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Management & Organizational History

The Social Background of Elite Executives: The Swedish Case

Journal Article
Henrekson, Magnus , Odd Lyssarides and Jan Ottosson (2021). “The Social Background of Elite Executives: The Swedish Case”. Management & Organizational History 16(1), 65–87.

Magnus Henrekson, Odd Lyssarides, Jan Ottosson

Sweden is often described as a country where intergenerational social mobility is high, but research also shows that social mobility decreases the closer one gets to the extreme top of the income distribution. We study the occupational mobility for the CEOs of Sweden’s 30 largest public firms since 1945. The study is based on a data set consisting of 229 former and current CEOs who were born between the late 1800s and 1970. We have information about paternal occupations for 185 (81%) of them. 60% grew up in Social Group I, which implies an overrepresentation for Social Group I by a factor of 9.7. Consequently, Social Groups II and III are underrepresented. However, almost four out of ten CEOs born in the 1940s came from Social Group III and toward the end of the period, the share coming from Social Group II roughly doubled to 35%.