International Tax and Public Finance

, Volume 17, Issue 4, pp 357–377 | Cite as

Education and social mobility

  • Helmuth CremerEmail author
  • Philippe De Donder
  • Pierre Pestieau


This paper shows that the design of education policy involves a potential conflict between welfare and social mobility. We consider a setting in which social mobility is maximized under the least elitist public education system, whereas welfare maximization calls for the most elitist system. We show that when private education is available, the degree of elitism that maximizes social mobility increases, while the welfare-maximizing degree of elitism decreases. The ranking between the welfare- and mobility-maximizing degrees of elitism may even be reversed. Utilitarian welfare is always higher when private supplementary education is available, but social mobility may be reduced.


Elitism Egalitarianism Private education 

JEL Classification



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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Helmuth Cremer
    • 1
    Email author
  • Philippe De Donder
    • 2
  • Pierre Pestieau
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.Toulouse School of Economics (GREMAQ, IDEI and Institut universitaire de France)ToulouseFrance
  2. 2.Toulouse School of Economics (GREMAQ-CNRS and IDEI)ToulouseFrance
  3. 3.CREPPHEC-Management School University of LiegeLiegeBelgium
  4. 4.CORE Université catholique de LouvainLouvain la NeuveBelgium

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