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Lessons for American Law & Public Policy from the Scandinavian Welfare State

Author: James J. Heckman

Poverty, inequality, and social mobility occupy the attention of lawmakers and the public around the world. A variety of legislative and administrative proposals to address these issues are currently being advocated, and many suggest basic modifications in the law to implement these proposals. This project will examine the effectiveness of the Danish welfare state in creating economic and social opportunity, benchmarking its performance against that of the U.S. It will examine how successful Denmark has been in eliminating the influence of the accident of birth in shaping lives. It will compare the life outcomes of Americans with those of Danes to determine the effectiveness of Danish regulation and benefit policies. It will examine if place of birth determines life destiny in both environments, the channels through which it works, and if we actually detect a powerful influence of zip codes isolated from other factors associated with zip codes.

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