income persistence in the 1970 BCS cohort and also to explore the decline in mobility in the UK between the 1958 NCDS cohort and the 1970 cohort. The mediating factors considered are childhood health, cognitive skills, non-cognitive traits, educational attainment and labour market attachment. We find that these variables together explain slightly more than half of the intergenerational link for men. Changes in the relationships between these variables, parental income and earnings are able to explain three quarters of the rise in intergenerational persistence across the cohorts. The increased persistence in the second cohort comes from an increased influence of parental income in determining educational attainment, especially higher education, and labour market attachment. It is also clear that the stronger relationship between parental income and education comes in part through the growing relationship between parental income and the non-cognitive characteristics that influence education outcomes.

J Blanden, E Greaves, P Gregg, L Macmillan, L Sibieta (2015)Understanding the improved performance of disadvantaged pupils in London, In: Social Policy in a Cold ClimateWorkinpp. 2-47 LSE Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion

London is an educational success story, with especially good schooling results for more disadvantaged pupils. This is a dramatic reversal of fortunes. This paper uses a combination of administrative and survey data to document these improvements and understand more about why the performance of disadvantaged pupils in London has improved so much.  First of all we consider the timing of the improvement. We show that the London advantage for poor children was present in primary and secondary schools from the mid-1990s. This is well before the introduction of many recent policies that have previously been cited as the reasons for London’s success, such as the London Challenge or Academies programme.  Differences in the ethnic mix of pupils can explain some of the higher level of performance, but only about one sixth of the growth over time. Instead, the majority is explained by rising prior attainment (pupils entering secondary school with better age 11 test scores) and a reduced negative contribution of having many disadvantaged children in school.  Data from the Millennium Cohort Study shows that disadvantaged pupils in London have no advantage compared to those in the rest of England at age 5, but then show faster improvements between age 5 and 11 once they have started school.  Taken together, our evidence suggests improvements in London’s schools seem to be mainly attributable to gradual improvements in school quality rather than differences or changes in the effects of pupil and family characteristics.  Closer examination of the policies and practice in London from the mid to late 1990s could provide valuable lessons as to how educational performance can be boosted among disadvantaged groups.